The Film Room: Curtis Blaydes

By Kevin Wilson Mar 21, 2019
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Curtis Blaydes will return to the Octagon for the first time since his devastating loss to Francis Ngannou four months ago, as he tries to get back on track with a win over the underrated Justin Willis at UFC Fight Night 148 on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee. Already one of the best grapplers in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division, Blaydes, at 28, still has plenty of time to round out his game and become a legitimate title contender.

Ahead of his showdown with Willis, Blaydes steps into The Film Room spotlight.

Blaydes is a former collegiate wrestler and compiled an impressive 95-18 record over his four-year career. He generally waits for the opponent to overextend on a strike and ducks under for the counter double-leg, but he is also adept at backing opponents to the fence and using the cage to help with the takedown. The major problem with his takedowns is the lack of setups. When Blaydes is not looking for the counter takedown, he ends up shooting for the hips from a mile away, and with no setup, they become easier and easier to defend.

When the fight hits the ground, Blaydes is rather patient and focuses on improving position and keeping the opponent down rather than unloading with ground-and-pound. Once he moves to a favorable position, he will keep a constant pace of ground-and-pound while never getting too aggressive or losing the position. Blaydes’ ground-and-pound comes with intent. Instead of merely attacking the head, Blaydes will frequently target the body and even the legs at times.

Blaydes is nothing special on the feet, but he is proficient enough to hold his own until he can get the fight to the ground. His leading attacks can be sloppy at times, but he has shown a nice straight right hand when he is not trading wild hooks in the pocket. He could stand to be more aggressive on the lead and throw something other than just the right hand, and he would have more success with his takedowns if he would set them up with a leading combination.

Just like his takedowns, most of Blaydes’ striking is done on the counter. Again, most of his counters are simple right straights, which makes him predictable on the feet. The speed of his counter right has been enough to land against most opponents, but Willis is a smart striker and Blaydes’ predictable striking could get him in trouble if he cannot land takedowns.

Blaydes could use his jab more. He routinely backed Daniel Omielanczuk to the fence with jabs, which set up his takedowns against the cage. Since Blaydes often gets coerced into wild exchanges in the pocket, the jab would work wonders for him to keep opponents at bay. The jab would also force his opponents to keep their hands high, which would leave their hips open for a takedown. In short, Blaydes must develop his jab more if he wants to compete at the highest levels.

As a grappling-based fighter with only five years of professional experience, Blaydes’ defense is severely lacking for someone at the top of the rankings. As stated earlier, he gets deceived into trading in the pocket way too often. Against Alexey Oleynik, Blaydes was routinely caught with sloppy hooks in the pocket that most fighters would have easily seen coming. His chin has held up thus far, except against Ngannou. However, it is only a matter of time before getting hit this often catches up to him, and Willis might be the second man to make him pay for it. Advertisement


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