After four consecutive events on the road, the UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend for UFC Vegas 71. The card currently has thirteen scheduled bouts with a main event battle between highly ranked heavyweight contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Curtis Blaydes.
Although UFC Heavyweight champion Jon Jones is likely to face Stipe Miocic in his next title defense, the winner of this weekend’s main event will almost certainly find themselves next in line for a shot at the championship in the near future.
Pavlovich is 17-1 with 14 of those wins coming via KO/TKO and his only loss coming via the same method in his UFC debut. Since that loss, Pavlovich has reeled off five consecutive wins via first-round KO/TKO with the last two coming against Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa in dominant fashion.
Pavlovich wastes no time and throws every shot with bad intentions, which has led to him having the shortest average fight time in the promotion’s history at 2:15 per fight (for fighters with more than five octagon appearances). In six fights with the promotion, he has never been out of the first round.
On the other side, Blaydes is 17-3 in his career with 12 wins coming via KO/TKO and all three of his losses coming via the same method. Blaydes has a ton of experience in the UFC, going 12-3 during his time with the promotion, and has won seven of his last eight fights overall.
Although his losses have all come via knockout, they have been against two of the hardest hitters and best heavyweights on the planet: Francis Ngannou (twice) and Derrick Lewis. Blaydes packs a ton of power himself and is the best wrestler in the division with a ridiculous 62 takedowns in the UFC, which is the record for the division by a whopping 28 takedowns over Cain Velasquez, who is number two on the list.
While Pavlovich is likely to be the more dangerous fighter on the feet, particularly early, the question will be whether or not he can stay upright against Blaydes. Pavlovich has yet to face someone in the UFC who is a solid wrestler (he’s faced three total takedown attempts in the UFC) and his only loss came when Alistair Overeem took him down and stopped him via ground and pound.
While Pavlovich has likely improved a bit with his takedown defense since that fight in 2018, it’s unlikely he’s improved enough to hold his own against Blaydes, who should be looking to get this fight to the ground as quickly as possible.
As long as Blaydes can avoid the obvious danger that Pavlovich presents in the opening minutes, I think he will find success getting this one to the ground where he will look to wear down Pavlovich to finish this fight via ground and pound in the first three rounds.
Although this fight is at heavyweight and it’s hard to rule out a first-round stoppage, it should be noted that only two of Blaydes fifteen fights in the UFC ended in the first five minutes and one of those was via an almost immediate injury stoppage to his opponent in his last fight. For that reason, I expect Blaydes to find the finish sometime in the second or third rounds.
Pick: Curtis Blaydes (-180)
Recommended Props: Blaydes by KO (-110), Blaydes by KO R1/2/3 (+120) and Blaydes KO R2/3 (+430)
Listed betting lines for this fight are via FanDuel Sportsbook