Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight talents Curtis Blaydes and Shamil Abdurakhimov will throw down this Saturday (Sept. 7, 2019) at UFC 242 from inside The Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Let’s all take a moment to credit Blaydes for providing us with the funniest moment of the year: tossing Justin Willis around for three rounds then triumphantly demanding that “Big Titty go home!” will go down in history. Beyond that bout, Blaydes has been perfect inside the Octagon against everyone not-named Francis Ngannou. Meanwhile, after a fairly tepid 2-2 start to his UFC career, Abdurakhimov has exceeded expectations by winning three straight. At Heavyweight, three wins in a row means that it’s time to throw him in the cage with an elite contender and see what happens.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 11-2 (1)
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 225), Mark Hunt (UFC 221), Alexey Oleinik (UFC 217), Justin Willis (UFC Fight Night 148)
Key Losses: Francis Ngannou (UFC Fight Night 141, UFC Fight Night 86)
Keys to Victory: Blaydes is not an easy opponent for the vast majority of the Heavyweight division. First off, he can wrestle well, which instantly puts him ahead of the pack. However, the 28-year-old athlete’s ability to maintain a solid pace for the full 15 minutes has really turned him into a contender.
He’s also tough as nails.
Blaydes’ kickboxing is improving. It’s still not great, but Blaydes moves his head after punching and can kick hard. Again, his pace is a weapon, as Blaydes throws a good volume of punches and doesn’t have to load up on power shots since he isn’t worried about fatigue.
He’s not going to strike with Abdurakhimov, though.
“Abrek” is tough and well-rounded, but Blaydes’ wrestling and cardio are simply far superior. Expect Blaydes to duck down into a takedown early, and once he gets his hands on an opponent, Blaydes just does not stop.
Key Wins: Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 149), Walt Harris (UFC Fight Night 96), Andrei Arlovski (UFC Fight Night 136), Chase Sherman (UFC Fight Night 122)
Key Losses: Derrick Lewis (UFC Fight Night 102), Timothy Johnson (UFC Fight Night 63)
Keys to Victory: Abdurakhimov is a very credentialed athlete — he holds very high ranks in both Wushu Sanda and kickboxing — and those skills are really starting to show through. Inside the Octagon, Abdurakhimov is a deceptively tricky striker, able to control range well and set up heavy counter punches.
When necessary, Abdurakhimov will mix it up with takedown attempts as well.
In a way, Blaydes will give Abdurakhimov the look he wants, at least until he begins wrestling. At distance, Blaydes throws enough volume that there should be some opportunities for Abdurakhimov to land counter shots. Plus, Blaydes is still relatively stiff while on his feet, so it shouldn’t take long for Abdurakhimov to get a sense of his timing.
The problem remains that Blaydes can wrap up Abdurakhimov at any point and likely suffocate him. If nothing else, Abdurakhimov needs to fight like hell to prevent the initial grasp of Blaydes — even denying just one or two takedown attempts before they begin may create the opportunity needed to land a big shot.
Bottom Line: Curtis Blaydes has to fight somebody while the elite of the Heavyweight division sorts itself out.
Blaydes is one of the few very legitimate title challengers to Stipe Miocic, but he’s also about third in line right now behind Daniel Cormier and Ngannou. There’s no chance of a third bout with Ngannou this soon, but against either of the other two men, Blaydes could receive a shot at any point. In short, Blaydes just has to keep winning, stay ready, and hope Ngannou doesn’t get the belt.
As for Abdurakhimov, his recent performances are definitely a marked improvement compared to the start of his UFC career. It seems unlikely that “Abrek” can fully morph into a top contender, but that’s realistically the chance he’s being given here: a win over Blaydes definitely puts Abdurakhimov in the title mix. A loss, meanwhile, keeps him in roughly the same position just inside the Top 10.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 242 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 242, Curtis Blaydes and Shamil Abdurakhimov will battle in a Heavyweight tilt. Which man will earn the victory?