Preview and predictions for UFC Vegas 15: Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis
A week after the flyweights held center stage at UFC 255, and days after Americans across the nation have had their Thanksgiving feast, we go to the other end of the weight class spectrum for the main event of UFC Vegas 15. Two heavyweight contenders, Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, square off in a pivotal matchup for the UFC’s heavyweight rankings.
Blaydes will enter this fight on a four-fight win streak. Blaydes, the No. 2 ranked heavyweight contender, scored a unanimous decision win over Justin Willis and a finish of Shamil Abdurakhimov before bringing himself back to the upper echelon of contenders through an early finish of former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Blaydes did score a dominating decision win over Alexander Volkov in the summer but took criticism from the likes of UFC President Dana White and others in the MMA community for failing to live up to pre-fight expectations and carrying a bad attitude.
Who will win at UFC Vegas 15: Curtis Blaydes or Derrick Lewis?
After losing a heavyweight title shot against Daniel Cormier and losing his own bout with JDS, Lewis, the current No. 4 contender, scored decision wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi, getting back in the win column, though in uninspiring fashion. Lewis, however, showed the knockout power and excitement he’s known for during the summer when he knocked out Alexey Oleinik in August.
The co-main event will see former light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith face Devin Clark. Smith enters this fight off back-to-back losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. Clark, meanwhile, enters off back-to-back wins against Dequan Townsend and Alonzo Menifield.
The rest of the UFC Vegas 15 main card will feature action from Spike Carlyle, Josh Parisian and Miguel Baeza. The prelims, meanwhile, will include fighters such as Ashlee Evans-Smith, Rachaeel Ostovich and Luke Sanders.
Let’s take a look at the main card for UFC Vegas 15.
Note that a planned sixth UFC Vegas 15 main card bout, Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov, was scrapped during the writing of this article. As of the early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 25, it’s unknown if a prelim bout will be elevated to main card status to replace Albazi vs. Zhumagulov.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis preview and prediction
Curtis Blaydes has stormed his way through everyone he’s faced in the UFC heavyweight division that isn’t named Francis Ngannou. After dropping the initial Ngannou bout in his debut, Blaydes went on an unbeaten run that featured wins over Alexey Oleinik, Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem. Blaydes lost a rematch to Ngannou but has since gained back momentum with another win streak, defeating the likes of Justin Willis, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Junior dos Santos and Alexander Volkov.
With nine wins in 10 bouts, and coming off an amazing comeback knockout of Volkov the month prior, Derrick Lewis received a short-notice heavyweight title bout with Daniel Cormier at UFC 230, losing by submission. Lewis would be finished by JDS before taking back-to-back decision wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi. Lewis battled Alexey Oleinik in August, knocking Oleinik out very early in the second round.
Blaydes will have a one-inch edge in both height and reach. Per FightMetrics, Blaydes has better striking output — though their accuracies are similar — and he is the better striking defender, giving him the clearly better striking differential. Blaydes, however, is notorious for his wrestling, averaging nearly seven takedowns in a fight, and he could be in for another night like this with Lewis’ 52 percent takedown defense.
Lewis is a fan favorite, with a great personality, and devastating knockout power…but it’s going to be difficult for him to win this fight. There are going to be plenty of Negative Nancys here, but it’s time to face a truth — Blaydes’ wrestling is his key to success. And yet at the same time, Blaydes does possess great power and has proven he can take a hard strike. Sure, he’s been KO’d by Ngannou twice, but go look at Ngannou’s opponent history and see who else has fallen to him in quick fashion — there’s a reason Ngannou is expected to be next in line for a title shot again.
Now that being said, Lewis has shown he needs just one strike to win a fight — once again go back to that Volkov fight at UFC 229. But he doesn’t display the best defense against grappling and wrestling, and with that, Blaydes should use his wrestling to his full advantage and overwhelm Lewis on the ground. Combine that with Lewis’ gas tank, and the fact that Lewis hasn’t gone the distance in a loss since a fight in Bellator in 2011, and it shouldn’t be surprising if Blaydes is able to get a late finish on “The Black Beast.” And if it does go to the cards, it probably will be four or five rounds in Blaydes’ favor (and perhaps a 10-8 in at least one). The question will be if Blaydes has improved his own cardio so he can at least make it a more, Khabib-style dominating display and not a fight that gets boring as it gets pretty late.
Whoever wins this fight, regardless, is certainly going to step themselves up in a position where they might need just one more win for a crack at heavyweight gold (Blaydes’ first if it’s him).
Prediction: Blaydes via fifth-round KO/TKO
Anthony Smith vs. Devin Clark preview and prediction
When he moved up to light heavyweight in 2018, Anthony Smith took the division by storm with finishes of Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Volkan Oezdemir. He’d earn a title shot against Jon Jones at UFC 235 and would put forth a spirited effort in losing on a decision. Smith would rebound with a submission of Alexander Gustafsson a few months later but injury forced him to the sidelines for nearly a year. Smith took a beating in a fifth-round TKO loss to Glover Teixeira in May and dropped a decision to Aleksandar Rakic in late August.
Devin Clark, who arrived in the UFC as a 5-0 fighter, and now has more bouts in the UFC than on the regional circuit, has traded wins and losses for the most part inside the Octagon. His losses include ones against current champion Jan Blachowicz, as well as Rakic and Ryan Spann, but Clark enters this fight off back-to-back wins over Dequan Townsend and Alonzo Menifield this year.
Smith will enter this fight with a four-inch height advantage and one-inch reach edge. According to the FightMetrics, Clark has the superior striking numbers — though their striking defense percentages aren’t far off, and Smith’s strikes absorbed numbers might be a little inflated by his fights with the likes of Jones and Teixeira. Clark, meanwhile, usually scores a couple of takedowns in a fight and he has better grappling numbers.
While Clark has better numbers, he doesn’t have the experience and main event factor that Smith has, having faced the top level of light heavyweight competition for two years now. Smith’s fought all over major MMA promotions, he’s received a light heavyweight title shot (could have been the champion had he taken a DQ to win!), fought tough competition throughout his UFC tenure. The concern is how Smith looked in his last two fights; he took way, way too much damage than necessary against Teixeira and he took a fair betting at Rakic’s hands, too. If the damage is too much like it has been, this smells like trouble for Smith and his immediate future.
That being said, those losses still came against some legit top guys, who Smith has shown he can win against. Clark, on the other hand, seems to struggle when he gets that step up in competition, though he looked great against Townsend and Menifield. The experience factor might be too much for Clark, but if he pulls it off here, that shows that Clark is legit for 205, or that Smith’s downfall has arrived — or both.
Prediction: Smith via unanimous decision
Josh Parisian vs. Parker Porter preview and prediction
This will mark the official UFC debut of Josh Parisian, the two-time winner on DWCS. Parisian first appeared on DWCS in June 2018, knocking out Greg Rebello in about 90 seconds. It didn’t earn him a UFC contract but got him the chance to compete on the 28th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He lost to Michel Batista on the show and didn’t get a UFC contract. Parisian went on a five-fight win streak and earned another shot on DWCS this summer, scoring another first-round knockout and defeating Chad Johnson.
Parker Porter had won back-to-back fights and four of his last five before making his UFC debut earlier this year at UFC 252, where he was finished in one round by Chris Daukaus.
Parisian is going to have the height and reach edges by four inches in both areas, and that’s on top of being someone who has been on the cusp of the highest level of MMA, trying to break through for a couple of years. Porter, however, there are questions around if he can compete at the highest level. The loss to Daukaus isn’t necessarily a bad one, but his record and opponent history isn’t the most thrilling. Parisian is also slightly younger and slightly faster, and with all he was trying to do just to get into the UFC, the edge should go to the DWCS alumnus.
Prediction: Parisian via first-round KO/TKO
Miguel Baeza vs. Takashi Sato preview and prediction
With five finishes, including four in the first round, in his first six MMA bouts, the undefeated Miguel Baeza scored a unanimous decision win over Victor Reyna on season three of DWCS. He’s continued his path of finishes in his arrival to the UFC, stopping Hector Aldana at UFC Tampa last year and raising his stock further by knocking out the legendary Matt Brown at the May 16 UFC Jacksonville in May.
A veteran of Pancrase, Takashi Sato started his UFC run with a second-round finish of Ben Saunders in April 2019 before being submitted by Belal Muhammad at UFC 242. He most recently competed at UFC Vegas 4 in June, stopping Jason Witt in 48 seconds.
Sure, one can argue about Brown’s age and Aldana’s inexperience, but Baeza has certainly looked great in those two appearances inside the Octagon so far. Sato is certainly the more experienced fighter, but Baeza’s striking appears to be slightly faster, a bit more accurate and a bit crisper. There are also questions around a couple of Sato’s outings — Witt was a VERY short-notice replacement, and he didn’t look all too great in a step-up in competition, like Muhammad.
That all being said, there seems to be more upside for Baeza in this scenario, so expect another strong showing from him as he continues to climb.
Prediction: Baeza via third-round KO/TKO
Bill Algeo vs. Spike Carlyle preview and prediction
Bill Algeo was 12-3 (with losses to a pre-UFC Shane Burgos and pre-UFC Jared Gordon) and coming off a reign as Ring of Combat’s featherweight champion when he competed on season three of DWCS, losing to Brendan Loughnane. After a win over Tim Dooling in CFFC this August, Algeo made his UFC debut just a couple of weeks later, losing to Ricardo Lamas in a Fight of the Night outing that also marked Lamas’ retirement bout.
With eight wins in nine fights, Spike Carlyle made his UFC debut in February and impressed with an 85-second TKO of Aalon Cruz. He will, however, come into this bout off a unanimous decision loss to Billy Quarantillo in May.
Between his one win and loss in the UFC so far, Carlyle has looked strong and worthy of his prospect status in the promotion. And after his loss to Quarantillo, this could be the perfect opportunity for a bounce-back win. That being said, Algeo is not an easy fight; in fact, this could arguably be Carlyle’s toughest given the competition Algeo was facing even before he entered the UFC. And if he looked as good as he did against Lamas on short notice, imagine what an Algeo with a more complete camp will look like.
That being said, however, Carlyle seems to be the better-packaged fighter, but how much has his cardio improved since his loss to Quarantillo (Carlyle has won just once by decision)? Regardless, this should be a Fight of the Night contender and a tilt that can fall either way.
Prediction: Carlyle via unanimous decision