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UFC Fight Night 166 card: Junior dos Santos vs Curtis Blaydes full fight preview

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UFC 242: Blaydes v Abdurakhimov Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Junior dos Santos and Curtis Blaydes will clash TONIGHT (Jan. 25, 2020) from inside PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Last year, dos Santos put together his first win streak since 2012, winning three straight fights to put him back in title contention. His chances at another shot were then unceremoniously smashed to pieces by the brutal power of Francis Ngannou, so the Brazilian is back on the climb.

Blaydes can understand what it’s like to have Ngannou ruin momentum — his only defeats in 10 UFC bouts came opposite “The Predator.” Those struggles aside, Blaydes has proven himself an excellent Heavyweight at just 28 years old, consistently improving in all areas while still thriving on the back of his wrestling talents.

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

Junior dos Santos

Record: 21-6

Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FOX 13), Cain Velasquez (UFC on FOX 1), Derrick Lewis (UFC Fight Night 146), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 86), Mark Hunt (UFC 160)

Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 155, UFC 166), Stipe Miocic (UFC 211), Francis Ngannou (UFC on ESPN 3), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 17)

Keys to Victory: If you saw dos Santos fight five years ago, you’re pretty much up-to-date on his current style. A skilled boxer with a quick jab and crushing power, dos Santos is not an easy man to wrestle, but he does struggle when backed into the fence.

JDS FOF VIDEO

This is an incredibly obvious striker vs. grappler match up, and dos Santos is the boxer. Step one for every striker is to avoid getting back into the fence, which is historically a big issue for the Brazilian. At this point, it seems unlikely he’ll wake up one day and suddenly develop great lateral movement.

Instead, I’d like to see dos Santos refuse to give ground at all. Stand in the center (or even back Blaydes up) and stab that jab into the chest. Blaydes is not yet particularly confident in his hands, which means dos Santos should be able to see any power shots coming. Meanwhile, it puts the wrestler in a more difficult situation, as he’ll have to shoot in the opening through a body jab.

Curtis Blaydes

Record: 12-2 (1)

Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 225), Mark Hunt (UFC 221), Alexey Oleinik (UFC 217), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC 242), Justin Willis (UFC Fight Night 148)

Key Losses: Francis Ngannou (UFC Fight Night 141, UFC Fight Night 86)

Keys to Victory: Blaydes is proof that there isn’t a complicated recipe for success. He’s a talented wrestler who can push a hard pace and is tough — simple but massively effective at any weight class.

BLAYDES FOF VIDEO

Cain Velasquez wrote the blueprint to defeating dos Santos way back at UFC 155 in 2012, and Blaydes would be a fool to ignore it. He’s a different style of wrestler than Velasquez — in very general terms, more strength than speed — but the bottom line is the same: push dos Santos into the fence and keep him there.

Blaydes can win this fight without scoring a takedown if need be. Hell, Velasquez himself was never able to control “JDS” on the mat for all that long. If “Razor” is powering his foe into the fence, landing punishing shots, and controlling him there, dos Santos is likely to be rendered ineffective.

Bottom Line; It’s a pretty important fight and fun style clash.

Due to how long the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier is taking to play out and the fact that Ngannou is clearly next in line for a title shot, Heavyweight is log-jammed. Still, for dos Santos, it’s an opportunity to force himself back into the mix. His name still holds plenty of weight, and he does technically have an unfinished trilogy with Miocic himself. If Ngannou were to lose, dos Santos could theoretically jump the line.

Blaydes is in a similar situation in that his losses to Ngannou will definitely make earning a title shot before the Frenchman quite difficult. However, since he’s never lost to anyone else and has yet to face most of the other title threats, a third victory in a row over a former champion would go a long way in helping him climb the ladder.

At UFC Fight Night 166, Junior dos Santos and Curtis Blaydes will meet in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?