Curtis Blaydes faces Derrick Lewis as heavyweights headline at the UFC APEX for the second time in three weeks. Curtis Blaydes enters the octagon undefeated against everyone bar Francis Ngannou. He is on a four-fight winning streak with dominant victories over Junior Dos Santos and Alexander Volkov. Meanwhile, Derrick Lewis is riding on a three-fight winning streak, courtesy of his most recent TKO victory over Aleksei Oleinik. 'The Black Beast' will look to secure another title shot after losing to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230. Both fighters will look to get ahead in the queue for the title in a matchup with contender implications.
In the night's co-main event, women's bantamweight contenders Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya will look to build on their recent wins. The two were scheduled to meet last August, but Vieira was taken out of the original matchup and later scored a unanimous decision victory against Sijara Eubanks in September. Yana Kunitskaya stayed put on the card to face Julija Stoliarenko, who she beat via unanimous decision. With Amanda Nunes slated to defend her belt at featherweight and no clear top contender for the 'Lioness' at bantamweight, an emphatic win from either Vieira or Kunitskaya could vault them into title contention.
Apart from Curtis Blaydes facing Derrick Lewis in the main event, this card also has two additional vital heavyweight affairs with veterans Aleksei Oleinik and Andrei Arlovski facing Chris Daukas and Tom Aspinall, respectively. Here we make five bold predictions for UFC Fight Night: Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis:
5. The heavyweight veterans slam the gate on the newcomers
The UFC's heavyweight division is undoubtedly in need of new talent, with its depth going down to a questionable top 15. Thus the arrival of Daukas and Aspinall is a breath of fresh air. Meanwhile, Oleinik and Arlovski are long past their time as contenders and have been relegated to gatekeeper status.
With a 10-3 record, including nine knockouts, Chris Daukas has the potential to be an electrifying addition to the heavyweight roster. On the other hand, Tom Aspinall sports a 9-2 record with two UFC victories and eight career knockouts. While the next generation is expected to take over the veterans in a change of guard, we might all be in for an upset.
We are well aware that Aleksei Oleinik can dominate anyone, including Chris Daukas, on the ground if he can secure an early takedown. Similarly, Andrei Arlovski might play the wily veteran and stifle the prospect by turning the contest into a chess match. There is a genuine possibility that the youngsters will prove unprepared for elite competition and fall victim to their veteran opponents.
4. The winner of the main event fights Jon Jones
Jon Jones is set to make his divisional debut later this year against the winner of Miocic-Ngannou. This has raised a lot of eyebrows as the winner of UFC Fight Night: Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis is potentially looking at another year before a shot at the title.
However, a fight against the winner of Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis makes all the sense in the world for Jon Jones. Daniel Cormier had earlier said that if Jon Jones defeats Curtis Blaydes in his heavyweight debut, nobody will ever say he does not belong at heavyweight. With the UFC's 'interesting' way of setting up fights, one cannot strike out the possibility.
3. Derrick Lewis wins on the ground
This is indeed a bold prediction to make, with Curtis Blaydes arguably being the best wrestler in the division. However, Derrick Lewis caught everyone's attention with the vicious ground-and-pound victory over Aleksei Oleinik. 'The Black Beast' has displayed a brutal ground game right from his initial days in the UFC, against Guto Inocente and Vikto Pesta in particular.
There is always a chance of Derrick Lewis mounting Curtis Blaydes during a scramble on the ground and pounding his way to victory.
2. Curtis Blaydes secures a win standing
In the follow-up to Fight Night, Curtis Blaydes has already revealed that he will look to implement his wrestling, rather than stand and trade with Derrick Lewis. Though Curtis Blaydes has been criticized for his boring albeit effective approach against Alexander Volkov, the No. 2 heavyweight contender can certainly throw a punch. We saw Curtis Blaydes resort to his well rounded arsenal to finish Junior Dos Santos on the feet. Like in the JDS fight, 'Razor' might fall back on striking if need be, which according to him is 'Plan Z'.
1. Boldest prediction: There will be no stoppages at UFC Vegas 19
This will probably sound like the boldest prediction but it has substantial odds in its favor. If Curtis Blaydes sticks to his gameplan, like in the Alexander Volkov fight, we are looking at five rounds of tedious wrestling defense instead of a highlight-reel knockout from Derrick Lewis. Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya will look to be cautious considering the difference in style. Both fighters are coming off decision victories in their last fights, the co-main event is also likely to go the distance.
The featherweight bout between Charles Rosa and Darrick Minner is also likely to be a grappling clinic. Almost evenly matched, there is little possibility of anyone coming out on top.
While the newcomers at heavyweight could make it difficult to end the night without a stoppage, the old guard might look to turn it into a technical exchange and pick up decision victories. Philip Hawes and Nassourdine Imavov at middleweight will pose the greatest threat of a knockout finish but they might both lack the power to take out the other.