Card preview – UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos

TWO of the top UFC heavyweights are set to rumble in Raleigh, as Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos look to fight their way back into the title picture with a win in their headline bout. In the co-main event, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos will hope to prove he is more than a gatekeeper at 170lbs when he faces fellow former 155’er Michael Chiesa, while the remaining card provides a chance for fans to catch a glimpse of some rising talent and a scattering of staple MMA veterans.


HEAVYWEIGHT | Curtis Blaydes [3] vs. Junior dos Santos [4]

Much-loved veteran and perennial heavyweight contender Junior dos Santos will hope to open yet another championship run when he faces fellow top fiver, Curtis Blaydes. The bout looms as 35-year-old dos Santos’ seventh-straight main event, and fifth-consecutive UFC Fight Night headliner since going down to current champ, Stipe Miocic at UFC 211. His near-unrivalled experience and powerful, technical boxing make him a serious threat to any heavyweight, and Blaydes should know plenty about powerful stand-up fighters given both of his career losses have come at the hands of Francis Ngannou. For Blaydes to capture a third-straight win, he’ll need to close the distance fast and get working on his wearing wrestling style, but that also may bring dos Santos’ often overlooked jiu jitsu game to the fore. It makes for an interesting battle on paper, and one which may further blur the heavyweight title picture with the next championship bout still to be announced.

Prediction: dos Santos by T/KO

WELTERWEIGHT | Rafael dos Anjos [5] vs. Michael Chiesa

Jerking the curtain for a huge main event is another headliner-hogger in Rafael dos Anjos, who makes his seventh-straight main or co-main event outing in a bout with fellow former lightweight, Michael Chiesa. The former 155lbs champion has not been able to string together consecutive wins since initially moving up to welterweight in 2017, but has faced a raft of absolute killers of late as somewhat of a measuring stick for the 170lbs division. Up next is Chiesa, the TUF 15 winner who is looking to crack the rankings in his new division having won his last two bouts. But dos Anjos provides a stiff step-up in competition that Chiesa has often fallen short against, so it should prove a real test for the quirky American. Both men have high-level jiu jitsu, but the stylistic advantage lies with dos Anjos on the feet, and he is so hard to put away.

Prediction: dos Anjos by submission

FLYWEIGHT | Jordan Espinosa [11] vs. Alex Perez [12]

A top 10 spot in the flyweight rankings could be up for grabs in this main card bout between Jordan Espinosa and Alex Perez, two Contender Series alumni. In the red corner will be eleventh-ranked contender, Espinosa, who took two Contender Series stoppages to be afforded his UFC contract by the boss. The 30-year-old grappler is finding his feet in the promotion at 1-1, and a win against Perez would really help his standing. But Perez, who earned a contract on his first try, comes in with four promotional wins and experience in the octagon against title challenger, Joseph Benavidez. Perez’s steep rise highlights the faith the UFC has in him, but this will be a good test having not fought for almost a full year.

Prediction: Perez by decision

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Hannah Cifers vs. Angela Hill

A relative promotional veteran meets a relative promotional newcomer as Angela Hill and Hannah Cifers do battle in their women’s strawweight bout, with both fighters looking to crack the divisional rankings. Hill, 5-7 in the UFC over two stints, is the former Invicta strawweight champion, but has not been able to string together a run of wins since defending that crown in 2016. On the other hand, Cifers has accumulated a similar record in various promotions over the same time, going 2-1 since entering the UFC and only losing to Maycee Barber in her last eight bouts. Cifers has shown she can throw hands and hang with some solid opponents, but the high-level experience sits with the active and often overlooked Hill. Either way, it should be an interesting battle.

Prediction: Hill by decision

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT | Jamahal Hill vs. Darko Stosic

Contender Series graduate Jamahal Hill makes his UFC debut against Serbian judo and kickboxing practitioner, Darko Stosic. The Serb has shown he can bang on the feet despite his grappling background, earning seven T/KO victories, but more recently suffering two of his three career losses to stand 1-2 in the UFC. Hill is a more fresh prospect with a 6-0 professional record, six months off a TKO win in his contract-earning bout. He, too can find a way to win up top with his raw athleticism, and comes in with a decent size advantage at four inches taller than Stosic. In the opening main card slot, this is a good chance for both men to mark their mark on the promotion in a division desperate for exciting new contenders.

Prediction: Stosic by T/KO


One to watch:

FEATHERWEIGHT | Arnold Allen vs Nik Lentz

Two of the more well known fighters on the undercard are Arnold Allen and Nik Lentz, who make up our fight to watch on the prelims. 15-1, Allen is fresh off being dumped from the featherweight rankings, but may be in for a return with a win against 43-fight veteran Lentz. It will be no mean feat given ‘The Carny”s experience; Lentz had been competing in the UFC for three years before Allen’s first professional bout, making this a classic match-up between youth and experience. It could provide a timely revamp for Englishman Allen, who was expected to face Josh Emmett in this bout while Lentz was booked to fight Nad Narimani, but the American can never be overlooked.

Prediction: Allen by decision

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Bevon Lewis vs. Dequan Townsend

In 25 or less: These two are a combined 0-3 in the UFC, but can throw heat on the feet. Will Lewis be the next Contender Series success?

Prediction: Lewis by T/KO

W. FLYWEIGHT | Justine Kish vs. Lucie Pudilova

In 25 or less: It’s do-or-die for two women on losing streaks, but who’ve faced tough opposition. Pudilova has four fights since Kish’s last, and it could be telling.

Prediction: Pudilova by decision

BANTAMWEIGHT | Montel Jackson vs. Felipe Colares

In 25 or less: A couple of exciting grappling prospects throw down in this one, and we know how much Dana loves a Contender Series product.

Prediction: Jackson by T/KO

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Sara McMann [10] vs. Lina Lansberg [11]

In 25 or less: McMann’s return bout after almost two years away, but a fellow tough veteran awaits. Hard to look past the Swede’s stand-up.

Prediction: Lansberg by decision

BANTAMWEIGHT | Brett Johns vs. Tony Gravely

In 25 or less: Sick of Contender Series graduates yet? Gravely is another, who faced decent opposition on his way to the UFC. But Johns needs a win.

Prediction: Johns by submission

FEATHERWEIGHT | Herbert Burns vs. Nate Landwehr

In 25 or less: Two UFC debutants, both on solid win streaks and from high-level promotions. Could be a good one to open the night.

Prediction: Burns by decision

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