Preview: UFC Fight Night 185 Main Card - Blaydes vs. Lewis

By: Tom Feely
Feb 18, 2021

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The UFC Fight Night 185 main card on Saturday while not particularly stacked should provide some entertainment, either intentionally or accidentally. The Curtis Blaydes-Derrick Lewis main event sets the tone for this slate of bouts, half of which take place in the heavyweight division. It could get messy, but it figures to be fun. Add in a women’s bantamweight clash between Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya—which has some immediate stakes—and two other intriguing matchups, and this should be an enjoyable watch.

Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Blaydes vs. Lewis” main card:

Heavyweight

#2 | Curtis Blaydes (14-2, 9-2 UFC) vs. #4 | Derrick Lewis (24-7, 15-5 UFC)

ODDS: Blaydes (-400), Lewis (+325)

If Francis Ngannou did not exist, Blaydes could have been UFC heavyweight champion by now—or at least had his title shot already. Blaydes was highly regarded enough as a prospect that he was the betting favorite in his UFC debut against Ngannou back in 2016. However, Ngannou showed some much-improved takedown defense that stifled Blaydes’ wrestling and took over the fight from there. On the plus side, Blaydes at least showed the durability to eat repeated punches from one of the hardest hitters in the sport, and he rebounded from the loss without much difficulty, mauling his next few opponents on his way to a high-profile rematch with Ngannou. Once again, overall sentiment figured that Blaydes had the style to shut down Ngannou, but once again, “The Predator” proved to be the one man that he cannot beat, this time via knockout in just 45 seconds. As a result, it has been back to the grind for Blaydes, who has continued to improve and impress, building out his striking game to the point that he managed to knock out Junior dos Santos early in his 2020 campaign. However, Blaydes’ win over Alexander Volkov in July was a bit flat. He scored takedowns at will, but Volkov managed to survive on the mat and pick apart an exhausted Blaydes by the later rounds. It did leave some questions about how Blaydes would fare against someone with the same survival skills and more knockout power, and that is certainly something Lewis figures to answer.

Lewis’ rise up the heavyweight ranks has been a gift to essentially everyone. He gained a bit of hype after a hot start to his UFC career but mostly got written off as a glass cannon after one-sided knockout losses to Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan. However, Lewis’ 2015 win over Viktor Pesta showed a new approach that wound up paying dividends. Pesta was a takedown machine early in the fight, but Lewis just stayed calm and outlasted his opponent. Pesta eventually exhausted himself trying to hold down such a massive man, and Lewis used the opportunity to score a third-round knockout. It sometimes led to some terrible fights with some rough early rounds, but more often than not, Lewis scored a sudden knockout and win everyone back over with a meme-worthy post-fight interview. So it went with a 2018 win over Volkov that put Lewis over the edge into immortality. Volkov dominated the fight, only to get knocked out, at which point Lewis took off his pants and proclaimed that his “balls was hot.” It got enough attention that the UFC turned around and gave Lewis a title shot against Daniel Cormier—it did not go well—but he has looked improved in recent fights after some long-overdue back surgery. At its core, Lewis’ style is still about staying patient and picking his moments, but “The Black Beast” now has some additional weapons and a bit of process in his corner, which should make the situation even more interesting against Blaydes.

This fight was scheduled for a main event slot in November until Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 during fight week, and the UFC thankfully kept this as a five-round fight. Those extra ten minutes essentially bring all the intrigue, since this is a bout with a relatively simple dynamic; Blaydes should have a ton of success early with his wrestling, and it's just a matter of if he can finish the fight before he gets tired, at which point it's up to Lewis to try and score yet another late finish. Lewis should be able to survive that early going on the mat, as Blaydes's ground and pound is more about accumulating damage rather than any sort of brutal one-shot power, and Lewis should remain slippery enough to keep Blaydes from entirely controlling the fight. So, again, it comes down to whether Lewis can find a finish in the later rounds. It's entirely possible thanks to the power that Lewis possesses, but it's likelier that Blaydes can make it through the full five rounds; Blaydes has proven to be quite durable to begin with, plus Lewis might still be the more tired fighter by the time that Blaydes starts to slow down. This should devolve into an entertaining mess and may not wind up as all that convincing of a victory, but the pick is for Blaydes to hang on for the decision win.

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