It was another solid night of action at the UFC’s APEX Center as the heavyweights took over. The judges were barely needed, and exciting finishes were the theme of the night. As a result of the outcomes, various possibilities could be taking place in the Octagon down the line following UFC Vegas 19.
Curtis Blaydes – Always the bridesmaid, never the bride
Time and time again, Curtis Blaydes has proven he has what it takes to be a heavyweight title contender. There are those moments, however, that slip away from him, resulting in heartbreak. This past weekend’s loss against Derrick Lewis was one of those moments.
All in all, Blaydes did very well in the Octagon before the knockout. He was not rushing and was able to land hard shots of his own to Lewis. Once he went for the signature takedown, however, Lewis struck and it was over. A four-fight win streak was ended — something he worked hard on after having his six-fight unbeaten streak snapped by Francis Ngannou. Now, Lewis is closer to another title opportunity.
Three times — twice to Ngannou — Blaydes’ momentum has been halted. What’s next for the heavyweight? He nor Lewis were going to get the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Ngannou 2 since Jon Jones has been lurking in the distance. Blaydes could face the loser of the upcoming Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane fight. That would be the last fight on Blaydes’ contract, however, and it is unknown if he would be willing to stay with the UFC if he were to wait again.
Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery before Blaydes decides his next move.
Yana Kunitskaya has entered the chat room
When Yana Kunitskaya entered the UFC in 2018 after winning the Invicta FC bantamweight title, she tested her luck at featherweight. She was a laughable underdog in the bout against Cris “Cyborg” Justino, and the fight proved why. Now, back at bantamweight, Kunitskaya is 4-1 in her last five fights.
Ranked seventh in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings, Kunitskaya beat sixth-ranked Ketlen Vieira in a back and forth affair that could have gotten either way. Avoiding Vieira’s ground game as best as she could, Kunitskaya was able to maintain top position for several moments. She ended up with a 215 to 35 advantage in strikes. The win could bring her closer to the top five.
Currently, bantamweight is in an interesting position. There is a line of contenders waiting to get their chance at Amanda Nunes, who is set to defend her featherweight title against Megan Anderson in March. No. 2 ranked bantamweight Holly Holm is set to face the No. 5 Julianna Pena, and Aspen Ladd sits at No. 3 having recently beaten Kunitskaya. On a two-fight win streak, Kunitskaya could face Irene Aldana at No. 4, who is coming off of a loss to Holm. There’s also Germaine de Randamie, the top-ranked contender within the division.
Kunitskaya is still growing, but there is no doubt she can be a force within the UFC’s 135-pound division.
The future has arrived at heavyweight
For a long time, the UFC’s heavyweight division was either stuck or the top contenders were on the older side. Now, young blood has been inserted into the land of the giants. Credit to UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard for being a part of this major change.
Two of MMA’s older generation of fighters in Aleksei Oleinik and Andrei Arlovski were beaten by 31-year-old Chris Daukaus and 27-year-old Tom Aspinall. Daukaus beat the No. 10 ranked Oleinik via first-round TKO while Aspinall submitted the former UFC heavyweight champion in Arlovski. Both are 3-0 since joining the UFC and are making their presence felt. It is only a matter of time before they start to creep into the rankings.
Daukaus is on a four-fight win streak and is willing to wait for an opponent, as long as they are ranked. With the heavyweight division pretty booked up, how much patience does Daukaus have?
On the other side, Aspinall is on a six-fight win streak. He is ready to go and is willing to fight whoever to prove his value. That could be veterans or other unranked fighters. He is taking another route to greatness, one that could push him to the top with a busy 2021.
With names like Augusto Sakai, Sergei Pavlovich, Daukaus, and Aspinall, the rest of the UFC’s heavyweight division has been put on notice.