On the heels of an underwhelming pay per view card that could not be saved fully by a fun Figueiredo finish and a great performance from Tim Means, we move on to a decent Fight Night card headlined by a fairly lopsided heavyweight matchup. Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis should be a draw, and we get a couple other nice fights late in the card as well. We will find out just how far Anthony Smith is trending towards being washed, which will be preceded by a couple of fun bangers. For my money, Takashi Sato vs Miguel Baeza is already the fight of the night, and one I am very much looking forward to. Let’s dive into these fights.
Curtis Blaydes -370 vs Derrick Lewis
Fight is five rounds at heavyweight and is -255 to end inside the distance.
I mentioned the lopsided nature of this fight, and there is an argument that this betting line is not quite wide enough. We know what Curtis Blaydes brings, and that is the best wrestling skill set in the heavyweight division. He is so good with MMA takedowns and control, and we have seen his striking catch up with wrestling and grappling in recent fights. The control for Blaydes is not always an immediate thing, but his ability to keep a hold of his opponents and return to the mat when necessary, and often repeatedly, cannot be understated. This style is going to be an unspeakable problem for Derrick Lewis, as Lewis simply has subpar takedown defense.
He has been taken down in five of his last six fights, and the one in which he was not taken down was the Junior Dos Santos fight in which he came in injured and was knocked out before any takedowns were needed. In fact, in 10 of Lewis’ last 11 fights, he has either been taken down or knocked out, with the lone exception being the Francis Ngannou fight in which Ngannou was still mentally broken by Stipe Miocic and could not bring himself to engage. Lewis has relied on scrambling ability and his come from behind knock outs to overcome those deficiencies in the past, but it is difficult to see how that would work out in this matchup. The argument would be that Lewis would allow takedowns, let Blaydes gas and then go to work to seek the finish in this five round affair, but there are many holes in that theory.
The most glaring hole is that the ease in which Blaydes will score takedowns combined with the time Lewis tends to take off on the floor before attempting explosions back to his feet is not a recipe for gassing anyone. No matter how many times Lewis has that surge to return to his feet, it will be gassing him more than Blaydes, who will, bluntly, not need to sell out from an effort perspective to get the fight to the floor, nor to control it there. Blaydes will take the take downs as needed and drop to ground and pound intermittently until Lewis can’t take anymore or 25 minutes have passed. We have seen Lewis pull off mini miracles in the past, but I’m not sure he’s even the better striker in this fight, and I foresee a runaway for Blaydes. I rarely wager on flat lines at this level in MMA, but this is one to strongly consider as the -155 ITD line for Blaydes does not present added value over the flat line.
Anthony Smith -140 vs Devin Clark
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -115 to end inside the distance.
I mentioned in the intro that this fight will be a gauge as to just how close to washed up Anthony Smith has become. His last two ugly losses have featured him being controlled for extended periods on the floor, with no ability to return to his feet. This did not happen for the same reasons, as the control given by Glover Teixeira was mostly about being outclassed, but the control shown by Alexander Rakic was due to his leg being hurt early and not being at all effective while standing. Teixeira and Rakic were his last two opponents, and his three before that were Alexander Gustaffson, Jon Jones and Volkan Oezdemir. Needless to say, this fight is a step down and a litmus test to see where Smith truly stands in the light heavyweight division.
The fight with Clark feels like a call out from Dana White and the matchmakers, as Clark’s best assets are exactly the areas in which Smith was beaten by recently. Clark is a wrestler who looks to control on the floor and in the clinch, and when he can implement that game plan, he finds success. The question being posed to Smith is, with a drop in the level of competition, can you keep the fight standing or actually work a submission or sweep from bottom and finish a fight, or are you going to be a sitting duck in bottom position for the remainder of your career? I truly have a difficult time answering this question, and think this fight is a very difficult one to pick. My slight lean is to the Smith side for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is certainly the more dangerous striker, and I could see him having early success if Clark takes his time trying to find a read on a takedown. The second is that Smith is the better grappler, even if not even close to being the better wrestler. He truly has paths to a finish from bottom position, while I think any Clark victory is one on the judge’s scorecards. This is a nice matchup to see how it plays out but one best avoided from a gambling perspective.
Josh Parisian -230 vs Parker Porter
Fight is at heavyweight and is -505 to end inside the distance.
This fight is the farthest thing from a high level matchup, but its placement as the third last fight of the evening, coupled with a -505 ITD line, gives you a very good idea of what to expect, and that is a finish from the big guys. Parisian is the debuting fighter after punching his ticket to the UFC on Dana White’s Contender Series in August. He is the rightful favorite and has the single most pinpointable advantage in this fight, and that is his ground and pound, which is truly vicious. He will be the much larger and more powerful fighter here, and Porter will need to show something added and improved in his game after being finished in the first round of his promotional debut. If he is to have any real chance in this fight, it will be in the boxing department and he will have to sell out to keep this fight standing. Even then, he will likely be trailing in volume and will be trailing in power, and has just a one shot KO path to victory. The most likely outcome is Parisian forcing the fight down and raining down the bombs until Porter can do nothing but cover up. The ITD line of -145 on Parisian is quite an attractive one and one not to think twice about firing a wager at.
Miguel Baeza -160 vs Takashi Sato
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -280 to end inside the distance.
We really could get the fight of the night with this bout, as these two strikers are going to put on a show. I’m a fan of both of these fighters, and we are going to see them stand and bang until one of them goes out. Sato being a southpaw will be the great equalizer against Baeza.
Baeza has extremely high level leg kicks, but that lead leg being on the opposite side will be quite a change for his initial point of attack for Baeza. WIthout Baeza being able to work the outside of an orthodox fighter’s leg, we will get a fun boxing match between two fighters that have very real power in their hands. Sato is the more technical of the two strikers, with more tightness and precision to his strikes, but he may also be the more hittable of the two. Baeza throws with a bit more dynamism and is the taller, if not longer fighter as well.
I really see this fight as a race to get the needed clean shot home, and I think it should very much be a pick’em fight, but also see the victor winning via KO. If you’re convinced Baeza is outclassing Sato, his ITD line of +140 is the best play. I am not convinced of that, and think a straight left from Sato has at least a 50% chance of being the shot to finish the fight, and his ITD line of +220 is easily the best play in this matchup.