It’s take two in the heavyweight division for this weekend’s main event as Curtis Blaydes takes on Derrick Lewis in their rearranged fight from November 2020.
The two were scheduled to meet at UFC Vegas 15 before a positive COVID-19 test ruled Blaydes out just hours before the weigh-ins. They’ll meet now, knowing that the path to the heavyweight title shot they both feel they deserve is now clearer than it was back then.
Last week at UFC 258 we went 6/10 with our predictions, with three perfect picks to take us up to 230/359 (64.07%) with 104 (45.22%) perfect picks since we started out back in June 2020.
We have a monster 15 fight card this weekend, so the predictions will be split into three parts rather than the usual two. We’ve already predicted the first five fights of the night and the remainder of the prelims, so lets go with the main card now.
Andrei Arlovski (30-19) vs Tom Aspinall (9-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A huge heavyweight clash between the legendary former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski against Britain’s next big prospect in Tom Aspinall. Arlovski won his last two fights, including against Tanner Boser back in November at UFC Vegas 13. Aspinall has won his only two UFC fights, both by first round knockout against Jake Collier and Alan Baudot.
Arlovski is the epitome of a mixed martial artist, with fantastic striking and a solid ground game to his name too. Aspinall is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who took time away from the cage to become a professional boxer, training with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. He has tremendous one-punch power, great hand speed and technique and is so confident in his ground game that he isn’t hesitant to throw hands.
Arlovski is a veteran and knows how to stuff momentum, but with where they both are in their careers right now this could be the statement win Aspinall’s career needs to really take off.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1
Phillip Hawes (9-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
After getting a random, undisclosed injury during fight week of UFC Fight Island 7 this fight was rescheduled for this card. Someone’s winning streak end as Hawes and Imavov go to war at 185lbs. Hawes has won each of his last five fights, including an 18 second knockout on his UFC debut at UFC 254, while Imavov has won each of his last six including his UFC debut against Jordan Williams in October.
Hawes is a violent counter striker who is very physical in his approach, while Imavov is a bit more of a rounded fighter. His issue is that when he’s out-gunned on the feet he tends to use his wrestling, but Hawes is the better wrestler here. Imavov has good footwork but with a range and power deficit, but Hawes should be able to get the victory here.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2
Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1) vs Chris Daukaus (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A very, very interesting fight at heavyweight between a true veteran of the sport against an up and coming prospect. Aleksei Oleinik will be competing in his 75th professional fight here against Daukaus, who has was his last three in a row including both of his UFC fights.
Oleinik has 46 submission wins in his career and almost got the win against Derrick Lewis in his last fight, only for the round to end and he get knocked out in the second before he could get it down to the mat again. Daukaus beat Parker Porter with a knee and strikes at UFC 252 in his debut before starching Rodrigo Nascimento Ferreira in 45 seconds at UFC Fight Island 5.
If you have knockout power, which Daukaus has with nine knockout wins in ten victories, you can beat Oleinik. But you have to do it before he gets his hands on you and puts you on the ground. He can submit you from the top or the bottom but Daukaus’ striking is so powerful and heavy hands have beaten Oleinik in three of his last five fights. I’ll either get this spot on or horribly wrong, but I think Daukaus pulls out the big knockout win.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Rosa (13-4) vs Darrick Minner (25-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that will take place between two unranked fighters with two of the best submission artists in the featherweight division. Rosa has won eight of 13 via submission, but his most recent fight was a split decision win over Kevin Aguilar. Minner on the other hand has won 22 of 25 wins by submission and in each of his last 13 wins, including his most recent fight against TJ Laramie back in September.
Rosa has a great karate style on the feet and he fights in a similar way to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, but Minner will pressure him well with boxing and attack the legs with solid calf kicks. Rosa has the advantage on the feet and his movement could see him look to keep it there, but Minner has a great wrestling background and looks to land a big shot then take the fight down to the ground.
It’s a very close fight between the two but I think with Minner more likely to get Rosa to the ground than Rosa is to keep the fight standing, I’ll go with Minner to get the win.
PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2
Ketlen Vieira (11-1) vs Yana Kunitskaya (13-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very interesting fight in the women’s bantamweight division as two of the prospects go head to head. Ketlen Vieira bounced back from the first defeat of her career with a comfortable decision win over Sijara Eubanks at UFC 253, while Kunitskaya bounced back from a defeat to Aspen Ladd to get a decision win of her own against Julija Stoliarenko.
Both women are grapplers by trade, by Vieira is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is comfortable off her back and on top, while Kunitskaya prefers to lay and prey from the top and uses her kicking game when on the feet. It seems like a recipe for disaster against Vieira, who is among the elite grapplers in the women’s MMA world.
It’s close, but stylistically Vieira seems to have a path to victory wherever the fight ends up while Kunitskaya will need to win in a realm where her opponent is at her best or where she isn’t at her best also.
PICK – Ketlen Vieira via Decision
Curtis Blaydes (14-2) vs Derrick Lewis (24-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The ultimate takedown vs stand up battle. Blaydes has the record for most takedowns in heavyweight history, while Lewis has the record for the most knockout wins in heavyweight history. Blaydes is currently on a four-fight win streak, including his most recent dominant decision against Alexander Volkov. Lewis is on a three-fight win streak, including his knockout of Aleksei Oleinik.
That Oleinik fight doesn’t bode well for Lewis though. He was taken down and dominated on the ground by the much smaller man and only got back to his feet when the bell went to end the first round. Blaydes will take this to the ground and look to blast him out of there from top position. If Lewis somehow survives the first round, he will need a knockout just like against Oleinik but Blaydes is elite and will take it back to the ground for a dominant win.
PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2