UFC on ESPN: UFC Fight Night 166 is coming in hot on Saturday, January 25, 2020, from the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. While there are no major title matches on the card, this is expected to an event that helps push the winners of the various matches towards title bouts in the future, while the losers fall down the pecking order in the UFC. It is a card that has seen a number of changes from its original lineup as fighters have pulled out through injury, with the main event being set as a heavyweight clash between Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos.
The clash between Blaydes and dos Santos is an interesting one that should be a close contest if the ESPN rankings in the division are anything to go by. Blaydes is their current No. 4 ranked fighter in the division and dos Santos follows right behind him in the No. 5 spot. They are both looking up at Stipe Miocic and vying to put themselves in a position to face the champion when he recovers from an eye injury that currently has him out of action.
This is a huge fight for Blaydes who is looking for a win over a former champion and top contender after many looked down at his 2017/18 run of wins over Aleksei Oleinik, Mark Hunt, and Alistair Overeem as they all seem past their prime. With Francis Ngannou – and his freakish punching power – also in the mix, the winner here not only has to take the victory, but they have to look good doing so.
With a 7-2 record in the UFC and at just 28 years of age it is Blaydes who is in the best position to push on after a win. The 35-year-old dos Santos boasts a 15-5 record in the UFC – and a 21-6 record overall as a professional – and he will use his boxing-centric stance to try to deal with the wrestler and kickboxer tendencies that Blaydes is known for.
The expectation here is that Blaydes will continue to so the improvement that he has been displaying every single time he fights as he learns more about himself and how to beat different types of opponents. His footwork will be key here as Blaydes has to show the ability to get inside the crisp strikes of dos Santos and do his damage as he presses forward.
The problem Blaydes faces is that this pressing forward technique walks right into the punching prowess of the Brazilian, a fighter who has been known throughout his career for his precision punching and ability to strike against any style of opponent.
Betting lines with an over 2-to-1 spread are always worth looking at in MMA fights and that is exactly what we have here with BetXchange. The problem here is that the younger fighter looks too good on paper to give dos Santos a great deal of value. There is a scenario where the former champ could land with a blow, staggering Blaydes and then move in for the kill. More likely though is that Blaydes will get inside dos Santos’ effective punching range and win inside the distance.