When you listen to Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes talk about their heavyweight main event at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas, you hear fighters anticipating the fight to play out in drastically different ways. Styles make fights and each man anticipates their wildly different style to dominate the action and lay the groundwork for an important win in a division where a few good wins could easily land you in a championship fight.
For the heavy-hitting Lewis, turning the fight into a brawl where his powerful strikes can wear down and stop Blaydes is the goal. To do that, Lewis wants to mix it up in a bloody battle.
“This fight right here is going to be very violent and very bloody,” Lewis said in a UFC video. “I feel I could break Curtis by the third round and that’s what’s going to happen. This is going to be a very intense battle, we both want the title shot right after this and I believe I could get the job done.”
There’s a natural appeal to that sort of approach to fighting that draws in fans. A big personality and big punching power have made Lewis a fan favorite.
Winning over fans isn’t a large concern to Blaydes, who is the opposite of Lewis in many ways. Blaydes’ wrestling attack is hard to stop, launching him to a 14-2 career record, even when drawing criticism.
After Blaydes used his wrestling to cruise to an easy — if ugly — decision win over Alexander Volkov in his most recent outing, UFC president Dana White joined the chorus of Blaydes’ critics, saying, “When you talk s— like he talked this week, you better come in and whoop somebody’s ass when you talk s— like that. When you talk the s— that he talked and perform like you performed tonight, you look stupid.”
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That criticism has not altered Blaydes’ approach to the fight with Lewis.
“If I win the exact same way, I would be fine,” Blaydes told ESPN. “Guess what? it’s another win, it’s a win bonus. I don’t know if a lot of people care, but I have a family. I’m trying to feed my family. I don’t care if you want me to risk my win bonus, which is $100,000, to stand and bang with a guy who has terrible wrestling. I’m just not going to do it. Unless you defend every takedown attempt, I’m not going to stop trying to wrestle you. You have to deter me, and I don’t think Derrick is going to deter me.”
Elsewhere on the card, women’s bantamweights get a chance to shine in the co-main event when Ketlen Vieira takes on Yana Kunitskaya. Vieira, a rising contender at 135 pounds, has fought just twice in the last two years. She bounced back from the first defeat of her pro career in 2019 when she was stopped by Irene Aldana with a decision over Sijara Eubanks last August. Kunitskaya, meanwhile, is 3-1 in UFC since returning to bantamweight with all three victories coming via decision.
Here’s the fight card for UFC Fight Night with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
|Curtis Blaydes -380||Derrick Lewis +300||Heavyweights|
|Ketlen Vieira -270||Yana Kunitskaya +220||Women’s bantamweights|
|Charles Rosa -190||Darrick Minner +160||Featherweights|
|Chris Daukaus -200||Aleksei Oleinik +170||Heavyweights|
|Phil Hawes -125||Nassourdine Imavov +105||Middleweights|
|Tom Aspinall -260||Andrei Arlovski +210||Heavyweights|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Feb. 20 | Start time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: UFC APEX — Las Vegas, Nevada
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis: Blaydes isn’t wrong that Lewis’ wrestling is several levels below his own. Both men have concerns over their cardio if the fight gets into the later rounds, especially with this being a five-round affair. Lewis has managed to pull out last-minute knockouts before, but that’s harder to do in the fifth round than the third, and Blaydes’ grinding style is a true bear to deal with. Blaydes has suffered knockouts in his two career losses — both to Francis Ngannou — and he can be caught cold, so there’s a lot of risk going both ways. Still, Blaydes’ ability to wrestle, wrestle, and wrestle some more may simply be too much to allow Lewis to truly get his power-striking attack going. Pick: Curtis Blaydes via UD
UFC continues its run of events at UFC APEX with a clash of top five heavyweight contenders, as No. 2 ranked Curtis Blaydes takes on No. 4 Derrick Lewis. In the co-main event, No. 6 ranked women’s bantamweight contender Ketlen Vieira faces No. 7 Yana Kunitskaya.
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis will take place Saturday, February 20 from UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The entire card will be on ESPN+, with the main card available in English and Spanish, starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT and the prelims at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT.
Blaydes (14-2,1 NC, fighting out of Chicago, Ill.) looks to continue his dominant win streak with a show-stealing performance. A Junior College National wrestling champion, Blaydes has beaten many of the top heavyweights in MMA. During his UFC run, he has delivered impressive wins over Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt and Junior dos Santos. Blaydes now aims to stake his claim for a title shot by snapping Lewis’ momentum to secure his fifth consecutive victory.
Fan favorite Lewis (24-7,1 NC, fighting out of Houston, Texas) crowned himself as the greatest knockout artist in UFC heavyweight history in his last bout after landing a record-setting 11th KO. A former boxer under the tutelage of George Foreman, Lewis holds impressive finishes over Alexander Volkov, Travis Browne and Gabriel Gonzaga. He now strives to secure another shot at the title by becoming only the second person to stop Blaydes.
Vieira (11-1, fighting out of Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil) looks to kick off 2021 by delivering another head-turning performance against a top contender. Since joining UFC the roster in 2016, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has earned impressive victories over former women’s bantamweight title challengers Sara McMann and Cat Zingano. Vieira now looks to hold her spot on the 135-pound ladder by stopping Kunitskaya.
Former women’s featherweight title challenger Kunitskaya (13-5 1NC, fighting out of Coconut Creek, Fla. by way of Saint Petersburg, Russia) quickly made waves after dropping down to the UFC’s 135-pound division. A lifelong martial artist, she has netted memorable victories over Julija Stoliarenko, Marion Reneau and Lina Lansberg since joining the world’s largest MMA promotion in 2018. Kunitskaya now hopes become only the second fighter to defeat Vieira and continue her climb up the ranks.
- Main Card: 8pm ET / 5pm PT
- Prelims: 5pm ET / 2pm PT
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis Prelims
Serghei Spivac vs Jared Vanderaa
Aiemann Zahabi vs Drako Rodriguez
Chas Skelly vs Jamall Emmers
Shana Dobson vs Casey O’Neill
Nate Landwehr vs Julian Erosa
Eddie Wineland vs John Castaneda
Drakkar Klose vs Luis Pena
Jared Gordon vs Danny Chavez
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis Main Card
Fighters You Should Know | UFC Fight Night: Blaydes Vs Lewis
00:00 / 04:10
Andrei Arlovski vs Tom Aspinall
Phil Hawes vs Nassourdine Imavov
Aleksei Oleinik vs Chris Daukaus
Charles Rosa vs Darrick Minner
Co-Main Event: Ketlen Vieira vs Yana Kunitskaya
Main Event: Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis