Two of the best heavyweights in the world will clash with the title implications on the line.
Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis will meet at the main UFC Fight Night event in Las Vegas on Saturday. The fight was originally scheduled for November 28, but Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 and the competition was held the day before the event.
ESPN has Blaydes in 3rd place and Lewis in 5th place in the heavyweight division. While Francis Ngannou gets the next title shot from champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 next month and the great Jon Jones seems to be waiting in the starting blocks for the winner, the Blaydes winner will take pole position against Lewis if something happens to one of these Athletes.
Blaydes (14-2, 1 NC) has won four times in a row, taking a unanimous win against Alexander Volkov last June. The Illinois native, who trains from Colorado’s Elevation Fight Team, lost to just one man in the UFC: Ngannou, and he has done it twice. Blaydes, 30, is a former NJCAA champion in wrestling and does not apologize for his takedown and ground control style in MMA.
Lewis (24-7, 1 NC) has won three straight wins, including a knockout win over Aleksei Oleinik in August. The Houston resident has the highest number of KOs in UFC heavyweight history (11). Lewis, a 36-year-old fan favorite, has won a total of six out of eight and twelve out of 15.
In the co-main event, Ketlen Vieira meets Yana Kunitskaya in a catchweight fight. Vieira missed the weight by two pounds on Friday. ESPN has Vieira ranked 7th in the world and Kunitskaya ranked 9th in the world for bantamweight women. Vieira (11-1) recovered from her first career loss when she defeated Sijara Eubanks in September. Kunitskaya (13-5, 1 NC) has won three out of four.
Also on the map, Oleinik meets Chris Daukaus in a fascinating heavyweight fight. Veteran lightweight Charles Rosa meets Darrick Minner and former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski battles aspiring Tom Aspinall.
Jeff Wagenheim and Marc Raimondi recap the action as it happens. You can also follow the fights on ESPN +.
Fight in progress
Men’s featherweight: Julian Erosa (24-9, 3-4 UFC, -110) against Nate Landwehr (14-3, 1-1 UFC, -110)
Women’s flyweight: Casey O’Neill (6-0, 1-0 UFC) defeated Shana Dobson (4-5, 2-4 UFC) by TKO in the second round
O’Neill didn’t look like a fighter making her UFC debut. She looked like someone who is undefeated.
The 23-year-old Australian, who was born in Scotland and has lived Down Under since she was ten, was instrumental from start to finish in keeping her balance sheet perfect when she first appeared at Octagon.
No kidding, this is Casey’s pace every day in the gym. Absolute killer. 👹 # UFCVegas19
– Eric Nicksick (@Eric_XCMMA) February 20, 2021
O’Neill got an early shutdown, and when she lost the position, she just left for her again. By the end of the first round, she was on top of Dobson, dropping her elbows and threatening to file.
Round 2 was similar. O’Neill immediately took the fight to the canvas and assumed the dominant position to gain control of the back and then the full mount. Dobson tried her best to evade the position, but O’Neill skillfully maintained control. She delivered elbows and punches until the referee jumped into the round at 3:41 a.m.
The 31-year-old Dobson from Miami trains in Denver as part of Team Elevation, the same team as Curtis Blaydes. She has lost four of her last five fights.
– – Wagenheim
Watch this fight on ESPN +.
Canceled: Men’s featherweight: Chas Skelly (18-3 1 NC, 7-3 1 NC UFC, +180) against Jamall Emmers (18-5, 1-1 UFC, -220)
Skelly stepped into the octagon and waited for Emmers to enter for her featherweight fight. But Emmers never did.
According to the UFC broadcast, behind the scenes at the UFC Apex, Emmers had cramps and couldn’t keep up. Octagon announcer Joe Martinez announced that the fight has been canceled.
Wow, those are crazy back cramps that are not an uncontrollable joke
– Belal Muhammad (@ bullyb170) February 20, 2021
“I think I should get my winning bonus,” said Skelly. “I weighed, I gained weight, I stepped in the cage. This is how I feel. I hope Jamall is fine. No hostility. It sucks.”
Skelly said he wasn’t sure he wanted to come back and fight fast because of his huge weight loss.
“It’s not easy for me to gain weight,” Skelly said. “I don’t want to turn right next week and do the weight loss again. I don’t want to put my body in that yo-yo.”
Men’s bantamweight: Aiemann Zahabi (8-2, 2-2 UFC) defeated Drako Rodriguez (7-2, 0-1 UFC) by knockout in the first round
Aiemann Zahabi lands a quick right hook on Round 1 and drops Drako Rodriguez for the goal at UFC Fight Night.
Zahabi hasn’t been in a fight since 2019. What difference would three more minutes of idle make?
The 33-year-old from Montreal, who trains in his older brother Firas Zahabi’s Tristar gym, barely scored a goal in the first half of the opening round. But then he released an overhand right that Rodriguez collapsed for the one-punch knockout at 3:05 a.m. on round 1.
When you have your back against the wall there is no better feeling than winning such a big win. # UFCVegas19
– Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) February 20, 2021
In Zahabi’s first fight since May 2019 and his second appearance since 2017, he ended a defeat in two fights.
Rodriguez, 24, who fights in Sioux City, Iowa, made his UFC debut. He came out as an attacker and landed some clean shots early, including a couple of lead cuts. But when Zahabi finally bonded, Rodriguez went out the lights as a three-fight winning streak came to an end.
This fight was originally supposed to take place in December, but Zahabi tested positive for COVID-19. The rescheduled bout took place at a catchweight of 140.5 pounds after Rodriguez missed the bantamweight limit on Friday.
Watch this fight on ESPN +.
Heavyweight: Serghei Spivac (12-2, 3-2 UFC) defeated Jared Vanderaa (11-5, 0-1 UFC) by TKO in the second round
Spivac left Vanderaa in a puddle of his own blood.
For most of the second lap, Spivac was in the lead and slipping away from position. The blows weren’t the hardest – both men were clearly tired. But referee Chris Tognoni ended the fight at 4:32 am and decided Spivac to be the winner of TKO.
The first round was similar. Spivac dominated the ground and Vanderaa had few answers. Spivac seems like a legitimate heavyweight prospect.
The 26-year-old Spivac has won two direct and three out of five bouts in the UFC. The native Ukrainian, who fights out of Moldova, has nine placements in 12 career wins. Vanderra, a 28-year-old Washington native, made his UFC debut after a first-round TKO against Harry Hunsucker in Dana White’s Contender Series last November.
Watch this fight on ESPN +.
Still to come:
Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes (14-2 1 NC, 9-2 1 NC UFC, -380) against Derrick Lewis (24-7 1 NC, 15-5 UFC, +300)
Women’s bantamweight: Ketlen Vieira (11-1, 5-1 UFC, -280) versus Yana Kunitskaya (13-5, 3-2 UFC, +230)
Men’s featherweight: Charles Rosa (13-4, 4-4 UFC, -190) versus Darrick Minner (25-11, 1-1 UFC, +160)
Heavyweight: Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1, 8-5 UFC, +160) against Chris Daukaus (10-3, 2-0 UFC, -190)
Middleweight: Phil Hawes (9-2, 1-0 UFC, -125) versus Nassourdine Imavov (9-2, 1-0 UFC, +105)
Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski (30-19 1 NC, 18-13 1 NC UFC, +210) against Tom Aspinall (9-2, 2-0 UFC, -260)
Men’s featherweight: Jared Gordon (16-4, 4-3 UFC, +120) versus Danny Chavez (11-3, 1-0 UFC, -140)
Men’s bantamweight: Eddie Wineland (24-14-1, 6-8 UFC, +105) versus John Castañeda (17-5, 0-1 UFC, -125)