The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will bring together two heavyweights on different trajectories. A prospect turned contender on the rise, Curtis Blaydes faces Junior dos Santos, a former champion in the midst of decline, in the UFC Fight Night 166 headliner at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Blaydes wrestled collegiately at Northern Illinois University and Harper College, where he won a national championship as a redshirt sophomore. He later left school to focus on a career in mixed martial arts. The 28-year-old operates out of the highly regarded Elevation Fight Team camp in Colorado and has compiled an 8-2 record since joining the UFC roster in 2016, his ill-fated encounters with Francis Ngannou resulting in the only two defeats on his ledger. Blaydes last fought at UFC 242, where he bludgeoned Shamil Abdurakhimov to a second-round stoppage on Sept. 7.
Curtis Blaydes punches Shamil Abdurakhimov. Photo: Francois Nel (Getty Images)
Dos Santos, who turns 36 in a matter of weeks, saw his three-fight winning streak grind to a halt at UFC on ESPN 3 in June, when he lasted just 71 seconds with the aforementioned Ngannou. The affable Brazilian has never suffered back-to-back losses in a 27-fight career that has seen him confront—and beat—many of the sport’s all-time greats. Dos Santos captured the undisputed heavyweight crown with a technical knockout of Cain Velasquez on Nov. 12, 2011, and held the title until Dec. 29, 2012. However, two rematches with Velasquez resulted in epic beatdowns, piled up untold miles on the odometer and revealed signs of erosion.
UFC Fight Night “Blaydes vs. Dos Santos”—which streams live to ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT—also features a welterweight co-main event matching Rafael dos Anjos with Michael Chiesa, a flyweight clash pitting Alex Perez against Jordan Espinosa, a women’s strawweight affair pairing Angela Hill with Hannah Cifers and a light heavyweight tilt slotting Jamahal Hill opposite Darko Stosic. In addition, ESPN+ will stream the seven-fight undercard in its entirety at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.
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Meanwhile, Bellator MMA on Saturday will make its 2020 debut at The Forum in Inglewood, California, where Julia Budd defends her women’s featherweight championship against Cristiane Justin in the Bellator 238 headliner. Bellator 238 “Budd vs. Cyborg” streams live on Dazn at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and also features a quarterfinal in the featherweight grand prix, as Darrion Caldwell tackles the unbeaten Adam Borics.