After last week’s blockbuster Conor McGregor-starring event, it’s back to the grind for the UFC this week as the promotion heads to Raleigh, North Carolina for a bit of an underwhelming Fight Night event.
Fight Night 166 has a tremendous main event in the form of Junior Dos Santos vs. Curtis Blaydes, but outside of that, well, the co-main between Michael Chiesa and Rafael Dos Anjos sounds okay, but that’s about it. Still, I’d rather see the bigger fights saved for pay-per-views, so a weaker card like this kind of makes sense.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 166: Blaydes vs. Dos Santos.
#1 Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior Dos Santos
While it’s not a complete #1 contender’s fight, this Heavyweight clash could definitely have major title implications for 2020. Right now it appears that the UFC are going to run a rematch between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier as their next title fight, but with Francis Ngannou risking his top contender’s status in a match with Jairzinho Rozenstruik, if Blaydes can beat JDS convincingly, there’s every chance he jumps over ‘The Predator’ to take the next shot at the gold.
A classic prospect vs. veteran fight, the outcome of this one hinges on one simple thing in my opinion; can Blaydes manage to replicate the gameplan that worked so well for Miocic and Cain Velasquez in their wins over Dos Santos? Essentially, Dos Santos fights best at a boxing range, but if an opponent can corral him into the fence and rough him up from close range, he has a tendency to wilt and run out of steam.
That makes it sound easy, but of course, it’s not. JDS has excellent footwork, a stiff jab, and there’s a reason that Miocic and Velasquez – two all-time greats – are the only men who have really pulled it off. So can ‘Razor’ join them in their success over the Brazilian? It’s definitely possible.
Firstly, Blaydes is almost certainly the best wrestler that Dos Santos has fought since his clash with Miocic in 2017. Arguably, he’s actually superior in that department than both the current champion and Velasquez. He’s ridiculously powerful, sneakily quick and the only opponent he’s failed to take down was Ngannou in their second meeting.
Once he’s got an opponent down, ‘Razor’ is truly devastating, as evidenced by his violent TKO of Shamil Abdurakhimov in September. He loves to throw elbows and punches from any position, and never looks for a submission, instead preferring to punish his opponents with brutal strikes. In terms of his ground-and-pound, he’s up there with the likes of Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar.
Where Blaydes falls down as compared to Velasquez and Miocic is in his striking. Miocic was a notable boxer prior to even entering the UFC, while Velasquez was capable of putting beautiful combinations together and while his defense wasn’t tremendous, in his prime his chin certainly was. Blaydes, on the other hand, hits hard, but he’s still somewhat predictable and rudimentary in his strikes – although of course, he may well have improved since his last outing.
He’s also not as damaging as either Velasquez or Miocic from inside the clinch – an area that both men hurt Dos Santos badly from, but that may not matter if he can instead just drag the Brazilian to the ground to beat him up.
For JDS to win this one, he must simply stay off the fence, avoid Blaydes’ takedown, and look to establish his jab in order to bait ‘Razor’ into an exchange, where he should then look to use his body shots and eventually the big right hand to take the wrestler out.
The issue with that is that while his boxing remains sharp – as we saw when he took out Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov in 2018 – he’s slowed down over the years, understandable considering the damage he’s taken and his age (35) and that means that he’s more likely to be caught by a powerful but less skilled striker. And judging by his recent form – and KO loss to Ngannou – his chin is no longer what it was.
Overall, I just can’t see Dos Santos being able to keep Blaydes at range here, and if he can’t do that he’s almost certainly going to lose. ‘Razor’ must know that with an impressive victory here, a title shot could be his – and so I think he’ll walk JDS down, pin him into the cage, take him down and smash him to pieces there en route to a TKO win.
The Pick: Blaydes via second-round TKO