Who is Curtis Blaydes?
Curtis Blaydes is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who has been competing professionally since May, 2014. Blaydes currently fights in the Heavyweight division for the UFC and has compiled a record of 9-1-1. The 1 No Contest was a TKO win against Adam Milstead which was overturned after Blaydes tested positive for Marijuana, with his only loss to Francis Ngannou [who has just fought for the Heavyweight Championship] via a doctor stoppage. Blaydes currently trains in Denver, Colorado at Elevation Fight Team under Head Coach, Eliot Marshall and training alongside other UFC fighters such as Neil Magny, Drew Dober, Bojan Velickovic & Corey Sandhagen.
Curtis Blaydes’ Fighting Style
Blaydes is an explosive MMA wrestler who comes from a vast wrestling background as a former NJCAA National Champion and a State Champion for De Le Salle Institution during his Senior year. He has great entries on his takedowns inside the cage thus having a solid 55% completion rate. When he does fail in the initial single or double leg takedown he tends to hold onto the body lock with his hands connected which allows him to use his brute strength to drag his opponent down. Once they are down he will smother on top. In his early UFC days his topside grappling wasn’t the best and a lot of the time his opponents would find a way back to their feet. There is a difference between a good grappler and a good wrestler, Blaydes is a great wrestler and his grappling is visibly improving in every fight too. In regards to his stand-up, he has shown moments where he can be quite hittable but as a whole his movement is quick and his striking is crisp. You can also see a very clear improvement from fight to fight in his stand-up too. Blaydes has only just turned 27 years of age and he’s probably 3-4 years away from his peak which is very scary to think about considering that at this age, the improvements from fight to fight are usually drastic in MMA fighters that go on to great things.
Career Summary To Date
Blaydes entered the UFC at 5-0 and made his debut in 2016 against the current #1 ranked Francis Ngannou who just lost his title fight against Stipe Miocic. That debut happened to be Blaydes’ only loss in MMA to date so when you put that into context it really isn’t a bad loss to take. The other thing to mention with that loss is that we as fans are told that Francis Ngannou possesses the hardest punching power in MMA and equivalent to a 12lb sledgehammer being swung over the head, downwards and also having the same impact as a Ford Escort hitting you at top speed. Then you look at Ngannou’s record in the UFC and you see he has brutally knocked out his opponents in 4 of the 5 wins [the 5th was a Kimura submission that he learnt in the dressing room right before he walked out to the cage that night]. I know this seems like I’m focusing a lot on Ngannou here but it is very relevant to the point I will make shortly.
After Blaydes’ debut, he went on a 3 fight win streak; beating Cody East, Adam Milstead [for the purpose of this article along with my own views on this NC I am considering this as a solid win] and Daniel Omielanczuk before facing a very intriguing fighter in Oleksiy Oliynyk.
Oliynyk is one of the best grapplers and submission fighters in the Heavyweight divison. He is a 4th degree black belt in Japanese Ju-Jitsu with 43 wins by submission in professional MMA fights which is just totally unheard of. I found this fight a real test to see where Blaydes’ grappling was at and to be honest, pre-fight, I wasn’t totally convinced Blaydes would even attempt to take him down with the obvious submission threat. Blaydes did start how I thought he would and was having success on the feet, hurting Oliynyk and just really having things his own way. But then, to my surprise came the takedowns. This is what I really wanted to see out of Blaydes and he was totally dominant in top control. His heavy top-game really suffocated such a decorated ground and submission fighter. To put this into context for you; Oliynyk submitted Viktor Pesta with an Ezekiel Choke [a submission that shouldn’t be possible to pull off without a Gi on] whilst Pesta was in full mount, yes you read that correctly, full mount! Blaydes went on to winning that fight in a controversial manner which was so pathetic I won’t even waste my time on it. But from what I saw in that fight, I then started regarding Blaydes’ wrestling as serious, and by far the best in the Heavyweight division [hot take].
After this win, the UFC gave Blaydes a fight with the veteran fighter and the ‘walkoff knockout’ king, Mark Hunt over in Australia. Again, this was an interesting fight as Hunt can end any fight with one punch and is quite hard to take down. Hunt nearly did knock Blaydes out too, he had him rocked and wobbling around the cage and missed a left hand that in my opinion would have ended Blaydes’ night. But Blaydes got his focus back and zoned straight in on a takedown. He recovered well and dominated the rest of the fight with takedowns and very good topside control and grappling. Blaydes was then awarded the #5 ranking making him a legit top 5 fighter.
One side point to make which I mentioned earlier when I was talking about Ngannou; Blaydes did not get knocked out by Ngannou and he also didn’t get knocked out by Hunt either. These are two of the hardest punchers in the division and it shows me that Blaydes has got an iron chin, which at Heavyweight, is an absolute gift!
Potential Hurdles and Adversity
I have said a lot of great things about Blaydes and rightly so. However, I don’t think he will get that title shot without taking another loss by a top 5 fighter. I do believe he will take that loss which at his current age won’t entirely be a bad thing. This will be something he will learn from and come back stronger. If this does happen, the bounce back will be crucial to how he progresses in his career. Obviously if the loss is taken badly then it will have huge negative implications moving forward but I believe with Blaydes’ attitude and willingness he would learn, improve and come straight back to get a win back under his belt before he starts his journey to the title shot.
He is fighting another veteran in Alistair Overeem next at UFC 225 in Chicago. This is again another step up in quality of opponent as Overeem is a savvy striker with a very underrated and crafty ground game too. This is another point to make in regards to hurdles because the UFC are progressing Blaydes perfectly. They aren’t feeding him easy wins, they are matching him with opponents that are improvements from his previous opponent and creating a margin for error for Blaydes. And so far, he is passing with flying colours.
Future World Champion?
Now, to the big question and a question which is almost impossible to answer regarding a fighter becoming a champion in the UFC as it really does take something special to earn this achievement; will Blaydes become the UFC Heavyweight champion? My answer, as you may be able to guess is yes!
The Heavyweight division is tough to dominate because every fighter at that weight can end their opponents night with one punch because of how big they are and how hard they hit. But the fighters are only human so there’s only so much power that their jaws and chins can physically take, that’s why its tough to be dominant. But, Blaydes has an iron chin and has taken punches from two of the hardest punchers in the world so it’s actually got to the point where I can confidently trust a fighter’s chin at Heavyweight and that’s genuinely how I feel about Blaydes. Then the one thing that the Heavyweight division lacks is a powerful, explosive and top quality wrestler that we haven’t seen since Brock Lesnar left the UFC, but Blaydes is exactly this. Not only is wrestling the most dominant discipline in MMA inside a cage or ring, but it is also a very good fallback too if fights aren’t going your way. So, for example, in the Mark Hunt fight things got tough for Blaydes so he was able to to revert to his wrestling to save the fight and get the win. This is such a huge weapon to have in your arsenal.
Blaydes is currently at the age where he will improve drastically between each fight and he is already a world class top 5 fighter. He will get to a point where he is just so hard to beat, that he will start dominating every fight he is in. Curtis Blaydes will be the UFC Heavyweight Champion
Artcle written by Newsome – www.newsomemma.co.uk