Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns tonight (Sat., Feb. 20, 2021) to stage UFC Vegas 19 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the main event of the evening, Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes will thrown down in a pivotal Heavyweight affair. In the co-main event, Ketlen Vieira takes on Yana Kunitskaya.
Lewis and Blaydes have launched ducking claims at each other for the better part of a year now, and the time for talking and accusations are coming to an end because the two heavy hitters will finally get to settle their differences inside the Octagon. To sweeten the pot, the winner will likely earn a shot at the Heavyweight title, which will finally be on the line when Stipe Miocic defends the strap against Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on March 27, 2021. Of course, the winner of Blaydes versus Lewis will have a tough choice to make because they will have to decide if they want to sit and wait for the title fight or take another fight in the interim. That’s because Jon Jones will get the winner of Miocic vs. Ngannou, which means a long waiting time for this weekend’s victor.
On to the fight itself.... This contest will basically come down to who imposes their gameplan quicker. Naturally, all fights begin on the feet, which is where Lewis shines. He likes to start off throwing haymakers early and often, so he will try his hardest to keep the fight standing in hopes of landing one or two good shots to end the fight as quick as possible. And that’s not to say Blaydes doesn’t have hands (he does), but he prefers to grind out a win with his wrestling, which has brought him numerous victories. Lewis, meanwhile, just doesn’t do well when he’s on the ground as evidenced by his one-sided loss at he hands of Daniel Cormier, who eventually choked him out in the third round of their Heavyweight title fight. Blaydes has only been stopped twice in his career, both times by Francis Ngannou. That means Lewis will have to have laser-like accuracy if he wants to tag “Razor” on the sweet spot, something I don’t think will happen here. If and when the action makes it into the championship rounds, the bout favors Blaydes, especially if he can ride out a win in top position. Of course, weathering the early barrage of bombs from “Black Beast” is half the battle.
Some of the matchmaking puzzled me here. There are several 265-pound monsters throwing down on this card, and I feel UFC matchmakers missed the mark with a couple of match ups, specifically Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall and Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus. For my money, I would have loved to see Arlovksi vs. Oleinik instead. They are two of the most experienced fighters in the game and not getting the chance to see them throw down against each other is a real shame. Aspinall and Daukaus, meanwhile, have a combined four fights inside the Octagon. It seems UFC is looking to use Oleinik and Arlovski as gatekeepers for the new blood coming in, but it missed a good opportunity here.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
A fight between Drakkar Klose and Jai Herbert was scratched after Herbert was ruled out for undisclosed reasons. Stepping in to take the bout against Klose is Luis Pena. Rafael Alves and Pat Sabatini were set to make their UFC debuts against each other, but after Alves missed the Featherweight limit by a whopping 11 pounds and the fight was scratched.
Prior to Alves' scale fail, Michael Trizano was paired up against him, but he suffered an ankle injury and was forced out of the scheduled fight.
Casey O’Neill will bring her perfect record (5-0) to the Octagon and put it up against Shana Dobson, who is a subpar 2-3 so far in her short UFC run. “Danger” got back on track in her most recent fight, defeating Mariya Agapova. O’Neill, meanwhile, has racked up five straight wins to begin her pro MMA career in 1.5 years, which was good enough to earn a spot on UFC’s roster.
Drako Rodriguez is another “Contender Series” alum who will look to shine in his official UFC debut when he battles Aeimann Zahabi. Rodriguez has won seven of his first eight bouts as a professional, six of them via stoppage. The 24-year-old has power in his hands and excellent submission skills, which doesn’t bode well for Zahabi, who is on a two fight losing streak and just 1-2 inside the Octagon.
Jared Vanderaa will look to add some fresh blood to the 265-pound division when he takes on Serghei Spivak in his UFC debut. Spivak is 2-2 so far in his UFC career and hasn’t quite had an entertaining outburst that can put him on the map. Vanderaa — who earned his way into the Octagon via the “Contender Series” — is 5-1 in his last six fights, four of them coming by way of knockout.
To get a more detailed look at all of the “New Blood” click here.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Luis Pena hasn’t competed since suffering a third round submission loss to Khama Worthy last summer, his second defeat in three outings. “Violent Bob Ross” will look to turn it around to improve on what has been an up-and-down career inside the Octagon when he takes on Drakkar Klose, who is looking to bounce back after losing to Beneil Dariush at UFC 248.
Phil Hawes exploded onto the UFC scene with an 18-second knockout win over Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254, giving him his fifth straight stoppage win. In fact, all nine of “Megatron’s” victories have come by way of stoppage, so the man knows how to get it done. He is in for a tough test against Nassourdine Imavov, who is on a six-fight win streak and has only been stopped once in his UFC career, which was in his pro debut.
Jared Gordon looks to build off his win over Chris Fishgold on “Fight Island” last July when he takes on Danny Chavez, winner of four straight. The former Global Legion Featherweight champion of the world has a ton of experience and has won four in a row. Getting number five against “Flash” would be a nice notch on “The Columbian Warrior’s” resume.
Jamall Emmers and Chas Skelly will collide in a pivotal Featherweight bout, while Julian Erosa looks for his third straight win in the Lightweight division when he faces off against Nate Landwehr.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Long-time veteran Eddie Wineland is still trucking along and will look to get back in the win column for the first time since 2019. He is just 1-3 in his last four fights inside the Octagon, which includes a first round knockout loss at the hands of Sean O’Malley. He will be facing John Castaneda, who is looking for his first UFC win after coming up short against Nathaniel Wood last summer in his Octagon debut. If Wineland suffers his second straight loss — four of five overall — it could mark the end if his near decade-long UFC career.
Interest Level: 5 of 10
It’s just not a good card. But a lot of the blame must be put on the COVID-19 pandemic, since it seems many fighters are still hesitant to compete during this time. And that’s okay, but it does leave the promotion to scramble. But, don’t fret, UFC 259 is just a few weeks away and it promises to be one of the most stacked cards the promotion has put on in quite some time.
Andrei Arlovski has won two in a row, the first time he’s accomplished that feat in three years. “The Pitbull” will look to earn his third straight win for the first time since 2015 when he takes Tom Aspinall, winner of five in a row. What’s more impressive about those five wins is the fact that they were all first round knockout victories. In fact, all nine of Aspinall’s victories have come via first round stoppage, which means Arlovski will have to keep his head on a swivel if he doesn’t want to hit the showers early.
Aleksei Oleinik, meanwhile, will compete in professional MMA fight No. 75 when he battles Chris Daukaus, winner of three straight (two inside the UFC cage). Oleinik saw his two-fight win streak go up in smoke after running into the the heavy hands of Lewis (see it here), so he needs a win here to prevent falling further down the 265-pound ladder. For Daukaus, a win over “The Boa Constrictor” would be huge for his budding MMA career.
In the co-main event of the evening, Ketlen Vieira will look to make a case for a shot at the women’s Bantamweight title by taking out Yana Kunitskaya (preview here). Vieira suffered the first loss of her pro career at the hands of Irene Aldana at UFC 245, though she bounced back nicely with a win over Sijara Eubanks. Ranked No. 6, Vieira can up her stock and infiltrate the Top 5 with a win over Kunitskaya, who is 3-1 since getting rag-dolled by Cris Cyborg at UFC 222. Kunitskaya is also eying a spot at the top of the rankings, and handing Ketlen another loss is a good way to get there.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 19 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 19 Main Event on ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis
UFC Vegas 19 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Ketlen Vieira vs. Yana Kunitskaya
145 lbs.: Darrick Minner vs. Charles Rosa
265 lbs.: Chris Daukaus vs. Aleksei Oleinik
Rafael Alves vs. Pat Sabatini CANCELED ( details here )
185 lbs.: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Phil Hawes
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall
UFC Vegas 19 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN+ (5 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Danny Chavez vs. Jared Gordon
155 lbs.: Drakkar Klose vs. Luis PenaCANCELED
135 lbs.: John Castaneda vs. Eddie Wineland
145 lbs.: Julian Erosa vs. Nate Landwehr
125 lbs.: Shana Dobson vs. Casey O’Neill
135 lbs.: Drako Rodriguez vs. Aiemann Zahabi
265 lbs.: Serghei Spivac vs. Jared Vanderaa
145 lbs.: Jamall Emmers vs. Chas Skelly
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
To check out the latest and greatest UFC UFC Vegas 19 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For more upcoming UFC events in both Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas click here.