If you’re not a fan of Curtis Blaydes, you don’t truly appreciate all forms of mixed martial arts. There are plenty who wanted to see the rising Blaydes keep his fight against Mark Hunt standing at UFC 221, and those people were thoroughly disappointed when he took the fight to the ground.
When he defeated Hunt in Perth, Australia, Blaydes not only took out a legend of the sport, but he also established himself as a true threat and contender in the heavyweight division. The win over Hunt improved Blaydes’ record to 9-1-1, and if it wasn’t for his no-contest ruling against Adam Milstead, it would’ve been his fifth straight victory at UFC 221. Instead, it was officially his third straight win.
The worst part about Blaydes’ win is the ridiculous reaction that has followed from those who criticize what really was a stellar performance. We no longer live in an MMA world where every fighter is expected to throw hands and kicks until one is completely unconscious. As the sport grows in popularity, there are casual fans who don’t truly appreciate or understand the true art form of mixed martial arts. Those who appreciate and understand MMA will come to find appreciation in Blaydes’ performance over Hunt. The up-and-comer took punches that would’ve put many other fighters out and was able to withstand the punishment, then changing the fight and using his wrestling to dictate the action.
It was in the second and third rounds where Blaydes established his dominance and took the fight to where he excels, dominating the fight on the ground. That dominance led to a victory for Blaydes. Although the crowd booed after Blaydes had his hand raised, Blaydes maintained his composure in the post-fight interview.
With the win under his belt, “Razor” Blaydes shifted focus to the next part of his plan, which is to fight in his hometown of Chicago on the UFC 225 pay-per-view card. Why not? There are not many homegrown Chicago fighters for the UFC to choose from, and he should be at the top of the list when putting this card together. Outside of Blaydes, the UFC can look at Felice Herrig, Ricardo Lamas and a former teammate of Blaydes, Jose “Shorty” Torres, as true Chicago fighters who grew up in the city’s fight game.
Why wouldn’t the UFC give Blaydes the opportunity? He’s now a top-five heavyweight in a division that needs all the newcomer challengers it can get. While he got his signature win over Hunt, it could go without question that Blaydes’ next fight is a title eliminator, given the proper match-up.
The one lone blemish on Blaydes’ record comes courtesy of Francis Ngannou, which was due to a doctor stoppage, so why not run that back? Ngannou got all the love and attention from the UFC as he prepared to fight Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 after coming off an incredible knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218, but if Blaydes is able to avenge that loss, he undoubtedly goes into the title picture. Outside of Ngannou, the UFC could look at Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem or Junior dos Santos as possible opponents for Blaydes.
However, there’s one name — and it would all depend on his health — that would really set Blaydes up to make a statement in Chicago. That name is Cain Velasquez. Many believe that Velasquez needs at least one fight before jumping back into the title picture, and a fight against Blaydes would be just what both sides need to juice up both fighters and the Chicago pay-per-view.
Blaydes has proven he can be brought into deep waters, and no one has traveled those waters as much as Velasquez. The fight may not be the most exciting on paper, but in a match-up where both fighters have plenty to prove and a title shot on the line, it could be the ideal fight. No matter what fans may think about how Blaydes goes about his fighting style, he gets wins, and now it’s time he gets the opportunity of a lifetime while fighting in his hometown of Chicago.
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