When you listen to Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes talk about their heavyweight main event at Saturday's UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas, you hear fighters anticipating the fight to play out in drastically different ways. Styles make fights and each man anticipates their wildly different style to dominate the action and lay the groundwork for an important win in a division where a few good wins could easily land you in a championship fight.
For the heavy-hitting Lewis, turning the fight into a brawl where his powerful strikes can wear down and stop Blaydes is the goal. To do that, Lewis wants to mix it up in a bloody battle.
"This fight right here is going to be very violent and very bloody," Lewis said in a UFC video. "I feel I could break Curtis by the third round and that's what's going to happen. This is going to be a very intense battle, we both want the title shot right after this and I believe I could get the job done."
There's a natural appeal to that sort of approach to fighting that draws in fans. A big personality and big punching power have made Lewis a fan favorite.
Winning over fans isn't a large concern to Blaydes, who is the opposite of Lewis in many ways. Blaydes' wrestling attack is hard to stop, launching him to a 14-2 career record, even when drawing criticism.
After Blaydes used his wrestling to cruise to an easy -- if ugly -- decision win over Alexander Volkov in his most recent outing, UFC president Dana White joined the chorus of Blaydes' critics, saying, "When you talk s--- like he talked this week, you better come in and whoop somebody's ass when you talk s--- like that. When you talk the s--- that he talked and perform like you performed tonight, you look stupid."
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That criticism has not altered Blaydes' approach to the fight with Lewis.
"If I win the exact same way, I would be fine," Blaydes told ESPN. "Guess what? it's another win, it's a win bonus. I don't know if a lot of people care, but I have a family. I'm trying to feed my family. I don't care if you want me to risk my win bonus, which is $100,000, to stand and bang with a guy who has terrible wrestling. I'm just not going to do it. Unless you defend every takedown attempt, I'm not going to stop trying to wrestle you. You have to deter me, and I don't think Derrick is going to deter me."
Elsewhere on the card, another big showdown at heavyweight kicks off the main festivities when Tom Aspinall takes on former champion Andrei Arlovski. Aspinall has quickly garnered attention since joining the promotion last year with a pair of first-round stoppage victories. In fact, he's won five straight by stoppage in the opening frame. But he'll get a battle-tested vet standing opposite him in Arlovski, who has rebounded from a lengthy losing streak to win three of his last four bouts.
Here's the fight card for UFC Fight Night with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
Curtis Blaydes -380
Derrick Lewis +300
Ketlen Vieira -270
Yana Kunitskaya +220
Charles Rosa -190
Darrick Minner +160
|Chris Daukaus -200||Aleksei Oleinik +170||Heavyweights|
|Phil Hawes -125||Nassourdine Imavov +105||Middleweights|
|Tom Aspinall -260||Andrei Arlovski +210||Heavyweights|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Feb. 20 | Start time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: UFC APEX -- Las Vegas, Nevada
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis: Blaydes isn't wrong that Lewis' wrestling is several levels below his own. Both men have concerns over their cardio if the fight gets into the later rounds, especially with this being a five-round affair. Lewis has managed to pull out last-minute knockouts before, but that's harder to do in the fifth round than the third, and Blaydes' grinding style is a true bear to deal with. Blaydes has suffered knockouts in his two career losses -- both to Francis Ngannou -- and he can be caught cold, so there's a lot of risk going both ways. Still, Blaydes' ability to wrestle, wrestle, and wrestle some more may simply be too much to allow Lewis to truly get his power-striking attack going. Pick: Curtis Blaydes via UD