The heavyweight division’s biggest hitters will shake up the classroom when No. 2 Curtis Blaydes meets No. 4 Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC Vegas 19 on Saturday (February 20).
Two of the most feared fighters in the promotion will battle to raise their stock in the heavyweight title conversation, with reigning champion Stipe Miocic set to meet Francis Ngannou for the second time on March 27.
Prediction Curtis Blaydes – Derrick Lewis
Who wins, based on odds: Blaydes via KO/TKO (+120) in Rd 4 (+1000)
Both of Saturday’s headliners carry convincing win streaks into their clash. “Razor” Blaydes (14-2-1NC) is unbeaten in four ahead of his showdown with Lewis (24-7-1NC), who has his own run of three straight wins. The superior streak has helped cement Blaydes as the -280 favorite at William Hill USA, while New Jersey bettors can back underdog Lewis at big +300 odds.
That’s a sizeable sum for a fighter with more knockout victories than any other heavyweight in UFC history (11), with Lewis just one KO finish from matching Vitor Belfort’s all-time UFC record of 12.
UFC Vegas 19 Info
Date: Saturday, February 20
Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada
Prelims: 5 p.m. ET (10 p.m. GMT)
Main Card: 8 p.m. ET (1 a.m. GMT)
Blaydes is something of a rare commodity at heavyweight in that he’s so dedicated to his wrestling approach, which in turn often leads to openings for the finish. The 29-year-old may prefer to lay his groundwork on the, well, ground, but he’s collected 10 knockouts from 14 career wins and has two TKO victories in his last three fights.
MMA By The Numbers broke down just how dominant Blaydes is when it comes to takedown proficiency and the control thereafter, with few heavyweights able to stand up against his grappling (literally):
Only two fighters in UFC history have both:— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) February 16, 2021
– At least 100 takedown attempts
– Takedown accuracy over 55%
Georges St-Pierre (122 attempts, 73.8% accuracy)
Curtis Blaydes (106 attempts, 55.7% accuracy)#UFCVegas19 @RazorBlaydes265
This will be Lewis’ seventh occasion fighting in a UFC main event, with his current record stood at 3-3 in a five-round setting. All three of the defeats under that heading came via finish, having never made it into a fifth round.
Blaydes, by comparison, is 2-1 under main-event conditions and has won the last two of those, with his only loss being the second of his two defeats to Ngannou (whom Lewis beat by decision). Ngannou remains the only fighter to get the better of Blaydes to date (winning via TKO both times), but Lewis isn’t quite as dynamic in his striking, despite losing to “The Black Beast.”
Although improved in recent years, grappling has long stood out as a weakness for Lewis, and one that former college wrestling star Blaydes will be all too happy to exploit.
Expect Razor to use that advantage as a means to tire his opponent in the earlier rounds, biding his time for a more lethal opening to emerge in the championship rounds. A fourth-round finish for the higher-ranked Blaydes returns +1000 odds, with Lewis almost sure to be tiring at that late stage and possibly leave himself open mid-clinch escape.
Lewis, 36, has actually looked good against quality wrestlers in his last three fights, beating Blagoy Ivanov, Ilir Latifi and Aleksei Oleinik back-to-back, but Blaydes should prove he’s a more technical talent than all of those.
Blaydes vs. Lewis Odds
Curtis Blaydes: -380
Derrick Lewis: +300
Odds via William Hill NJ