Neither Curtis Blaydes nor Derrick Lewis has figured heavily in the heavyweight title discussion as of late, despite the fact that both rank as top-five contenders. But there’s still plenty at stake for both men when they meet up in the main event at UFC Fight Night 185 in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Blaydes comes into the fight as a -435 favorite over Lewis (+320), according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Long Line Forming for Heavyweight Title
The No. 2 ranked Blaydes (14-2) is a likely title contender, especially after having won his last four fights. But, current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend his title against Francis Ngannou at UFC 261 next month. Ngannou has stood in the way of a title shot for Blaydes for years, as “The Predator” is responsible for the only two losses of Blaydes’ career.
But even after that fight – and even with an emphatic win over Lewis – Blaydes may not earn a title shot, as Jon Jones has moved up to heavyweight. As one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, Jones will almost certainly be in line for a chance at the belt, even with his lack of experience in the division.
While that could be frustrating, Blaydes says he understands the business well enough to accept the situation as it is.
“Jon Jones is a GOAT and for him to bump up to heavyweight, I know they want to maximize his earning potential,” Blaydes said to Yahoo Sports. “The best way to do that is for him to be in a title fight.”
Lewis (24-7) likely faces an even longer road to a title shot. He got an opportunity against Daniel Cormier in 2018, but lost via submission in the second round. Now the No. 4 contender, Lewis still holds dreams of winning a title, especially after his latest three-fight winning streak.
“That would be really crazy for a guy like me, going through all the stuff that I went through, and becoming UFC champion, heavyweight champion of the world,” Lewis told reporters. “That’s just crazy to even put in the same sentence as my name: ‘Derrick Lewis, heavyweight champion of the world.’”
Blaydes Sees Edge in Wrestling, Takedowns
Blaydes will most likely try to dominate this fight with his wrestling skills; a strategy that has a great chance of earning him a clear win by decision. But that path also comes with the danger that Lewis could find another late finish, as he has in the past over fighters like Marcin Tybura or Alexander Volkov.
|UFC Fight Night 185 Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
|Curtis Blaydes: -435
|Derrick Lewis: +320
|Ketlen Vieira: -278
|Yana Kunitskaya: +215
|Charles Rosa: -190
|Darrick Minner: +150
|Aleksei Oleinik: +150
|Chris Daukaus: -190
|Phil Hawes: -125
|Nassourdine Imavov: +100
|Andrei Arlovski: +205
|Tom Aspinall: -265
Still, Blaydes comes in as the clear favorite for a reason, and he says that even their respective recent results show that he’s the man to beat.
“The fact that Derrick Lewis allowed a 40-year-old, 225-pound man to take him down with such ease, it only makes me feel better about my prospects,” Blaydes told Yahoo Sports. “If you can’t stop [Alexey Oleynik’s] takedowns, what are you going to do with my takedowns? I feel real good about my chances of getting him down.”