Curtis Blaydes was riding high in the UFC’s heavyweight division a little over a year ago. He had won four fights in a row, and the only defeats of his career had come against the champion, Francis Ngannou. But then, in February 2021, Blaydes ran into a Derrick Lewis uppercut, and his momentum was halted, suddenly and violently.
Chris Daukaus knows a little about that feeling. He was 4-0 in the UFC and on a five-fight winning streak when he encountered Lewis in December. It did not go well for Daukaus, who suffered a deflating first-round knockout loss.
On Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Blaydes and Daukaus will meet in the UFC Fight Night main event to see who can rebuild his top-10 momentum. The fights at Nationwide Arena will be broadcast on ESPN and streamed on ESPN+, with the main card starting at 7 p.m. ET and the prelims at 4 p.m.
Blaydes (15-3, 1 NC) did get back on track following the Lewis loss, winning a decision over Jairzinho Rozenstruik last September. He is No. 6 in the ESPN heavyweight rankings.
The eighth-ranked Daukaus (12-4) has knockouts in 11 of his 12 wins, including his last nine.
How to watch the fights
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Saturday’s UFC fight card
ESPN/ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes vs. Chris Daukaus
Women’s flyweight: Joanne Wood vs. Alexa Grasso
Men’s flyweight: Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France
Welterweight: Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena
Heavyweight: Ilir Latifi vs. Aleksei Oleinik
ESPN+, 1:30 p.m. ET
Women’s flyweight: Jennifer Maia vs. Manon Fiorot
Welterweight: Neil Magny vs. Max Griffin
Lightweight: Marc Diakiese vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Women’s bantamweight: Sara McMann vs. Karol Rosa
Men’s bantamweight: Chris Gutierrez vs. Batgerel Danaa
Men’s flyweight: Matheus Nicolau vs. David Dvorak
Middleweight: Aliaskhab Khizriev vs. Denis Tiuliulin
Men’s featherweight: Luis Saldana vs. Bruno Souza
Ian Parker’s best bet
Curtis Blaydes vs. Chris Daukaus: After having his title shot hopes halted by a KO loss to Derrick Lewis a year ago, Blaydes bounced back with the usual type of Curtis Blaydes win in December, outwrestling Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The win, while not exciting, was a smart performance against an excellent striker who had no answer to Blaydes’ ground game. This matchup I don’t see going a whole lot differently, other than that Blaydes will have two more rounds to work with in order to get a finish. Daukaus, who is coming off a loss to Lewis, is not being given any favors here with a tough matchup in Blaydes. As solid of a prospect as Daukaus is, I believe Blaydes is just on a different level with his speed and wrestling. Prediction: Blaydes inside the distance.
For Parker’s betting advice on other fights on the card, check out the ESPN+ expert picks and best bets article (published on Thursday), which also will feature analysis by a coach and betting expert Reed Kuhn.