Curtis Blaydes was more than effective in the opening round against Junior dos Santos, but he wasn’t succeeding in what he was trying to do.
All that changed in the second frame.
Blaydes (13-2), typically a monstrous wrestler with insane takedown ability, was a miserable 0-for-6 on takedown attempts against the former heavyweight champion during their main event tilt at UFC Fight Night 166. Though he backed up the Brazilian with right hands in that first stanza, it was clear he wanted to take his foe down and pound him into oblivion. But when that initial game plan backfired, the Elevation Fight Team contender switched things up and obliterated the one-time titleholder.
“Obviously the game plan was the wrestling, but he wasn’t letting that happen, so I had to adjust and rely on my striking more,” Blaydes said after his win. “I’ve always had hands, but no one could stop my wrestling, so why wouldn’t I keep going to that?”
Blaydes avoided a wild uppercut from dos Santos early in the second and leveled him with a perfectly-timed counter overhand right. The punch buckled dos Santos’ legs and Blaydes finished him off with follow-up knees and punches. The end came just 66 ticks into the second, allowing the American to register one of his biggest wins to date. Blaydes was pleased with his performance and likened his game plan change to one of the teams playing in next week’s Super Bowl.
“It’s like the 49ers in football,” he said. “If you can run for 300 yards, why wouldn’t you just keep running? You only pass it to make the people happy, but I don’t care about that, I care about getting that win. I struck today because he made me, but if I can get eight or nine takedowns, then that’s what it is going to be.”
Blaydes didn’t mince his words on what he covets next. One of the fiercest contenders at heavyweight, “Razor” has only lost to Francis Ngannou. Blaydes has run through every other man he’s faced and he has one thing on his radar: a world title shot.
“I want to belt next, that’s it,” he said. “It’s not up to me, but I want the belt. I don’t want to wait long, but I can do four or five months if that works out. I’m going to grab a couple beers, get on my flight back to Denver and then get back to training.”