As has become the norm for the UFC, less than one week after the biggest fight thus far of the calendar year, the company is back with another great main event; this time featuring two heavyweights in Curtis Blaydes (-250) and Junior dos Santos (+200). While this card is certainly top-heavy, the main event should not disappoint as it features two fighters in the top-five of the division hoping that a win propels them to a shot at the title against current champion Stipe Miocic. One rarity that this card does provide is its location. There aren’t many mid-size to big cities the UFC hasn’t been to, and this will be the company’s first time in Raleigh, North Carolina as PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes will play host. With a shot at the champ realistic in the next 12-18 months for the winner, let’s take a deeper look at this heavyweight matchup with so much on the line and see where we can identify an edge.
Curtis Blaydes (12-2-0) vs Junior dos Santos (21-6-0)
These odds were taken from FanDuel Sportsbook on January 23, 2019.
When it comes to the UFC heavyweight division, few fighters are more decorated than Junior dos Santos. Over his now 12-year career with the company, dos Santos was the heavyweight champion from June 2011 to May 2012 and has fought for the belt two times since. The question for dos Santos and his supporters is at this point in his career, does he have one more run at the title left him in? The newest quest for the belt took a serious blow the last time we saw him in the octagon, a first-round TKO defeat to the No. 2 ranked Francis Ngannou as the headliner at UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. dos Santos in June 2019. No stranger to dramatic finishes, seven of dos Santos’ last ten fights have ended in either TKO or KO, with five of them ending prior to the end of the second round.
On the other side of the octagon, Curtis Blaydes is #3 in the UFC heavyweight division and has been slowly climbing up the rankings, winning seven of his first 10 fights in the UFC since joining the company in 2016. Outside of his one “no contest,” which is from a fight Blaydes actually won by TKO but later overturned after a failed test for marijuana, Blaydes has only lost his entire career twice, both to the #1 ranked UFC heavyweight Ngannou. Like dos Santos, Blayde’s fights tend to end violently as just three of his 15 professional fights have gone the distance. The last time we saw Blaydes in the octagon was at UFC 242 in September, a second-round TKO victory in which he used punches and more notably elbows to thrash Shamil Abdurakhimov in every sense of the word.
In these fighters combined 42 professional fights, they have a combined one win by submission, making that method of victory almost an impossible outcome. Additionally, with both fighters looking for a shot at the title by the end of the year or early 2021, they both know that they need to make a splash to get the attention of UFC promoters, and most importantly Dana White. With that in mind, this fight has the added angle of two fighters headed in opposite career trajectories with the 28-year-old Blaydes having a realistic shot in another near-future rematch with Ngannou, and a matchup with Miocic to follow. I’ll take the younger, likely more hungry fighter to end this fight well before the final bell.