MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 24, a five-round heavyweight bout between Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos. The event takes place on Saturday, January 25 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Curtis Blaydes (-245)
Blaydes (12-2, 1 NC) is one of the top heavyweight contenders in the UFC. The 28-year-old American joined the UFC in 2016 and has so far racked up an impressive 7-2, 1 NC record in the Octagon. Some of his notable wins include Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt, and Aleksei Oleinik, with both of his career losses coming against Francis Ngannou. Blaydes is one of the most effective wrestlers in the UFC heavyweight division. He routinely dumps his opponents to the mat and once he gets them to the ground he is able to beat them up and cut them open. Blaydes has the nickname “Razor” for a reason and that’s because he slices his opponents with his elbows and punches. For a big man, he has incredible cardio and the only real flaw in his game seems to be his chin, though Ngannou has been the only one to exploit that thus far during his UFC career. A big win here over JDS and Blaydes could very well jump into title contention in the UFC’s heaviest division.
Junior dos Santos (+205)
Dos Santos (21-6) is the former UFC heavyweight champion. The 35-year-old Brazilian has been a staple of the UFC heavyweight division for the last 12 years and has racked up a 15-5 record in the Octagon during that time. Some of his notable wins include Cain Velasquez, Stipe Miocic, and Derrick Lewis. JDS is one of the most powerful punchers in the history of the heavyweight division and has 15 career wins by knockout. He has special KO power in his hands and that’s his way to win. However, as he has gotten older his chin has begun to fail him. He was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in his last fight and has been knocked out in four of his last nine fights overall. But it’s JDS, and he’s a former champ for a reason. It would be foolish to write him off as a has-been just yet, and if he can go out there and beat Blaydes here, he could re-emerge as a top contender at 265lbs.
Fight Breakdown: I’m not discounting the possibility of a JDS knockout win, but more times than not I believe this matchup favors Blaydes. He’s the younger fighter and the far superior wrestler. We saw what Cain Velasquez did to JDS the second and third times they fought, and Blaydes has the wrestling skills necessary to do the same. If Blaydes is able to get the takedown, he should be able to control JDS on the mat while landing his trademark vicious ground and pound. The fight is scheduled for 25 minutes, and very few heavyweight bouts are able to go the distance. Considering the state of JDS’s chin and the amount of damage he’s taken in his MMA career, I can’t see him surviving the full five rounds if Blaydes is able to take him down and beat him up. My pick is for Blaydes to finish JDS with strikes on the mat en route to a mid-to-late round stoppage.
Prediction: Curtis Blaydes via TKO