Curtis Blaydes is positioned to play spoiler in the UFC’s heavyweight division and that fact could keep the promotion from booking him in an interim title fight.
Before the UFC Columbus main card took place, former two-division UFC champion and current UFC commentator Daniel Cormier said of Blaydes, “He has all the tools to be the heavyweight champion of the world, it’s a matter of putting it all together.”
“Curtis Blaydes can wrestle. We all know that, but one thing that he has really improved on is his striking.”
Blaydes used that striking to score an impressive second-round knockout win in the main event of the UFC Columbus fight card. His stoppage at 17 seconds of the second stanza earned Blaydes his first post-fight bonus since he knocked out Alistair Overeem in June 2018.
After his victory over Chris Daukaus, Blaydes exclaimed, “I think I deserve an interim title shot against (No. 1 ranked UFC heavyweight Ciryl) Gane. I want next. I want the title shot. We can do it any time this summer, June, July, August. I’m down.”
Blaydes is the No. 4 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings. He is 16-3 (one no contest) in his career. Blaydes has two TKO losses to Francis Ngannou (before he captured the UFC heavyweight crown) and one KO setback to Derrick Lewis. A member of the UFC since he made his debut against Ngannou in 2016, Blaydes has a strong case to be considered for an interim title if the UFC decides to go that route with Ngannou rehabbing from knee surgery. However, it is unlikely that Blaydes will get tapped for that type of contest.
As Cormier mentioned, Blaydes is a wrestler first and that works against him in the eyes of the fans and the UFC matchmakers. As much as the UFC stresses the “mixed” in mixed martial arts, the promotion prefers — and rewards — fighters who focus on striking. Blaydes does not always do that and that’s why he is a potential spoiler in the heavyweight division.
The 31-year-old is the all-time record holder in the UFC heavyweight division in takedowns landed with 62, which is 37 more than the next active fighter, former champion Stipe Miocic. Blaydes also has a UFC heavyweight record 1:20:05 of control time (Miocic is second among active fighters with 57:17). He also holds down the UFC heavyweight record for top position time with 1:05:59 (Marcin Tybura is second among active fighters with 39:47).
With his achievements and the fighters he has lost to, Blaydes makes more sense for an interim title than No. 3 ranked Tai Tuivasa, who has an impressive run of knockout wins, but does not have the overall resume of Blaydes or Jon Jones, who has never fought at heavyweight and hasn’t set foot inside the octagon since February 2020.
The other fighters the UFC could consider for an interim title fight are Gane, who is ranked No. 1 and coming off a January loss to Ngannou for the heavyweight crown and No. 2 ranked Stipe Miocic, who last fought when he lost his title to Ngannou in March 2021.
Blaydes deserves to be involved in any interim title fight the UFC may book with Ngannou on the shelf, but as we know, deserves doesn’t always come into play when the UFC considers the fighters it selects to fight for its promotional titles.