(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of November 25, 2020, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Key Stats: 55.7% takedown accuracy (2nd all-time among HW), 59 takedowns landed (1st all-time among HW), 1:13:28 control time (1st all-time among HW)
What It Means: Blaydes doesn’t mince his words when it comes to his game plan every time he enters the Octagon; he wants to take his opponent down, control them, and dish out punishment. Few fighters make more of an art out of ground-and-pound than Blaydes, whose ability to maintain control while throwing strikes makes getting up a particularly dangerous proposition for opponents. While his standup has improved – heavy hands remain heavy, whether grounded or standing – Blaydes’ focus is always to wrestle. He’ll throw strikes to set up a shot, or feint a takedown and throw a combination, and it all works off his wrestling reputation.
Key Stats: 11 KO/TKOs (tied-1st all-time), 52.7% takedown defense (9th), 50.8% significant strike accuracy (7th)
What It Means: In a division full of brawlers, power punchers and knockout specialists, Derrick Lewis stands above the rest. More than just a winging overhand, Lewis utilizes a strong array of kicks, knees and footwork to set up that one-punch power he possesses, and perhaps nobody in the division is better at swarming a staggered opponent and ending a fight. Lewis has shown increased cardio, explosiveness, and overall fitness each time out, including when he landed a flying knee that started the finishing sequence against Aleksei Oleinik.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight is pretty simple. Blaydes wants to get Lewis to the mat, and Lewis wants to land the knockout punch. That said, it’s obviously hard for either to get a clean look. Lewis is notably strong, and although he isn’t impossible to take down, his ability to explode and get up seemingly when he chooses to is something to behold. It will be the biggest test of Blaydes’ control which, to this point, hasn’t left much room for questioning. Blaydes has felled plenty of other credentialed strikers, and if not for two losses to Francis Ngannou, he is as deserving as anybody on the roster of a title shot. Both men will look for an emphatic statement that will clear their path to Stipe Miocic so, as is often said in heavyweight fights, don’t blink.
Co-Main Event: Anthony Smith vs Devin Clark
Key Stats: 13:39 average fight time (2nd longest), 2.97 strikes landed per minute, 51% takedown defense
What It Means: A bit of a technical brawler, the long-limbed Anthony Smith is able to finish a fight in a variety of ways. Whether he is using his smooth, rangy striking or initiating grappling scrambles, “Lionheart” is dangerous wherever the fight goes. His striking can be methodical at times, reliant on footwork and general Fight IQ in order to set up his shots, but he is also able to set a grinding pace to the fight before looking for an opening.
Key Stats: 57% significant strike accuracy (4th), 37.9% control time percentage (5th), 12:08 average fight time (5th longest)
What It Means: “Brown Bear” is a marauding, well-rounded fighter with a strong wrestling base that he can use to get himself out of trouble or to wear on his opponent. He throws punches in long, heavy combinations, but he will also sneak a head kick in there. Clark has shown great toughness and ability to outlast opponents at a high pace, often going to the judges’ scorecards in his wins.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight should be a bit of a grinder, as both guys have shown the ability to respond well to adversity and turn the tide, as well as dish out punishment early and often. It wouldn’t be surprising to see several striking exchanges turn quickly into a grappling scramble as both men possess solid wrestling skills. Smith is the more credentialed finisher and is in need of a win to stay in the title picture at 205 pounds. On the other hand, this is a chance for Clark to score his third win in a row and thrust himself into the top-half of the division.
Other Fights to Watch (Miguel Baeza vs Takashi Sato)
Key Stats: 4.79 strikes landed per minute, 56% striking accuracy, 4.67 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: “Caramel Thunder” has a solid frame for the welterweight division at 6-foot-2 with a 74-inch reach, and he has strong, technical striking. His upper-body evasiveness keeps him in range for counter-combinations, and he is patient about his work. Baeza works well off low leg kicks to stymie his opponent’s movements and make them a more stationary target, and he doesn’t need a lot of space to generate power.
Key Stats: 6:20 average fight time, 3.94 strikes landed per minute, 5.1 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: Sato’s best, most powerful, weapon is a fast straight left, often set up with a jab ahead of it. He’s patient in looking for the right moment to unleash his punches, and he is adept at countering. It’s not uncommon for him to absorb some punishment in order to get into range for the knockout punch, displaying a great chin in the midst of wild exchanges. He has shown the ability to flip the script on a fight with just one punch, and he remains dangerous at all times because of that.
What to Look For in the Fight: It wouldn’t be surprising to find Baeza leading this dance early as Sato searches for his range and timing. Both are strong counterpunchers with real power. Baeza is probably the faster and more sophisticated striker of the two, and he showed against Matt Brown he can take a shot, recover and find his footing in a fight. Sato is a tricky knockout artist because he is so patient with how he approaches the fight, so this should be a fun fight with its share of explosive moments.
*Hasn’t competed enough in current weight class to qualify in UFC Record Book