Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports
In a division predominantly dominated by heavy-hitting, knockout artists – Juco national champion, Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes has been not just incredibly impressive – but truly dominant. The Team Elevation contender has blasted his way through the ranks at heavyweight to firmly clinch the #3 spot – and earn an Octagon appearance against a still feared former champion. This weekend, Blaydes takes headlining honors at UFC Fight Night Raleigh, as he meets with Brazilian icon, Junior ‘Cigano’ dos Santos.
With two straight victories over Justin Willis and Shamil Abdurakhimov – the Illinois native has only been bested by one-time title hopeful, Francis Ngannou, ahead of his eleventh Octagon walk. The 28-year-old has already established an impressive professional résumé, handing defeats to former DREAM, Strikeforce and K-1 world champion, and now training partner, Alistair Overeem. Blaydes has also handed losses to mixed-martial-arts veterans, Mark Hunt, and Aleksei Oleinik. Over the course of those eleven Octagon appearances – Blaydes has successfully lodged an absolutely staggering, forty-five takedowns.
To go with his excellent wrestling acumen, Blaydes also has some of the most devastating ground-and-pound the heavyweight division has seen in some time. Against Overeem, Blaydes, in the third round managed a fifth takedown before slashing and slicing ‘The Reem’ with brutal, bloodying elbow strikes. At UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi – Blaydes managed an equally brutal stoppage against Abdurakhimov. Against dos Santos, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt no less, Blaydes’ best venture for success comes in the form of his offensive wrestling, top pressure, and ground strikes.
Blaydes isn’t necessarily as smothering a top game wrestler as a Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gregor Gillespie, or Daniel Cormier – but the 28-year-old is as damaging as the Sambo specialist, Khabib.
In Blaydes only two Octagon defeats, he’s struggled massively with the power of Francis Ngannou – like almost everyone before him. In his UFC Fight Night Shanghai headliner in late 2018, Blaydes was clipped with an overhand right early and never recovered. In his promotional bow in 2016, Blaydes was forced into a doctor’s stoppage defeat due to a cut. Against someone as technically proficient as the boxing based dos Santos, Blaydes must once more avoid the offensive power coming his way. Avoidance of dos Santos’ heaviest shots early is paramount for success here for Blaydes – but entry into suitable takedown range is easier said than done.
as mentioned in yesterday’s Fighter Profile feature on Junior dos Santos, Blaydes represents the first legitimate wrestler with a concrete background to stand opposite the Brazilian since his 2013 rubber-match with former heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez. Blaydes, as mentioned earlier, is a Juco national champion wrestler out of Harper College in his hometown of Illinois. In both his rematch and subsequent trilogy tie with Velasquez, dos Santos struggled majorly with offensive grappling. Blaydes unlike Velasquez, in my opinion, has a resounding ability to finish a fight from the top with massive ground-and-pound barrages.
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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