Preview and predictions for UFC Vegas 19: Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis.
The two were scheduled to meet at UFC Vegas 15 in November before Blaydes tested positive for coronavirus on the day of the weigh-ins.
Blaydes will enter this matchup as the No. 2 ranked contender and on a four-fight win streak since getting knocked out by upcoming title challenger Francis Ngannou. This streak has seen Blaydes defeat Justin Willis by decision before scoring second-round finishes of Shamil Abdurakhimov and Junior dos Santos. Blaydes most recently fought at UFC Vegas 3 in June, scoring a one-sided, albeit lackluster, decision win over Alexander Volkov.
Lewis, meanwhile, is ranked No. 4 and has a three-fight streak after dropping fights to Daniel Cormier and JDS, the former being a heavyweight title fight at UFC 230. Lewis’ current streak consists of a split decision over Blagoy Ivanov, a unanimous decision over Ilir Latifi and, most recently, a second-round TKO of Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6.
Who will win at UFC Vegas 19: Curtis Blaydes or Derrick Lewis?
The co-main event will come out of the bantamweight division, as Ketlen Vieira meets Yana Kunitskaya. Vieira, ranked No. 6, scored a unanimous decision win over Sijara Eubanks at UFC 253. It marked a rebound after losing her then-undefeated record to Irene Aldana. Kunitskaya, ranked No. 7, has won three of her last four, most recently defeating Julija Stoliarenko by decision at UFC Vegas 6.
Also in action on the main card will be the aforementioned Oleinik, as well as former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski and Charles Rosa. The prelim fighters will include Jared Gordon, Luis Pena, Eddie Wineland, Chas Skelly and more.
Let’s take a little more of an in-depth look at UFC Vegas 19.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis preview and prediction
After losing his UFC debut against Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes went on a tear, going unbeaten in six straight fights, which included wins over Aleksei Oleinik, Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem. This led to a rematch with Ngannou, only to lose in an even quicker fashion. Since then, he’s won four straight, defeating Justin Willis by decision, finishing Shamil Abdurakhimov and Junior dos Santos and taking a lackluster, one-sided decision over Alexander Volkov.
In a three-year span, between October 2015 and 2018, Derrick Lewis scored big momentum at heavyweight, winning nine of 10, including victories over Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Travis Browne, Ngannou and Volkov. It led to a UFC heavyweight title fight at UFC 230, coming up short to Daniel Cormier. He’d then lose to JDS before taking wins over Blagov Ivanov, Ilir Latifi and Oleinik.
Per the Tale of the Tape, Blaydes has a one-inch edge in both height and reach. Looking at the FightMetrics, Blaydes has the better striking numbers, with a slight edge in offense and a much better defense on the feet. Then when you look at the grappling numbers, it gets quite ridiculous. The wrestling-based Blaydes lands an average of over six takedowns in a 15-minute span. He connects on about half of his takedown attempts, while Lewis stops half of those that come his way.
Both men hold power in their striking, but Lewis’ power is the harder-hitting. If he catches Blaydes right, he has the method to finish this thing early. Blaydes, however, has one clear advantage in this fight — his wrestling — and he will take Lewis down at will. Lewis may have resolved some of his cardio issues from the past, but he has struggled against wrestlers like Oleinik and Cormier. If Lewis doesn’t end this early, he could be in for a long night.
As long as the fight plays out as expected, the question is if Blaydes can get a finish; the Volkov outing is going to be in everyone’s heads. Blaydes should be able to get the job done — Lewis has been finished quite a few times the past few years — but if his gas tank runs out quickly, we could be in for a decision.
Prediction: Blaydes via fourth-round KO/TKO
Ketlen Vieira vs. Yana Kunitskaya preview and prediction
Arriving in the UFC as a 6-0 fighter in 2016, Ketlen Vieira racked up wins over Kelly Faszholz, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Sarah McMann and Cat Zingano before getting knocked out by Irene Aldana. She rebounded at UFC 253 with a decision win over Sijara Eubanks.
After her time in the Invicta bantamweight title scene, which includes a pair of fights with Tonya Evinger and winning the belt against Raquel Pa’aluhi, Kunitskaya’s UFC debut saw her take a short-notice title fight with Cristiane Justino (aka Cris Cyborg) at women’s featherweight at UFC 222. Despite an early scare, Justino finished her in the first round. Since then, Kunitskaya has won three of four, defeating Lina Lansberg and Marion Reneau before getting stopped by Aspen Ladd and rebounding by defeating Julija Stoliarenko.
Vieira will have a two-inch height advantage, according to the Tale of the Tape, but the two women will come in sporting similar reach. Per FightMetrics, Kunitskaya will come in with the much better striking numbers overall. And while they’re nearly identical in terms of takedowns per 15 minutes and takedown accuracy, Vieira has stopped nearly every takedown attempt against her in her short UFC career thus far.
Vieira has looked great in her Octagon run thus far, and the win over Eubanks in her last outing was both needed as a rebound and needed as a statement. Her striking is crisp, her grappling is good; she’s just a solid all-arounder. Kunitskaya was kind of thrown into the UFC a few years ago, and while she’s scored wins and is a former Invicta champ, there hasn’t been anything that screams top contender. Vieira’s also arguably faced better competition and has scored wins against notable names.
Mark this is up as another step in the right direction for Vieira.
Prediction: Vieira via unanimous decision
Charles Rosa vs. Darrick Minner preview and prediction
Charles Rosa had a lot of momentum heading into the UFC off a 9-0 record from promotions like CES MMA and CFA. And while Rosa defeated Sean Soriano and Kyle Bochniak, Rosa ended up falling short against Dennis Siver, Yair Rodriguez and Shane Burgos. After a break of over two years, Rosa made his UFC return in October 2019, scoring a first-round submission of Manny Bermudez. He then dropped a decision to Bryce Mitchell before a split decision win over Kevin Aguilar.
Spending about eight years on the regional scene, which included a win over Clay Collard and losses to Luke Sanders, Kevin Croom and Herbert Burns (the Burns fight coming on Dana White’s Contender Series), Darrick Minner made his UFC debut at UFC Norfolk in February 2020, getting submitted by Grant Dawson. He rebounded at UFC Vegas 11 in September, submitting T.J. Laramie in 52 seconds.
Rosa will have a two-inch height edge, per the Tale of the Tape, but these two have the same reach.
This is arguably the toughest fight to call. Both have great wins on their resume (each has an upset over Bermudez and Laramie, respectively) and both are especially skilled when it comes to the grappling game, coming from great camps in American Top Team and Glory MMA. Rosa, however, does have more UFC experience, though Minner has faced quite a few noticeable names as well.
It’s close but Rosa’s experience under the bright lights more, as well as his slight physical edge, may give him the win, but this is one perhaps too dangerous to bet on. With how good both men are on the ground, it’s uncertain either will even get a finish here.
Prediction: Rosa via unanimous decision
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus preview and prediction
Between the start of 2017 and end of 2018, Aleksei Oleinik had won four of five, scoring finishes of Viktor Pesta, Travis Browne, Junior Albini and Mark Hunt. Three of those finishes came in the first round, with Pesta and Albini being stopped by way of his signature Ezekiel choke. He suffered a rough patch in 2019, getting stopped by Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris, the latter coming in 12 seconds. Oleinik’s 2020 saw him submit Maurice Greene, take a controversial split decision win over Fabricio Werdum and get knocked out by Derrick Lewis.
Winning eight of 11 on the regional scene, and a one-time CFFC heavyweight title challenger, Chris Daukaus had a successful UFC debut at UFC 252 in August, scoring a late first-round finish of Parker Porter. He followed that up a couple of months later with a 45-second knockout of Rodrigo Nascimento.
Daukaus, who is 12 years Oleinik’s junior, will have a one-inch height edge on his more experienced counterpart, but Oleinik will have a four-inch reach advantage.
Daukaus is definitely going to be the quicker fighter; he’s younger, more agile and has shown he’s got some devastating power. But Oleinik’s been in there with the best of them. He’s for sure a slow starter, which Daukaus could use big to his advantage, but Oleinik could expect a fast and powerful start and look to take this fight to the ground. Daukaus does have some jiu-jitsu in his background, but Oleinik is skilled and sneaky when it comes to grappling.
Going to go with the experience here, but if Daukaus can pull off something like he has in his last two-fights against a pro like Oleinik, it’ll surely lead to the UFC trying to strap a rocket to his back.
Prediction: Oleinik via second-round submission
Phil Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov preview and prediction
Phil Hawes, the former Ultimate Fighter contestant, who has had experience in Brave CF, the World Series of Fighting and Bellator, finally scored a UFC contract with a 78-second knockout of Khadzhimurat Bestaev on DWCS. He made his UFC debut in a big way at UFC 254, needing just 18 seconds to knock out Jacob Malkoun.
After winning three of his first five matches, Nassourdine Imavov won five straight before making his UFC debut in October, defeating Jordan Williams by decision.
Imavov will come into this contest with a three-inch height advantage, but Hawes has the reach edge by two inches.
Needless to say, Hawes looks great and has a lot of momentum on his side and he has an opportunity to continue that and give himself another step up with a win here. But even this fight is a bit of a step up; Imavov should not be counted out. Imavov is bigger, can arguably handle the clinch better than Hawes and is decent in the ground game (and again arguably better than Hawes). Hawes, however, will of course bring his striking pressure and power.
Overall, that pressure and power might get tested, but might once again win things out for Hawes.
Prediction: Hawes via second-round KO/TKO
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall preview and prediction
Despite returning to the UFC and gaining momentum in 2014 and 2015, 2016 saw everything start to go horribly wrong for Andrei Arlovski. The former UFC heavyweight champion went on a five-fight losing streak against the likes of Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura. Arlovski would defeat Junior Albini and Stefan Struve, only to go winless in another four straight. He’s won three of his last four, however, taking a lackluster decision over Ben Rothwell before getting stopped in 30 seconds by Jairzinho Rozenstruik — only to rebound with decision wins over Philipe Lins and Tanner Boser, the latter coming in upset fashion.
British heavyweight Tom Aspinall won seven of nine before making his way to the UFC last year. He knocked out Jake Collier in 45 seconds in July and followed it up with a 95-second finish of Alan Baudot a few months later. All of Aspinall’s wins have come via a finish in the first round.
Aspinall, in addition to being about 14 years younger than Arlovski, will have a two-inch edge in height and one-inch edge in reach.
And just like Oleinik vs. Daukaus, we have another matchup of veteran vs. youth. Arlovski has shown he can still hang with the up-and-comers, no matter what one may think of his win over Bosser, and against some veterans. But Arlovski is still way past his heyday in terms of skills. On the other hand, you’ve got a younger, hyped-up heavyweight in Aspinall, but Arlovski will certainly still be a step up in competition for him.
Youth actually seems to be more the better bet in this one. Arlovski may end up testing Aspinall, but Aspinall’s power and faster hands may end up being too much.
Prediction: Aspinall via second-round KO/TKO