Curtis Blaydes has the chance to get the biggest win of his career on Saturday when he takes on former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 166 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Blaydes and dos Santos are both legitimate, top-5 UFC heavyweights, though they come into this fight at very different points in their careers.
Blaydes Looking for Title Shot
The 28-year-old Blaydes (12-2) is one of the rising stars in heavyweight MMA. His only two losses have come to No. 2 ranked Francis Ngannou, another potential future champion in the division. Blaydes already has wins over some big names, including Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, and Alexey Oleynik.
A victory over the legendary dos Santos (21-6) would reestablish Blaydes as a legitimate title contender, as the American is still waiting on his first shot at a UFC championship. Blaydes enters the fight as a solid favorite, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing the American as a -250 favorite over dos Santos (+200).
UFC Fight Night 166 Odds
- Curtis Blaydes (-250) vs. Junior dos Santos (+200)
- Rafael dos Anjos (-260) vs Michael Chiesa (+210)
- Jordan Espinosa (+205) vs. Alex Perez (-270)
- Hannah Cifers (+146) vs. Angela Hill (-172)
- Jamahal Hill (-130) vs. Darko Stosic (+112)
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
“To have another guy like him on my resume, it only strengthens my argument for getting my first title shot,” Blaydes told MMA Junkie. “I do believe Junior is still right there, he’s one of the best of the game, and I know beating him basically will solidify my place as the next title challenger.”
Dos Santos Chases One More Championship Run
Dos Santos has already been to the top of the mountain, winning the UFC heavyweight title in 2011 after beating Cain Velasquez. He would defend his title once against Frank Mir, then lose three more title fights: twice in rematches with Velasquez, then later to current champion Stipe Miocic in 2017.
“Cigano” is coming off a loss to Ngannou, suggesting that dos Santos might now be more of a gatekeeper than a serious title threat. But the Brazilian disagrees, saying he still has what it takes to reclaim the heavyweight belt.
“I believe in me,” dos Santos told MMA Junkie. “I can see the truth I see in my head. You guys would be amazed, and that’s what I’m trying to show you guys. That’s why I am here. I really believe I deserve the top of this division, and I will get it. I got there once, I’ll get there again.”
Dos Santos is one of the most skilled boxers in the heavyweight division, and that level of skill has allowed him to defeat many opponents who rely on raw power. But Blaydes possesses better skills on the ground and in the clinch, something he believes he can take advantage of on Saturday.
“Not many guys in this sport, let alone this weight class, have my credentials in wrestling,” Blaydes said. “So I want to use my grappling advantage. I know he doesn’t want to grapple. He wants to keep space and distance.”
UFC Fight Night 166 also features an excellent co-main event, as Rafael dos Anjos (30-12) takes on Michael Chiesa (16-5) in a welterweight tilt. Dos Anjos (-260) is favored over Chiesa (+210) in the bout.