For the second time in three weeks, heavyweights headline inside the UFC Apex as Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis clash in a battle with championship ramifications.
The 29-year-old Blaydes is undefeated against everyone not named Francis Ngannou and is winless in two starts against the heavyweight contender from Cameroon. He’s 9-2 with one no contest verdict overall in the Octagon and riding a four-fight winning streak since their second encounter, including dominant victories over Junior Dos Santos and Alexander Volkov in 2020.
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Lewis, meanwhile, is on a three-fight winning streak of his own, having picked up a unanimous decision win over Ilir Latifi in February before setting a UFC record for the most knockouts in the heavyweight division when he slept Aleksei Oleinik in August. The Houston native is 12-3 since splitting his first four UFC starts, and has continued to improve his conditioning and cardio since undergoing knee surgery in the first half of 2019.
Blaydes and Lewis have essentially landed in the Octagon together through a process of elimination, in that they’ve eliminated everyone else from being potential opponents. They are the next two fighters behind Ngannou in the queue to challenge for the heavyweight title and the winner of this one has a legitimate case to fight for championship gold in 2021.
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Stylistically, this is going to be a classic “grappler vs. striker” pairing, where Blaydes will be looking to drag Lewis to the canvas and work him over from there, while “The Black Beast” will be swinging those sledgehammers and trying to stuff takedowns, knowing that he only needs to land one bomb to open a pathway to victory.
This is a critical fight at the top of the heavyweight division and it should be an electric way to end the night on Saturday.