Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card is headlined by a heavyweight fight between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis. Blaydes and Lewis were originally scheduled to fight in November, but a positive COVID-19 test for Blaydes delayed the matchup. The winner of this fight could be in the mix for a heavyweight title shot.
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Notable DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds
- Curtis Blaydes by KO, TKO or DQ (-134)
- Curtis Blaydes by Decision (+333)
- Derrick Lewis by KO, TKO or DQ (+450)
- Curtis Blaydes by Submission (+700)
- Derrick Lewis by Decision (+1200)
- Derrick Lewis by Submission (+2000)
This fight is a pretty standard grappler vs. striker matchup. Playing the role of the grappler is Curtis Blaydes, who enters this fight as a heavy -435 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. Blaydes has lost to only the most elite of the heavyweight division—his only two losses are to Francis Ngannou, who could potentially be wearing the UFC heavyweight belt by the end of March.
Blaydes has a strong wrestling background and actively hunts takedowns at about the highest rate you’ll see in the upper weight classes. Blaydes leads all UFC heavyweights with 59 total takedowns landed—nobody else in the heavyweight division has recorded more than 34 total takedowns since the UFC began recording the statistic. Blaydes is also efficient when he attempts takedowns, landing about 56% of takedown attempts, the second best rate in the heavyweight division.
Blaydes’ strength is his wrestling, but he is also a competent striker on the feet, and the threat of his takedown makes his striking play up more. This was most notably on display in his second most recent fight when he finished Junior Dos Santos on the feet despite Dos Santos having the more accomplished striking background. Dos Santos had to constantly be aware of Blaydes’ takedown, which left his striking defense more open than it normally would be and contributed to a second-round TKO win for Blaydes from standing strikes.
Blaydes’ striking defense statistics are also very good. Blaydes barely absorbs any strikes, absorbing about 1.7 significant strikes per minute, second best among active heavyweights. Blaydes’ ability to prevent significant strikes is due in part to his offensive wrestling game, which either forces his opponents onto their backs or causes them to be hesitant in attacking on the feet out of respect for the takedown. If committing strongly to a strike on the feet, defending takedown attempts becomes more difficult because the distance is closed and the balance is shifted.
In Blaydes’ last fight against Alexander Volkov, he absorbed only about 1.2 significant strikes per minute despite Volkov landing nearly five significant strikes per minute in his UFC career. The reason for this was because Blaydes was constantly taking Volkov down and controlling him from the top position. Blaydes registered a heavy 20 minutes of control time with a massive 14 total takedowns in the fight.
Playing the role of the striker in this matchup is Derrick Lewis. Lewis is a heavy-handed puncher who does not possess much grappling. Lewis does not land a lot of striking volume, landing only about 2.6 significant strikes per minute, but he has brick hands that can end a fight with one shot. Lewis has 11 UFC wins by KO/TKO, the most in the history of the heavyweight division and tied for the most in the history of the UFC in any weight class.
Lewis also does not absorb many strikes, taking about 2.1 significant strikes per minute, but this has more to do with low output creating less opportunities to absorb strikes. Lewis’ significant strike defense on a rate basis is not great, avoiding just 44% of opponent significant strike attempts. Bladyes’ striking defense on a rate basis is much better, avoiding 57% of opponent significant strike attempts.
Lewis hits hard and has a puncher’s chance, and as long as this fight stays on the feet, Lewis is a threat to win by by KO, TKO or DQ (+450). However, this matchup is suited well for Blaydes. Lewis does not have strong takedown defense, stopping only about half of his opponents’ takedown attempts, and Blaydes’ game plan will likely involve hunting for takedowns from the opening bell.
By putting Lewis on his back through offensive wrestling, Blaydes takes away Lewis’ biggest threat, which is his power punching on the feet. If Blaydes is able to get Lewis on his back—which he will be in good position to do—he will be in very little danger and will be positioned well to launch offense from the top position. While Blaydes was unable to finish Volkov in 25 minutes despite constantly taking him down, Blaydes has displayed fight-ending ground-and-pound from the top position in the past, particularly with elbows, which he most notably showcased in his impressive TKO win over Alistair Overeem.
Since this fight is five rounds due to being in the main event, a finish becomes more likely than if it was a three-round fight, and taking Blaydes by KO, TKO or DQ (-134) could be a way to get the Blaydes moneyline down from a heavy -435. Lewis has been finished by KO/TKO four times in his UFC career, so there’s an avenue for a TKO finish here for Blaydes.
If looking for an underdog bet with a more outside shot at cashing, Lewis by KO, TKO or DQ (+450) is an option given his punching power and ability to finish fights by TKO/KO.
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