• Keith Eppinger

UFC Fight Night: Blaydes v Lewis

Updated: Mar 24

Last week, we had our first UFC post here on Russo’s Playbook. It was a fun night for sure, but that’s in the past so let’s get to what’s to come. The next UFC event is Fight Night, Saturday, February 20th, at the Apex in Las Vegas. Dana White has gifted us with a great card that’ll have us all on the edge of our seats. Almost every fighter has something on the line, especially the guys in the main event. This is going to be an absolute rollercoaster of a night because anything can happen, so let’s buckle in and enjoy the ride.


The Main Event


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For the Main Event, we’ve got ourselves a doozy. Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (14-2) vs Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (24-7). This is one of the most anticipated heavyweight matchups of all time, especially after it was cancelled back in November of 2020 after Blaydes tested positive for Covid-19. The long wait isn’t the only reason we look forward to this fight; it’s also because the winner of this fight potentially has a shot at the heavyweight championship belt. Francis Ngannou is challenging its current possessor, Stipe Miocic, at UFC 260 in March. Whoever owns the belt after that will have to defend it later this year against the winner of this Blaydes-Lewis matchup. There's a lot riding on this fight, and after Saturday we’ll know who’s the next man up in the heavyweight division.

Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis are such different fighters, stylistically. Lewis relies heavily on his hands, which are some of the fastest on a big man this world has ever seen, as opposed to Blaydes, who possesses a much more complete skill set. Curtis Blaydes is much more well versed and highly successful at takedowns than his heavyweight peers, so he is very aggressive with using them. Here’s three facts that tell you this better than I ever could: 1) Most heavyweight takedowns in one fight: Curtis Blaydes at 14. 2) Second highest takedown accuracy of all time for heavyweights: Curtis Blaydes. 3) Most heavyweight takedowns of ALL TIME: Curtis Blaydes at 59. The next closest is sitting at 34.


What Should We Expect?


Curtis Blaydes is, without contest, the best ground fighter in the division, but his striking game is not far off. Whenever he’s faced a guy that’s brushing him off, he gets very aggressive with his hands and starts letting punches fly. He’s had three of his last five victories come by way of KO, brutalizing his opponents. He puts the pressure on whoever he’s fighting and smothers them for as long as he needs to; whether it be standing or on the ground.

Derrick Lewis is praying for a knockout against Blaydes. He needs to stay very passive throughout the fight, avoid takedowns, and catch Blaydes on a mistake. Lewis’s best bet may be to time up a takedown with a counter uppercut, or defend the takedown so well, that Blaydes has no choice but to stay standing. Derrick Lewis is not good enough on the ground to get back up to his feet. The moment Curtis Blaydes is in position on top of Derrick Lewis, he will rain down with a furious combination of elbows and hammer fists. Then, it’s Goodnight Irene for Derrick Lewis.


When In Vegas, Gamble


Now, let’s get to my picks for the night. It kills me to bet against Lewis in this fight, despite all the reasons I stated for why he won’t win. Mostly because of his hilarious press conferences and post fight interviews. Additionally, I almost always ride with the underdog, but Lewis is a heavy underdog at +333 odds, and I can’t see him getting lucky enough to prevail against an absolute onslaught. I’m taking Curtis “Razor” Blaydes at -450 odds in this one.

As an additional bet, I’m going to take under 1.5 rounds in this fight at +155 odds. “Razor” Blaydes might be trying to make a statement before he goes for the belt. If this is the case, and he mauls Lewis at the beginning of the fight, we can have a very early knockout on our hands.

Like I said, we do have a pretty good card, so here’s a few more picks I’m going with, and why. One of my favorites for the night is Chris Daukaus (-160 odds). He’s fighting 43 year old Aleksei Oleinik (+140 odds). This is a fight that can go either way, but will definitely end in a finish by way of either submission by Oleinik or KO by Daukaus. While this will be a close fight, I like Daukaus for a few reasons. He’s ten years younger than Oleinik and that may show up later in the fight by way of endurance, or lack thereof from Oleinik. Daukaus also has solid takedown defense, and Oleinik may have a special reason to take this fight to the floor. Oleinik is nearing a benchmark in his career; he’s at 46 submission victories and may be trying to reach 50 soon, motivating him to attempt takedowns often which can get sloppy. All speculation, but definitely feasible. Finally, and most importantly, Aleksei Oleinik has been knocked out on his feet by three of his last five opponents, and Chris Daukaus is a good enough boxer to continue that trend.

I’m taking Ketlen Vieira (-270 odds) over Yana Kunitskaya (+230 odds). Both of their last fights ended in victories by decisions, and I think this one will too. My prediction is that the majority of this fight will probably be spent in clinches against the cage, initiated and dominated by Vieira, due to her aptitude in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This could lead to a Vieira win by decision. Kunitskaya also likes to use head and body throws that will leave her back exposed, at which point Vieira will take advantage and pursue her. Yana could come out early with very strong kicks, but I can’t see that lasting long.


Fight Night


We’re in for a fun night. As I've previously mentioned, this is an amazing card. Whether you're a UFC fan or not, you should definitely tune in for just the excitement and entertainment alone. After Saturday, one thing will be for certain: the heavyweight division will never be the same. It’ll be a fight we talk about for a while. Hopefully, we get some crazy finishes throughout the night that make this a card we never forget. Enjoy the night & bet responsibly.


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