Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 71 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., April 22, 2023) on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a heavyweight main event between Top 5 title hopefuls Sergei Pavlovich and Curtis Blaydes, a five-round headliner with serious title implications for late 2023 and beyond.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes
the bantamweight collision between Ricky Simon and Song Yadong the middleweight scrap between Brad Tavares and Bruno Silva, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 71 preliminary card — which he wrote while locked inside a Coachella Porta Potty — by clicking here and here. For the latest “Pavlovich vs. Blaydes” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.
For the rest of the UFC Vegas 71 main card predictions click here.
265 lbs.: Sergei Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes
Record: 17-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +140
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 84” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 8.07 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.30 | Striking Defense: 48%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 66%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Knockout win over Tai Tuivasa
Curtis “Razor” Blaydes
Record: 17-3, 1 NC | Age: 32 | Betting line: -165
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.54 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.70 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 6.05 (53% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 33%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Tom Aspinall
Sergei Pavlovich is being positioned as the next big threat at 265 pounds, much like Ciryl Gane was before he got exposed by Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones. The Russian bruiser has been able to blast his way into the No. 3 spot in the heavyweight rankings on the strength of five straight wins, all of which ended by way of first-round knockout. That looks great on paper and he’s certainly demonstrated his finishing power, I just think it’s worth noting that three of those middling opponents are no longer signed to the UFC roster. In addition, Derrick Lewis has lost three straight and four of his last five and I’m not sure his destruction of Tai Tuivasa sounds as impressive after watching Gane do it the fight before. The one time we saw Pavlovich face a bona fide title contender, as opposed to just a heavy-handed slugger, he went down in flames at the hands of Alistair Overeem. Ancient history? Maybe, but it would have been nice to see him tested against a more reliable heavyweight like Tom Aspinall or Alexander Volkov, especially if we’re talking about a legitimate threat to the top of the pecking order, where killers like Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones await.
Curtis Blaydes has three losses in UFC and two of them came against the since-departed Ngannou. There was also that tactical error in judgment against Lewis when they headlined UFC Vegas 19, a fight-ending scenario that could repeat itself if he’s not careful this weekend in “Sin City.” I don’t think it’s any big secret that Blaydes — who holds division records in Top Position Time, Control Time, and Takedowns Landed — will be looking to neutralize the hulking Russian with his wrestling and top control. Similar to the critique levied against Pavlovich, it would have been nice to see how Blaydes stacked up against Aspinall to measure his abilities when paired with a new-school heavyweight. Sadly, the Brit blew out his knee and the fight was over in less than a minute. Blaydes has serviceable striking but not the kind of hands to stand and bang with a killer like Pavlovich. The big question is whether or not “Razor” can slice through the Russian’s defense to secure the leg(s) without eating a Lewis-esque uppercut on entry. You don’t get to 62 takedowns by sheer luck; Blaydes is one of the best wrestlers in the division. We also got to see Pavlovich taken down one time in his UFC career and it led to him getting pounded out. I’m expecting his guard to be a little stingier this time around but I’m not expecting it to change the outcome. Blaydes is going to fight smart, tire out his opponent, and add to his already-impressive wrestling totals.
Prediction: Blaydes def. Pavlovivh by unanimous decision
Note: the following prediction was written by Andrew Richardson before Brad Tavares vs. Bruno Silva was elevated to co-main event. The middleweights take over for bantamweight bruisers Yadong Song and Ricky Simon, who now headline UFC Vegas 72 (details here).
185 lbs.: Brad Tavares vs. Bruno Silva
Record: 19-7 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -160
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 12 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.30 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.01 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 0.86 (26% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 80%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Dricus Du Plessis
Bruno “Blindado” Silva
Record: 22-8 | Age: 33 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 19 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 1 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.31 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.58 | Striking Defense: 44%
Takedown Average: 0.66 (18% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 71%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission loss to Gerald Meerschaert
It’s kind of wild to consider that Tavares debuted inside the Octagon at 5-0 a full 13 years ago. He’s become one of the most consistent and established Middleweights on the roster, fighting a “Who’s Who” of the 185-pound division over the years. He’s a quality kickboxer with an excellent calf kick and very solid takedown defense, which is why the Hawaiian has been able to stick around the Top 20 or so for such a long time.
Silva, meanwhile, is a brawler with concrete in his fists, particularly if able to gain top position. Nineteen of 22 wins via knockout doesn’t happen by accident, but his last defeat to Gerald Meerschaert was highly concerning. Silva went from giving Alex Pereira a real challenge on the feet to getting absolutely picked apart by a submission ace — it was a perplexing performance.
I’ll be honest: that loss really removed my confidence in Silva. On his best day, he’s absolutely a challenge to Tavares, simply because he hits so much harder. On the heels of two losses — one of which saw him looking quite gun shy — it’s hard to trust that best version of Silva to show up. Instead, expect Tavares to keep his distance, chop up the lead leg, and work smoothly to a decision win.
Prediction: Tavares def. Silva by decision
Holland’s two cents: Tavares has been knocked out three times in his UFC career and Silva has the hammers to make it four. Like Richardson, my confidence was rattled by the Brazilian’s lame-duck performance against Meerschaert. Unlike Richardson, I think he had a bad night and will be coming back with something to prove. I expect Tavares to find his rhythm early and get comfortable on the feet ... just a little too comfortable against a murderous power puncher like “Blindado.”
I’m taking Silva by knockout.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UFC Vegas 71 main card predictions RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 71 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 71 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Pavlovich vs. Blaydes” fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.