Skip to main content
Curtis Blaydes reacts after landing an accidental low blow against Junior Dos Santos of Brazil in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at PNC Arena on January 25, 2020 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Blaydes Vs Lewis: Fight By Fight Preview

The UFC Action Continues In Las Vegas This Saturday. We Run Down The Entire Card, Top To Bottom.

Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis have a shot to separate themselves from the pack at heavyweight with a big time performance at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis

CURTIS BLAYDES VS. DERRICK LEWIS

For the second time in three weeks, heavyweights headline inside the UFC Apex as Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis clash in a battle with championship ramifications.

The 29-year-old Blaydes is undefeated against everyone not named Francis Ngannou and is winless in two starts against the heavyweight contender from Cameroon. He’s 9-2 with one no contest verdict overall in the Octagon and riding a four-fight winning streak since their second encounter, including dominant victories over Junior Dos Santos and Alexander Volkov in 2020.

Watch The Fights On ESPN+

Lewis, meanwhile, is on a three-fight winning streak of his own, having picked up a unanimous decision win over Ilir Latifi in February before setting a UFC record for the most knockouts in the heavyweight division when he slept Aleksei Oleinik in August. The Houston native is 12-3 since splitting his first four UFC starts, and has continued to improve his conditioning and cardio since undergoing knee surgery in the first half of 2019.

Blaydes and Lewis have essentially landed in the Octagon together through a process of elimination, in that they’ve eliminated everyone else from being potential opponents. They are the next two fighters behind Ngannou in the queue to challenge for the heavyweight title and the winner of this one has a legitimate case to fight for championship gold in 2021.

UFC VEGAS 19 FREE FIGHTS: Curtis Blaydes Vs Shamil Abdurakhimov | Derrick Lewis Vs Aleksei Oleinik

Stylistically, this is going to be a classic “grappler vs. striker” pairing, where Blaydes will be looking to drag Lewis to the canvas and work him over from there, while “The Black Beast” will be swinging those sledgehammers and trying to stuff takedowns, knowing that he only needs to land one bomb to open a pathway to victory.

This is a critical fight at the top of the heavyweight division and it should be an electric way to end the night on Saturday.

KETLEN VIEIRA VS. YANA KUNITSKAYA

Ketlen Vieira of Brazil reacts after defeating Sijara Eubanks in their women's bantamweight bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Ketlen Vieira of Brazil reacts after defeating Sijara Eubanks in their women's bantamweight bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Bantamweight contenders looking to build on recent victories finally clash on Saturday evening as Ketlen Vieira faces off with Yana Kunitskaya in the co-main event.

Initially scheduled to meet last August, Vieira was forced out of the original pairing and landed in the Octagon with Sijara Eubanks at the end of September instead, where she earned a unanimous decision victory. After suffering the first loss of her career at the end of 2019, this was a solid bounce-back effort for the talented Brazilian, and another similar effort her could have her right back in the thick of the chase in the 135-pound weight class.

VIEW THEIR ATHLETE PROFILES: Ketlen Vieira | Yana Kunitskaya

Kunitskaya stayed on the card when her bout with Vieira was scuttled in August, registering a unanimous decision win over Julija Stoliarenko. It was a tepid affair, but a victory nonetheless for the former Invicta FC standout and UFC featherweight title challenger, who enters Saturday’s contest with a 3-1 record in the Octagon since her short-notice championship fight debut.

Which of these women will begin their 2021 campaign with a second straight victory and who will be forced to regroup out of the gates? Tune in Saturday night to find out.

CHARLES ROSA VS. DARRICK MINNER

Featherweight grapplers Charles Rosa and Darrick Minner clash in what should be an action-packed affair as both look to build on victories in their final appearances of 2020.

A fan favorite who has been limited by injuries over the years, Rosa bounced back from a loss to Bryce Mitchell in May with a split decision win over gritty LFA champ Kevin Aguilar a month later. The 34-year-old American Top Team representative has alternated losses and wins throughout his UFC tenure, serving as a measuring stick for up-and-comers like Mitchell after every victory, so it will be interesting to see if he can break the pattern and pick up a second straight victory this weekend.

Watch UFC Fight Night: Blaydes Vs Lewis On ESPN+

After getting stopped by Herbert Burns on the Contender Series in the summer of 2019, Minner registered a pair of first-round wins on the regional circuit, then accepted a short-notice assignment against Grant Dawson last February. While that one didn’t go his way, it got his foot in the door and he made the most of his sophomore showing, registering one of the biggest upsets of 2020 by choking out Canadian prospect TJ Laramie in 52 seconds.

Both men like to start fast, so don’t expect there to be much of a feeling out process in this one as they come out chasing chokes and a second consecutive UFC victory.

ALEKSEI OLEINIK VS. CHRIS DAUKAUS

UFC 252: Chris Daukaus TKOs Porter
UFC 252: Chris Daukaus TKOs Porter
/

It’s Part One of this week’s “Veteran vs. Upstart” two-piece in the heavyweight division as 43-year-old, 74-fight veteran Aleksei Oleinik squares off with Chris Daukaus, who went 2-0 in his rookie campaign inside the UFC cage last year.

Oleinik’s continued presence in the Top 15 is a testament to his work ethic, approach, and overall skills. After entering the year on a two-fight slide, “The Boa Constrictor” scored an armbar win over Maurice Greene in January and followed it up with a split decision win over Fabricio Werdum in May before losing to Lewis in August.

Daukaus got called up to the UFC in the summer and quickly rattled off a pair of first-round stoppage wins to announce his presence as someone to watch in the heavyweight division. After taking a minute to find his footing and finally get Parker Porter out of there in their joint debuts, the 31-year-old wasted little time dispatching Rodrigo Nascimento in his second appearance, dropping the Brazilian with heavy hooks just 45 seconds into the contest.

Oleinik has had as many UFC appearances (13) as Daukaus has fights, and it will be interesting to see if that significant experience advantage factors into the outcome this weekend. Either way, this one should be all kinds of interesting.

RAFAEL ALVES VS. PAT SABATINI

Rafael Alves prepares to fight Alejandro Flores in a featherweight bout during week four of Dana White's Contender Series season four at UFC APEX on August 25, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC)
Rafael Alves prepares to fight Alejandro Flores in a featherweight bout during week four of Dana White's Contender Series season four at UFC APEX on August 25, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC

Regional champions making their first foray into the Octagon collide in this one as Rafael Alves squares off with Pat Sabatini.

A member of last year’s graduating class from the Contender Series, Alves claimed the interim Titan FC lightweight title in his last appearance before venturing to Las Vegas last summer and earning a contract with a second-round submission win. The MMA Masters representative is unbeaten in his last five outings, having finished the last four, and seems to be finally putting all the pieces together after battling inconsistency through the first several years of his career.

View The Entire UFC Fight Night: Blaydes Vs Lewis Event

Sabatini arrives as a late replacement for recent TUF winner Mike Trizano for a UFC opportunity many feel is overdue. The two-time CFFC featherweight kingpin has won back-to-back contests inside the distance and five of his last six overall, with his lone setback coming as a result of an arm injury.

This is an intriguing clash between slightly older newcomers with more experience than most first-time UFC starters, so it will be interesting to see if Alves or Sabatini (or both) can make the kind of impression that expedites their ascent up the featherweight ranks.

ANDREI ARLOVSKI VS. TOM ASPINALL

UFC Fight Island 3: Tom Aspinall Gets 1st Round TKO
UFC Fight Island 3: Tom Aspinall Gets 1st Round TKO
/

Part Two of this weekend’s “Veteran vs. Upstart” saga in the heavyweight division pits former champion and ultra-resilient holdover Andrei Arlovski against surging British power hitter Tom Aspinall.

Every time you think Arlovski is entering the slide that is going to send him to the next stage of his life, the 42-year-old says, “Not yet, my friends.” He snapped out of a frustrating stretch where he registered one win in six starts with a pair of unanimous decision victories in 2020 to once again show he’s still got plenty left in the tank.

Watch Fighter Timeline: Andrei Arlovski

The 27-year-old Aspinall made a pair of brief appearances on Fight Island last year, blasting through Jake Collier in 45 seconds to win his debut before pounding out Alan Baudot in 95 seconds to pick up his second UFC victory in less than four months. Now riding a five-fight winning streak overall, the Team Kaobon representative looks like a potential force in the heavyweight ranks.

Much like the other matchup in this two-piece, it will be curious to see if Arlovski can use some of his veteran savvy to push Aspinall inside the Octagon for the first time or if the British heavyweight will simply continue blazing a trail towards contention with his precise and powerful boxing.

PHILLIP HAWES VS. NASSOURDINE IMAVOV

Phillip Hawes poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC 254 event on October 24, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Phillip Hawes poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC 254 event on October 24, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Emerging prospects with identical 9-2 records and each coming off impressive performances in their respective debuts collide as Contender Series grad Phillip Hawes squares off with Nassourdine Imavov in a compelling middleweight clash.

The 31-year-old Hawes made good on his second appearance on the Contender Series last summer, collecting a contract with a first-round stoppage win over Khadzi Bestaev to push his winning streak to four. Seven weeks later, the former prospect announced his presence as one to watch in the UFC middleweight ranks with an 18-second knockout win over Jacob Malkoun in his promotional debut.

View Their Fighter Profiles: Phillip Hawes | Nassourdine Imavov

Imavov was scheduled to appear on the last season of the Contender Series, but was forced to withdraw from his bout against Gregory Rodrigues. He was replaced by Jordan Williams, who blasted his way through the Brazilian to earn a contract, and then ventured to Abu Dhabi to face — you guessed it — Imavov in their joint debuts. The 24-year-old “Russian Sniper” rallied from a slow start to out-work Williams and earn a clean sweep of the scorecards.

Middleweight has been undergoing major renovations for the last couple years and while that work continues, there are opportunities for upstarts like Hawes and Imavov to quickly work their way up the divisional ranks. Another strong performance from either man will further elevate their profile and set them up for another step up in competition later this year.

JARED GORDON VS. DANNY CHAVEZ

Jared Gordon stands in his corner between rounds of his featherweight fight against Chris Fishgold during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 16, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jared Gordon stands in his corner between rounds of his featherweight fight against Chris Fishgold during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 16, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bott

Featherweights coming off impressive efforts in their lone UFC appearances of 2020 meet this weekend as Jared Gordon faces off with Danny Chavez.

After a series of lightweight appearances where he had mixed results, “Flash” returned to the featherweight division last year and looked outstanding, outhustling Chris Fishgold at every turn to earn a unanimous decision win to cap an emotional and challenging venture to Fight Island. Now the Sanford MMA representative looks to turn that victory into the start of a winning streak as he looks for his third win in as many starts in the UFC’s 145-pound weight class this weekend.

Chavez returned following 18 months on the sidelines last July, registering a first-round stoppage win over Dylan Cala on the regional circuit, and then looked sharp in picking apart TJ Brown in his rookie appearance inside the Octagon at UFC 252. The 33-year-old MMA Masters representative is short on overall experience, but looked like an intriguing addition to the weight class with his victory over Brown, and could expedite his climb up the rankings with a second straight win on Saturday.

Featherweight is one of the most deep and competitive divisions in the UFC, so neither Gordon nor Chavez can afford to take a step back as they try to climb into the Top 15 in 2021. This should be a spirited affair from the start and is a definite Fight of the Night contender.

DRAKKAR KLOSE VS. LUIS PENA

Drakkar Klose celebrates his victory over Christos Giagos in their lightweight bout during the UFC 241 event at the Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Drakkar Klose celebrates his victory over Christos Giagos in their lightweight bout during the UFC 241 event at the Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Drakkar Klose and Luis Pena look to start building some momentum in the loaded lightweight division as they kick off their 2021 campaigns against one another on Saturday night.

Klose had his quality three-fight winning streak snapped in his lone appearance of 2020, landing on the wrong side of a slobberknocker against Beneil Dariush. After having the streaking contender stunned at one point in the first, Klose was unable to put Dariush away and paid for it in the second, walking into a left hand that ended his night.

Pena tagged in for former Cage Warriors champ Jai Herbert in the middle of last week, seeking an opportunity to get a first quarter victory much like he did last year. That victory over Steve Garcia came following a frustrating split decision loss to Matt Frevola in his final start of 2019, and was followed up by a similarly disappointing effort against Khama Worthy in June that dropped his record to 4-3 in the UFC.

After landing on the business end of big finishes to wrap up their respective 2020 campaigns, you can be sure that both of these men have been chomping at the bit to get back out there and get back into the win column. Combined with the ultra-competitive nature of the division, it should make for an outstanding matchup with explosive potential inside the Apex this weekend.

EDDIE WINELAND VS. JOHN CASTANEDA

Eddie Wineland poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC 238 event at the United Center on June 8, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC)
Eddie Wineland poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC 238 event at the United Center on June 8, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC)

Veteran bantamweight Eddie Wineland makes his 15th trip into the Octagon on Saturday to face off with second timer John Castaneda in a battle of competitors looking to start 2021 on a positive note.

Wineland breaks from his three-year pattern of fighting in the spring in hopes of securing the 25th win of his career after landing on the wrong side of the results in his UFC 250 clash with Sean O’Malley last June. The former WEC bantamweight champ is as tough as they come and as experienced a fighter as there is in the division, having previously challenged for the interim title and shared the Octagon with a cross-section of the top contenders and upstarts over the last decade.

Wins over Gustavo Lopez and Chris Beal earned Castaneda a chance to compete on the fourth episode of the Contender Series, but although he won his fight, the “Sexy Mexi” didn’t come away with a contract. Fast-forward three years and the 29-year-old finally got his chance to compete inside the Octagon, giving a good accounting of himself in a short-notice loss to Nathaniel Wood, setting up this sophomore appearance against Wineland.

Will Wineland thwart Casteneda’s attempt to collect his first UFC victory or will the sophomore topple the tenured veteran and get his hand raised on Saturday night?

NATE LANDWEHR VS. JULIAN EROSA

UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa locks a D'Arce Choke on Sean Woodson
UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa locks a D'Arce Choke on Sean Woodson
/

Here’s one that has the potential to be all kinds of wild as a pair of featherweights who have never been shy about slinging hands and putting on a show, Nate Landwehr and Julian Erosa, clash in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

“Nate the Train” got stopped in his promotional debut last January, but rebounded in impressive fashion, showing everyone why his arrival in the UFC was met with such anticipation by going toe-to-toe with divisional stalwart Darren Elkins to win a hard-fought decision in his second appearance of the year. The 32-year-old had a pair of additional fights fall through in the final third of the year, but looks to jumpstart a successful sophomore campaign with an impressive win this weekend.

A cast member on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter, Erosa worked his way back to the UFC after a win on Season 2 of the Contender Series opened the door for a short-notice assignment in the summer of 2018. Three straight losses later, he was back on the regional circuit, but last summer, “Juicy J” was again called back to the UFC cage and made the most of his opportunity, rallying to upset Sean Woodson in June for his first triumph inside the Octagon since winning his debut in December 2015.

Neither man is fond of taking a backwards step, so don’t be surprised if this one starts quickly and continues to escalate until someone gets stopped or the final horn sounds, whichever comes first.

SHANA DOBSON VS. CASEY O’NEILL

Shana Dobson: Post-Fight Interview
Shana Dobson: Post-Fight Interview
/

Fresh off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, Shana Dobson goes in search of her second straight victory as she welcomes newcomer Casey O’Neill to the Octagon for the first time.

A colossal underdog in her bout with Mariya Agapova last summer, Dobson weathered an early attack from the highly regarded prospect, shifting the momentum into her favor late in the first before securing a finish early in the second. The victory snapped a three-fight slide for the Elevation Fight Team member and TUF 26 contestant, showcasing the continued evolution and improvements the hard-hitting 31-year-old has made in recent years.

The 23-year-old Casey is unbeaten in five professional appearances and coming off a second-round stoppage win in September. A member of the Tiger Muay Thai team, the newcomer has been posted up in Las Vegas for a couple of months, training at Xtreme Couture and the UFC Performance Institute in advance of this one, with designs on making an impressive first impression on Saturday.

Casey has won 10 straight dating back to her amateur career and profiles as an intriguing new addition to the division, so it will be interesting to see if Dobson can delay the ascent of another flyweight hopeful and take another step up the divisional ladder herself this weekend.

CHAS SKELLY VS. JAMALL EMMERS

Chas Skelly poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at Rogers Arena on September 13, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Chas Skelly poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at Rogers Arena on September 13, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Featherweights that trained together a time or two back in the day now cross paths inside the Octagon as veteran Chas Skelly finally returns to action against Jamall Emmers.

Sidelined since his September 2019, the 35-year-old Skelly is 18-3, 1 NC overall and has just a single loss in his last five fights. The Sanford MMA product is the kind of hard-nosed, gritty competitor befitting the nickname “The Scrapper,” and after an extended absence, you can be sure Skelly will be primed to get back in there and get his hand raised again this weekend.

Emmers posted four straight victories following his Contender Series loss to Erosa in 2018 to earn a call to the Octagon. He dropped a split decision to late replacement Giga Chikadze in his promotional debut, but rebounded with a solid effort against Vince Cachero in August to earn his first UFC win.

These two have sparred in the past and stayed in touch ever since, which is an interesting little wrinkle to an already intriguing matchup. Featherweight is flush with talent and there is plenty of it on display on this card, so look for each man to do their damnedest to stand out from the crowd on Saturday.

AIEMANN ZAHABI VS. DRAKO RODRIGUEZ

Aiemann Zahabi of Canada battles Vince Morales in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Canadian Tire Centre on May 4, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Aiemann Zahabi of Canada battles Vince Morales in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Canadian Tire Centre on May 4, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Bantamweights do battle here as Aiemann Zahabi welcomes Drako Rodriguez to the Octagon for the first time.

After beginning his career with seven consecutive victories, including a win in his UFC debut, Zahabi arrives in Las Vegas on a two-fight skid. Last time out, the 33-year-old dropped a unanimous decision to Vince Morales.

A standout on the regional circuit, Rodriguez punches his ticket to the UFC with a first-round submission win over Mana Martinez in August. Now 7-1 as a pro, the 24-year-old is an intriguing new addition to the 135-pound weight class and potentially one to watch long-term heading into next year.

This is a really intriguing pairing, as Zahabi is a polished and technical competitor with a slick ground game, while Rodriguez is a rising star stepping onto the biggest stage in the sport for the first time. Will the bright lights be too much for him or can the Contender Series graduate hand Zahabi a third straight loss?

SERGHEI SPIVAC VS. JARED VANDERAA

Serghei Spivac of Ukraine poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Serghei Spivac of Ukraine poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

If fighters ever needed further proof of how pivotal it can be to have a name in mind heading into your post-fight interview, they need to look no further than this heavyweight pairing between Serghei Spivac and Jared Vanderaa.

The 25-year-old Spivac has alternated losses and wins through four UFC starts, heading into Saturday’s contest off a majority decision victory over Carlos Felipe in July. Each of his two career losses have come against veteran heavyweights, and he looked impressive collecting a second-round submission win over Tai Tuivasa at UFC 243, so with a little more seasoning, the emerging Moldovan could develop into a formidable member of the heavyweight class.

Vanderaa lobbied for the opportunity to face “The Polar Bear” following his Contender Series victory at the start of November, and now, after a postponement in December, the Team Quest representative is getting his wish. The 28-year-old newcomer is a mountain of a man who earned championship gold under the EFC banner in South Africa, claiming the title with a stoppage win over UFC veteran Ruan Potts.

Will Spivac make Vanderaa regret his decision to call him out or will the newcomer make the most of his opportunity and secure a quality win in his UFC debut?