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When you talk about Heavyweights being as volatile as they come when it comes to predictions, no one is more of a poster boy for that statement than Derrick Lewis. In his fight against Alexander Volkov, in which I picked Lewis to win, I stated that Lewis only needs one shot to change the entire landscape of a fight.
Lewis was getting destroyed the entire fight and Volkov was about to run away with a clear 30-27 victory until, with seconds left on the clock, Lewis connected with a shot that dropped Volkov to the canvas. Lewis would go on to win the fight.
There are some fighters that hone so much power that a chin really doesn’t matter because the human structure can only endure so much impact at the end of the day. Lewis is going to need to land something very similar in this fight against Curtis Blaydes.
This bout has one glaring path for each fighter. Let’s see what they are and who has the edge.
Lewis isn’t the most talented fighter in the world from a technical perspective, but he’s also probably one of the last guys you want to catch a clean shot from. Lewis has made a career out of landing that big shot that more often than not doesn’t fail him all that much. Lewis is actually pretty athletic and he shows it in spots during some of his fights. Lewis will surprise us all once in a while and let a head kick or two go, showing us that he is actually pretty flexible for a big man. With that said, there is a clear path to beating Lewis, but you still need to get down that path without getting clipped in the process.
Lewis comes in with a record of 24-7, and 19 wins by way of KO. In his seven losses, he has been stopped by strikes four times and submitted once. Lewis is not a guy that is going to be bouncing on his toes and really moving around the cage. That will completely take away what he does so well. He knows that the man standing across the cage from him knows exactly what he wants to do, so why even hide it?
He pretty much just stands and waits for you to make a move and in spurts, he will unload a barrage of strikes that really have no connection to each other. He just lets his hands fly — and heaven help you if one lands.
Lewis has shown a weakness to the midsection on many occasions. He does not take a shot to the midsection very well at all and as his gas tank dwindles, the strikes seem to come in bunches farther and farther apart. However, even at half staff, Lewis can shut you down with one shot.
Lewis is a power puncher with minimal skills outside of that. Nothing more and nothing less. When you look at his finishing rate, it is easy to get caught up in the flows of trying to visualize how it all went down. I can assure you all 19 KOs were drawn pretty much the same way: catching the opposition and ending it there. This is once again his sole path against a high-paced, much more well-rounded fighter in Blaydes.
Blaydes brings a very heavy wrestling game to the table, which is very important in the heavyweight division. When you are dealing with guys that hit like trucks, it’s always good to have a security blanket to fall back on with wrestling.
However, this is not just his security blanket. This is his means to an end. Blaydes will stand and strike and the minute the firefight starts, he will change levels and go to ground.
With a record of 14-2, Blaydes has 10 wins by KO. In his two losses, he was KO’d twice — both times to Francis Ngannou. The issue with Blaydes is his entries in certain spots. Sometimes his takedowns are seamless and timed perfectly, but there are times where it almost looks like it’s happening in slow motion, because there are spots to just take his chin off in the process.
However, in both fights against Ngannou, it’s not like he was sparked out cold. The fight was actually stopped on one occasion due to vision in his left eye. Averaging almost seven takedowns per affair, Blaydes has no reason to stray away from what has served him well in the past, especially against a guy that can be taken down if you can get by his thunderous power. Blaydes will have a slight reach advantage and be the faster, more nimble man in there, but by no means does he want to sit in the pocket with Lewis. Wrestling and making Lewis carry his weight into exhaustion is his clear path to victory.
How I’m Betting
I expect Blaydes to play cautious for the first minute or two. Lewis is going to look to land something big early, because at the end of the day, Lewis does not like dragged-out affairs. Part of the reason for that is his conditioning that won’t stand up five rounds in a long, grinding matchup like this if Blaydes is successful with his wrestling.
However, it’s going to take time, patience and a certain awareness of reading Lewis’ body language. Curtis Blaydes is a very overlooked fighter that has been to the pinnacle, but could never quite grab the top due to Ngannou stuffing him back down the mountain everytime.
Lewis is going to need to follow in the footsteps of Ngannou here — keep Blaydes on the feet and draw him into a firefight. Sell him some false hope and once he starts to bite, let the grenades fly hoping that something sticks. However, I am not seeing it play out that way. Blaydes is going to be cautious until the time is right. Once he lands his first takedown, they tend to get easier, and string together with much better fluency. It takes that initial shot to really get that wheel rolling.
I think as the fight progresses, Blaydes will get what he wants, tiring out the big man until he can no longer really defend anymore. Wrestling wins here and Blaydes has the upside of finishing this one inside the horn if he plays his cards right.
The Pick: Curtis Blaydes
100+ Points: 6 of 10
5th round: 1 of 10
Streak: 4 Won
Finishes: 5 of last 10
Physical: 1-inch reach / 1-inch height
Avg FP: 94.5
Hedge: 7 of 10
This fight just seems like a matter of time until this starts to flow his way. There will be a danger zone here, and he will need to really take that seriously. With that said, averaging seven takedowns a fight, there is no reason to think that Blaydes doesn’t have success here if he doesn’t get caught. The upside is real and I see him running away with this fight late.
100+ Points 2 of 10
5th round: 0 of 10
Streak: 3 Won
Finishes: 4 of 10
Avg FP: 61.6
Hedge: 3 of 10
All it takes is one! You are not rostering Lewis for the high volume or his ability to outpace anyone. His path is to land that one shot and if he does, you can expect anyone to go to sleep. I am picking against him here, but I will be damned if you think I would fade him totally with that kind of power.