UFC Vegas 71: Pavlovich vs. Blaydes Main Event Prediction
UFC VEGAS 71: PAVLOVICH VS. BLAYDES MAIN EVENT PREDICTION –
With the recent departure of Francis Ngannou and the arrival of heavyweight Jon Jones, there seems to be new excitement at this weight class and the possible matchups that could go down. One of the headliners from this weekend is very excited about the prospects of finally challenging for a title after years of reaching the penultimate fight to the title but falling short.
Sergei Pavlovich looks for his sixth straight victory this weekend while solidifying himself as the next title challenger.
After only falling to the hands of the heaviest hitters this division has ever seen, Curtis Blaydes has another winning streak going in hopes of earning himself that long-desired title shot. A win this weekend would be huge for him in that journey to the top.
Will Pavlovich record his sixth straight knockout? Or will Blaydes triumph over another big power puncher? Read on to find out how this high stakes matchup between top heavyweights lines up and if we can find a money making opportunity.
Since dropping his UFC debut at the hands of Alistair Overeem by brutal ground and pound, Pavlovich has run through his next five opponents with ease. He has finished every single one of them by knockout.
Prior to joining the UFC, Pavlovich had a squeaky clean 12-0 record which saw him hold the Fight Nights Global heavyweight championship. FNG was a notable Russian promotion that produced some great MMA prospects.
Pavlovich has shown the ability to go 25 minutes if needed, but one thing that can be noted is that it wasn’t against the level of heavyweights he will be seeing in the top five of this division.
What has been the reasoning behind this run of five straight knockouts is his crisp and powerful boxing combinations. He is more than happy to enter and throw bombs in the fire with his opponent. The big difference in those exchanges is that you can see his opponent swinging recklessly; whereas, Pavlovich is keeping his eye on his target and making use of every single shot that he throws out there.
It’s almost as if he shows disdain for his opponent’s attempts at landing a knockout blow on him, knowing he can do just that to them if he showcases a tad more discipline.
Many would call Blaydes the best heavyweight in UFC history that has yet to hold a championship.
His UFC debut came against Francis Ngannou, a fight that was stopped due to a bad eye injury he had suffered in the fight. He went on a five-fight winning streak after that fight to set up another showdown with the heavy hitter from Cameroon, but fell at his hands within 45 seconds.
After putting together another winning streak of four fights, Blaydes ran into Derrick Lewis and forced himself into a takedown that ultimately got him knocked out.
He now rides a three-fight winning streak and has yet another scary power puncher ahead of him.
Blaydes’ Growth as a Fighter
He has significantly grown from his UFC debut when he was strictly a wrestler. He would take his opponents down and mainly grind them out.
However, with experience and growth, Blaydes has made huge strides with his striking. You could as early as his Junior dos Santos fight where he finished him with a barrage of knees and punches.
He even showcased it in his fight against Derrick Lewis as he out-struck ‘The Black Beast’ 26-5 in the first round. Unfortunately, he felt he needed to get the fight to the ground and ran into the uppercut Lewis had chambered the entire time.
You are now seeing Blaydes more disciplined with his takedown entries, allowing them to show themselves by getting more comfortable in the striking realm.
He took his time on the feet against Rozenstruik, another prolific finisher, and he didn’t even shoot a single takedown against Chris Daukaus. This newfound confidence in his striking should be the missing piece to him finally earning that title shot and reaching the top of the division.
People get enamored by the guy that is on a finishing streak and looks to be unstoppable, even when they have suffered defeat in the past.
Names that come to mind recently who ended up failing their test against a step up in competition were Adrian Yanes, Raul Rosas Jr, and we can even stretch it back to the first title shot for Francis Ngannou.
Don’t Be Fooled
There is something to be said about significant steps up in competition that many blindly overlook, because of how destructive the up-and-comer looks. The same can be said for this weekend; although, I will respect the betting public for keeping Curtis Blaydes as the favorite here.
Blaydes has shown a flaw in being knocked out by power punchers, but the two that have done so are #1 (Derrick Lewis) and #2 (Francis Ngannou) knockout leaders in the UFC heavyweight division.
Pavlovich still has a lot of work to do and he could end up reaching that status. Backing him here against the most difficult opponent in the heavyweight division (outside of Jon Jones) is a little eager. I’m wary of hopping on the “Blaydes is easy to knockout” narrative.
Blaydes will not willingly engage in the pocket the way past Pavlovich foes have. He will be in and out of range and one of those instances will produce a takedown that will begin to wear down the gas tank of Pavlovich.
I think at 32-years-old, it’ss now time for Blaydes to realize his potential and earn himself that title shot. The path to that continues this weekend with an emphatic ground and pound finish over Pavlovich in the second or third round.