The weekly UFC instalment comes once again out of the UFC Apex Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada and, with a number of heavyweight bouts on the card, it is only fitting that the headline act is a Heavyweight contender fight. Curtis Blaydes will look to go five straight against fan favourite Derrick Lewis, who will try to win his fourth consecutive fight. Also on the card is the highly touted Phil Hawes and Ketlan Viera, and plenty of other prospective fight of the night contenders littered throughout. We take a look at some of the key UFC Fight Night match ups below.
No one would deny that Curtis Blaydes is the technically better of the two, yet when you get to Heavyweight it can only take one shot and Derrick Lewis is a man with one-shot knockout power. On his four-fight win streak, he saw himself dominated in round 1 by both Junior dos Santos and Aleksei Oleinik before landing one on their chin and putting them away. He also scraped close decision wins against Ivanov and Latifi so it has been a long way from a dominant run for the ‘Black Beast’.
Lewis is never out of a fight and that is what makes him so dangerous but as long as Blaydes doesn’t try to strike with Lewis for any extended period he should win this without getting out of second gear. I give credit to Lewis as he has improved both his cardio and his technique over the past 24 months but he still largely relies on power over technique on the feet and ground, and against Blaydes that isn’t going to cut it. Blaydes still has only ever lost to Francis Ngannou in the UFC and has dominated everyone else. While his grinding style isn’t necessarily fan friendly, it is effective and the takedown machine has developed some striking chops to help him close the distance and become more dangerous than ever. Don’t be fooled though, Blaydes has no interest in striking Lewis and will look to get it to the mat and into his world at the first possible opportunity. From there he will land his trademark elbows until the ref shows Lewis mercy and stops the fight somewhere in the middle rounds.
How Casey O’Neill isn’t a $1.20 favourite is beyond me. O’Neill has racked up a 5-0 professional record across both Eternal and UAE warriors and has shown skills on both the feet and on the mat. I admittedly always have a soft spot for fighters coming through the Eternal promotion, but the fact is she is well rounded and has won 10 on the bounce across amateur and professional level.
Shana Dobson was getting mauled in her last fight before Mariya Agapova emptied her gas tank and succumb to Dobson’s ground and pound. If Dobson had lost that she would have lost all four of her UFC bouts. Casey O’Neill is a prospect to watch while Dobson is inevitably going to be cut this year. It is a no brainer to solidly back O’Neill who is a crafty grappler. Against Dobson who has a 0% takedown defense it can only be a one-sided domination in the grappling exchanges. Yes you read that correctly, that is a 0% takedown defense for someone who has fought four times in the UFC.
This is a slightly risky underdog play but one I consider worth taking. Spivac was impressive in his last fight, coming out victorious over the then undefeated Carlos Felipe. Jared Vanderaa finished Harry Hunsucker on the Contender Series to earn himself a UFC contract and he will make his debut here. Where this fight is risky is if it stays at kickboxing range, Spivac will piece up Vanderaa and win with ease. However, Vanderaa has nasty ground and pound, and Spivac usually resorts to the clinch which is always risky since he isn’t the greatest wrestler. Vanderaa will only need to secure a single takedown and land on top of Spivac on the ground to shut his lights out. Considering I have this marked as a coin flip fight, over $3 for Vanderaa is value worth taking.
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