clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC Fight Night 148 card: Curtis Blaydes vs Justin Willis full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight bruisers Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis will battle this Saturday (March 23, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 148 from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Heading into his rematch with Francis Ngannou, fight life was going real well for “Razor” Blaydes. The wrestler was riding a six-fight win streak that included the biggest wins of his career, seemingly placing him right on the verge of a title shot. Unfortunately for Blaydes, a single right hand from the Cameroonian athlete sent him right back to the drawing board. Willis is riding high himself — “Big Pretty” is unbeaten after four-fights in the Octagon, showing more than simple knockout power en route to those wins. Willis has been painting himself as a contender, and this fight is his chance to prove it.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Curtis Blaydes

Record: 10-2 (1)
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 225), Mark Hunt (UFC 221), Alexey Oleinik (UFC 217), Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC 213)
Key Losses: Francis Ngannou (UFC Fight Night 141, UFC Fight Night 86)
Keys to Victory: A Heavyweight with a deep gas tank is a rare find, one that is already dangerous to many of his peers. Not only does Blaydes have the energy to fight hard for at least three rounds, but he’s a decorated wrestler already close to breaking the record for most takedowns in UFC Heavyweight history.

Sounds like a good plan here.

Willis is a big, strong Heavyweight who trains out of American Kickboxing Academy. He’s not going to just fall over when Blaydes changes levels. At the same time, he also cannot match Blaydes’ pace, nor is he a massive knockout threat like Ngannou. It’s hard to see anything in Willis game stopping Blaydes from jamming him into the fence, grinding away until his defenses slip up or fall apart, and then slamming him through the mat.

Once on top, is there any doubt who’s in control?

Justin Willis

Record: 8-1
Key Wins: Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 142), Chase Sherman (UFC Fight Night 128)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Willis is also an uncommon breed of Heavyweight, one who does not rely heavily on his punching power. That’s not to say Willis doesn’t have pop in his punches, but Willis has proven his ability to fight smart with the jab or wrestle foes into the mat as well.

Opposite Blaydes, he’ll need a combination of both skills and a smart game plan to succeed. Obviously, Willis wants to keep this fight on the feet against the more powerful wrestler. To do so, however, Willis needs to make it difficult to close distance.

Luckily, Blaydes is still a developing striker — seemingly less developed than Willis. If “Big Pretty” can keep the jab going and move his feet without running himself into the fence, he stands a real chance at denying Blaydes’ takedowns in the open. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that punches have a different level of impact at Heavyweight. Blaydes may have a strong jaw, but he cannot simply walk through a stiff jab from a Heavyweight who tops out the divisional limit.

If that jab starts connecting with regularity, Blaydes may find himself stranded on the outside. Once that happens, Willis can expand on his combinations and start looking to do serious damage.

Bottom Line: It’s a match up of relevant Heavyweights who are below the age of 35, so rejoice!

Blaydes took a bad loss to Ngannou ... it happens. It’s important to have a short memory at Heavyweight, where every single fighter is one clean punch away from a loss. At 28 years old, there’s still plenty of time for Blaydes to rebound, and it’s not like the Heavyweight division requires a massive win streak to earn a title shot.

If Blaydes gets back in the win column, he’s right back in the mix.

There’s much to be gained for “Big Pretty,” who is riding a solid win streak already. Blaydes is a definite step up compared to Willis’ recent competition, meaning this could be the signature win that pushes Willis to contention. Win or lose, this fight should definitely show where exactly Willis fits in the current title picture.

At UFC Fight Night 148, Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania