Event: UFC on ESPN+ 24: Blaydes vs. dos Santos / UFC Fight Night 166
Location & Venue: PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
Date: Saturday, January 25th 2020
Start time: Main Card: 8 p.m. ET, Prelims 5 p.m. ET
Where to watch: Watch both the Main Card & Prelims over on the ESPN streaming service: ESPN+
Following Conor McGregor’s emphatic 40 second TKO of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at ‘246, the UFC is now back with their second show of the year, UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos.
Much like UFC 246, this card is lightly stacked with really only a headliner to draw in the fans. Of course there’s some fun fights amongst the litter, but it’s impossible to overlook the UFC’s lacklustre attempts to make their cards “can’t miss events” in the early goings of 2020.
Nevertheless, when there’s fights on, there’s money to be made. Let’s jump into my picks and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos!
Brett Johns vs. Tony Gravely
Bantamweight (135 lbs) Preliminary Bout
We’re betting two fights on this card, the first of which is the second bout of the evening, Johns vs. Gravely.
Tony Gravely makes his full UFC debut fresh off the back of his third round stoppage victory over Ray Rodriquez on the Contender Series. He currently yields a 19-5-0 record and his pick’em status (near 50/50 odds) against Brett Johns speaks to how impressive he’s been on the regional scene.
He’ll be taking on Welsh fighter and five fight UFC veteran Brett Johns. Tonight, Johns makes his return to the cage after a 17 month hiatus, following back-to-back decision losses to Aljamain Sterling (#2 ranked UFC bantamweight) and Pedro Munhoz (#6 ranked UFC bantamweight). Prior to that he was 15-0, winning all three of his UFC bouts, one of which came against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt and former UFC bantamweight title contender Joe Soto (via Submission).
I like Johns to win this fight. It’s tough to deny that he’s faced the better competition and held his own at the highest level. Gravely has a strong résumé too, but his submission losses are what guides me to take Johns in this fight. He’s now experienced four submission losses, the most recent of which came against Patchy Mix in mid-2018. Now, Patchy is more of a submission specialist than Johns is, but Gravely’s proven more than once to be susceptible to submissions by lesser skilled guys than Johns. I expect these guys to contend with each other on the feet with quick exchanges, but ultimately I see Johns out grappling Gravely for the win. I’ll be betting him straight on the moneyline, and taking a unit on him to win via submission at a modest +450.
Pick: Brett Johns – 2 Units @ -108 (to Return 3.86 Units)
Pick: Brett Johns via Submission – 1 Unit @ +450 (to Return 5.5 Units)
Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos
Heavyweight (265 lbs) Main Event
The main event sees former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos (JDS) take on the third ranked UFC heavyweight (HW) contender Curtis “Razor” Blaydes.
This is a tricky fight to call. On one side, you’ve got the 28 year old Curtis Blaydes, probably the second most athletic heavyweight behind hot-prospect Cyril Gane. His combination of wrestling and speed makes him a unique challenge to the rest of the division. Of course Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic have similar attributes, but his durability and youth sets him aside from those guys, even if his striking doesn’t match-up.
JDS is an interesting opponent for Blaydes and that’s in large part due to his crisp and calculated striking, combined with his solid takedown defense. Blaydes’ main path to victory is via his wrestling, but JDS has a solid 80% takedown defense, and he hasn’t been taken down since December 2014 (per UFCStats.com).
With all this being said, I really don’t fancy taking either side at their moneyline price. Blaydes isn’t the worse play at -250 and dos Santos is a live dog at +220. What I do like however, is the over 2.5 rounds prop. If Blaydes is able to wrestle JDS to the mat, he’ll likely take his time and seek to wear down the former champ and drag the fight out into the later rounds. Whereas if dos Santos is able to keep Blaydes’ takedowns to a minimum, we can expect to see him look to out strike the durable Blaydes on the feet, without having to fear too much about him landing a fight ending strike.
Pick: Over 2.5 Rounds – 1 Unit @ +133 (to Return 2.33 Units)
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos Full Fight Card Predictions:
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos Main Event Prediction:
Heavyweight (265 lbs): Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos – Curtis Blaydes via Decision (+450)
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos Main Card Predictions:
Welterweight (170 lbs): Rafael dos Anjos vs. Michael Chiesa – Rafael dos Anjos via Decision (+175)
Flyweight (125 lbs): Jordan Espinosa vs. Alex Perez – Alex Perez via KO/TKO (Inside the Distance +175)
(W) Strawweight (115 lbs): Hannah Cifers vs. Angela Hill – Angela Hill via Decision (-105)
Light Heavyweight (205 lbs): Darko Stošić vs. Jamahal Hill – Jamahal Hill via Decision (+225)
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos Prelim Card Predictions:
Middleweight (185 lbs): Bevon Lewis vs. Dequan Townsend – Bevon Lewis via Decision (+200)
Featherweight (145 lbs): Arnold Allen vs. Nik Lentz – Arnold Allen via KO/TKO (Inside the Distance +240)
(W) Flyweight (125 lbs): Justin Kish vs. Lucie Pudilová – Lucie Pudilova via Decision (+130)
Bantamweight (135 lbs): Montel Jackson vs. Felipe Colares – Montel Jackson via Decision (+125)
(W) Bantamweight (135 lbs): Sara McMann vs. Lina Länsberg – Lina Lansberg via Decision (+320)
Bantamweight (135 lbs): Brett Johns vs. Tony Gravely – Brett Johns via Submission (+450)
Featherweight (145 lbs): Herbert Burns vs. Nate Landwehr – Herbert Burns via Submission (+175)
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.