Two drastically different heavyweights: Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis battle to get one step closer to a title opportunity.
Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski (+200) vs. Tom Aspinall (-255)
Aspinall has a jiu jitsu background but has started to train with Tyson Fury to improve his boxing and it has shown. In his brief UFC career, he has two first round wins by TKO. His boxing and overall movement is very smooth for his size. However, former champ, Andrei Arlovski, shouldn’t be slept on. He has fought the best of the best, and after a losing skid, he has won two fights straight by decision. In those fights, he showed a great ability to check leg kicks and apply pressure. In his fight in 2019 versus Jairzinho Rozenstruik, he got knocked out immediately. I don’t think Aspinall’s power is up to par with Rozenstruik, but he throws great combos that will damage Arlovski. The popular play here is Aspinal by knockout due to his recent fights, but besides the Rozenstruik fight, Arlovski has displayed a pretty good chin. At 42 years old, Arlovski’s best days are behind him, and I expect this one to be all Aspinall.
Value play: Aspinall by decision (+300)
Middleweight: Phillip Hawes (-125) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (-105)
If you’re looking at pure power, Phil Hawes aka “Megatron” is one of the most dangerous fighters in this division. Hawes is coming off a devastating knockout win against Jacob Malkoun, who was highly regarded at the time. The speed and power he displayed in this fight left Malkoun stunned, and he wasted no time to end his night. In Dana White’s contender series, Hawes once again showed his raw speed and power with another first round knockout. As a 32 year old “prospect,” Hawes can’t afford a loss here if he wants to continue to ascend. Looking at Imavov, his overall arsenal is probably more complete than Hawes. He is exceptional at takedowns and utilizes a lot of leg combos. In his last fight, he got roughed up early but was able to control the fight in the clench to avoid more serious damage. This aspect will be huge in this fight due to the power of Hawes. Imavov got pretty cut up early on. If he’s able to ground and pound and tire out Hawes, he has a shot via submission, but he took too many headshots for me to feel confident in that play. Ultimately, Megatron’s power will be too much.
Value play: Hawes by KO, TKO or DQ (+125)
Heavyweight: Aleksei Oleinik (+160) vs. Chris Daukaus (-200)
Oleinik is one of the most experience fighters and approaches each fight the same. He constantly brings pressure, and once he utilizes his grip it is very difficult to escape. 78% of his professional wins are by submission which highlights his elite ground game. Due to this relentless pressure, he does take a lot of damage and has been knocked out a fair share of times. Daukas gets the edge as a boxer, but I wasn’t overly impressed with his style. His grappling isn’t bad by any means, but if Oleinik is able to get into a front mount, I think he can control this fight and even pull off an Ezekiel choke.
Value play- Oleinik by submission (+240) and/or under 1 1/2 (-170)
Featherweight: Charles Rosa (-190) vs. Darrick Minner (+150)
Stylistically, both of these fighters matchup pretty well. Rosa has exceptional submission defense and this will help him versus Minner who always tries to submit his opponent. 88% of his wins have ended by submission, but he’s also very susceptible to being submitted himself. An incredible 30/36 professional fights have ended by submission. Rosa has 8 submissions and has never been submitted, but has fought significantly less fights than Minner over the last 2 years. Rosa is a better striker overall, but Minner has an exceptional chin. I’d give the wrestling edge to Minner, but defensively he has room to improve. I wasn’t overly impressed by either fighter but due to the value I lean Minner by submission to get Rosa his first loss by submission.
Value Play: Minner by submission (+350)
Bantamweight: Ketlen Viera (-278) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (+215)
Viera is a fighter who utilizes her boxing heavily. However, her grappling especially defense on the ground is elite. In her one loss versus Aldana, she became too confident with her wild striking which ultimately left her knocked out in the first. Kunitskaya has a lot of power behind her punches but other than that I wasn’t very impressed with the rest of her arsenal. In her fight versus Aspen Ladd, Ladd was able to get her to the ground and keep her there for quite some time. She eventually lost via TKO, but she took a lot of damage and continued fighting. Viera is going to be able to control the fight from her full guard and an early finish is definitely possible. Ultimately, I see Viera controlling this fight but Kunitskaya will be able to do enough to go the distance.
Value play: Vieira by decision +-120
Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes (-400) vs. Derrick Lewis (+300)
Curtis Blaydes, fight after fight, shows off his elite wrestling, but still doesn’t get the respect like other top fighters. Ngannou is the only fighter who has been able to defeat him and negate his wrestling. He got criticism for the way he beat Volkov, but his job is just to win. His cardio isn’t great, but if he’s able to control the fight on the ground this shouldn’t be a major concern. Stylistically, these fighters are very different due to Lewis’s overwhelming boxing. He has insane power and for his size great cardio. He displays very athletic attacks but his balance is very suspect. He often gets taken down and doesn’t display great grappling. He can without a doubt drop Blaydes, but I don’t see Blaydes trying to win this fight standing up. Blaydes is going to take Lewis down at ease then slowly ground and pound until Lewis can no longer get back up. These two also have some bad blood as seen clearly by Blaydes questioning Lewis’s work ethic, and Lewis has called Blaydes out for hating. Blaydes is going to fight with a chip on his shoulder after Dana White called him out for his last fight being “boring,” and giving the next title shot to Jon Jones over him.
Value play: Blaydes by KO, TKO, or DQ (-140)