If Curtis Blaydes can beat Derrick Lewis in the UFC Vegas 19 main event, he will be riding a five-fight win streak with a 9-1 record overall in his past 10 appearances yet he still may not earn a shot at the heavyweight title just yet.
Despite a dominant run in the division that already includes wins over four of the top 15 fighters ranked at heavyweight, Blaydes is stuck on the outside looking in when it comes to title contention because of the matchmaking already determined right now.
Reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will face Francis Ngannou in a rematch in the main event at UFC 260 in March, and the winner is expected to face former light heavyweight king Jon Jones in his debut in the division. That almost assuredly wraps up 2021 when it comes to heavyweight title fights, which means Blaydes will likely have to fight at least one more time or possibly even twice after facing Lewis to finally earn his own opportunity.
“I just roll my eyes,” Blaydes told MMA Fighting when asked about the current state of the heavyweight division. “I’m not old so I’m not in a rush so I’ll get there eventually. Honestly, it’s not even a guarantee that Jon will take the fight cause I heard he also has his eyes on the winner of the Izzy (Israel Adesanya) versus [Jan] Blachowicz fight. If he’s got his eyes on that one, he’s not all in on this heavyweight matchup so it’s not a guarantee. I’m not worried about it. If it does happen, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
“Worst case, I’ve always iterated, if I have to clean out the division, I will. I will do that. I have a family at home that I provide for so the more active I am, the better for them. The ultimate goal is the belt but we’ll get there.”
While he may be playing a bit of a waiting game, Blaydes has faith that his time will eventually come and he ultimately anticipates that he’ll get his chance to claim the title while likely facing arguably the greatest heavyweight in history.
“I think Stipe [Miocic] is the GOAT of the heavyweight division,” Blaydes said. “He’s got the most title defenses. He’s got the most consecutive defenses and just all the guys he had to beat to get there. He had to beat Junior [dos Santos]. He had to beat Alistair [Overeem]. He had to beat D.C. (Daniel Cormier) twice. He’s gone pretty much through the gauntlet.”
For Miocic to remain champion, he will have to go through Ngannou a second time and then take on a fighter in Jones, who is widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters the sport of mixed martial arts has ever produced.
Miocic already handed Ngannou a lopsided defeat in their first meeting and Blaydes doesn’t expect the rematch will go much differently but he admits the Jones’ fight is one he’s definitely looking forward to watching, although he still sees the same result in the end.
“I think if anything, the only difference, it wouldn’t be out of Stipe cause his game plan worked. It would be Ngannou, maybe he would be a little more reserved this time, not as aggressive,” Blaydes said about the upcoming rematch at UFC 260.
“I do agree that Stipe would beat Jon but that would be a great fight. Jon would definitely make Stipe earn it to get past that long reach and also get past the creative and funky ways he keeps people away from him, the distance. It’s interesting.”
Of course, Blaydes isn’t discounting the chance that Ngannou continues his reign of terror in the division or that Jones claims the heavyweight title after running roughshod over the best fighters in the world at 205 pounds for the past decade but he also loves the prospects of finally matching his skills against Miocic.
“Me versus Stipe is also a great fight because I’m still going to wrestle him,” Blaydes explained. “A lot of guys going up against another great wrestler like [Kamaru] Usman against Colby [Covington], both just mutually agreed ‘we’re not going to use our wrestling.’ I’m not going to do that. I’m still going to wrestle. I’m still going do to that. It’s a universal game plan.
“If [Stipe] defends [takedowns] like Junior did, I guess we’ll change up the game plan but he has to earn that.”
Before he can get to Miocic, Ngannou or Jones, first Blaydes has to get through Lewis this weekend and he’s been looking forward to this fight for months.
Originally scheduled for this past November, Blaydes was forced out of the fight with Lewis after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Now three months later, Blaydes is even more confident that he’s going to put Lewis away and he’s not even attempting to disguise his game plan for Saturday.
“The more aggressive you are, the easier is it is for me to get to your hips,” Blaydes said about taking Lewis down. “Even if you’re more counter oriented like Junior dos Santos was, as long as I’ve got you on your back heel, I’m winning the fight and eventually either the takedown or the strikes will open up.
“I view the majority of the division like that. I view Ngannou like that. The majority of the guys in the division, I get them on the ground and they’re not a problem no more.”