UFC 221 Betting Breakdown: Blaydes vs. Hunt
Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the co-main event of UFC 221 as former heavyweight title challenger Mark Hunt returns to the cage to take on rising prospect Curtis Blaydes.
Curtis Blaydes (Record: 8-1, -160 Favorite, Power Ranking: B-)
The ninth ranked heavyweight enters his most prolific fight to date on the back of a four fight winning streak. He last fought in November and was dominant in a second round stoppage win over veteran Oleksiy Oliynyk.
Blaydes is one of the best heavyweight prospects to enter the UFC in the past five years. Age is certainly on his side as he turns just 27 on February 18. At 6’4” he’s built like a prototypical heavyweight, but it’s his length that truly stands out. He has an 82 inch reach which has him only behind Stefan Struve in the weight class. It’s that length which allows him to strike from distance and not be forced to fight from close range. Blaydes is an orthodox striker. He’s not a fighter that wows fans on the feet, but he has solid fundamentals and a good right hand. He also uses a decent amount of low kicks to slow down his opponent’s aggression. What makes Blaydes one of the division’s best prospects is his grappling game. He was a junior college national champion in wrestling. Through five career UFC bouts, he averages a whopping 6.38 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. He’s a big, strong, and advanced wrestler that can be most opponents to the mat with regularity. He is hittable on the feet in prolonged striking exchanges, but with how good his wrestling that it’s a rarity for him to be a bout without much grappling.
Mark Hunt (Record: 13-11, -160 Favorite, Fighter Grade: B-)
The Auckland, New Zealand born and Australian trained fighter has been a fixture in the top ten of the UFC’s heavyweight rankings for much of his tenure in the promotion. In Hunt’s last fight he finished Derek Lewis in the second round. This will be his 16th fight in the UFC.
The fifth ranked heavyweight in the UFC, Super Samoan Mark Hunt is one of the most feared fighters in the division. In a division filled with tall fighters with superior reach, Hunt gets by on powerful and skillful striking. Of his thirteen career MMA wins, ten of them have come by knockout. He’s the only fighter to knockout Roy Nelson inside a UFC octagon. He did so with superior timing and powerful hands. That’s what you get with Mark Hunt; a talented striker in a rather unusual body for high level MMA. Hunt is as resilient as they come. His first fight with Antonio Silva was one of the all-time great fights as he was able to battle from nearly being finished multiple times to find his way to the scorecards. While he was outclassed by Stipe Miocic, he was able to survive nearly five rounds with the now heavyweight champion. He’s made some effort to work on his ground game, however it’s still very much a liability. If a fighter is able to gain top control, it’s difficult for Hunt to get back to his feet. In a traditional stand up exchange, Hunt can compete with anybody in the UFC. When it evolves beyond that, Hunt is in for a much more difficult contest.
A key bout in the UFC 221 co-main event as top 10 heavyweights collide as Curtis Blaydes takes on Mark Hunt. This is the epitome of a striker vs. grappler matchup. The Samoan will be doing everything in his power to keep the fight standing and to try and knockout Blaydes out. On the flip side, Blaydes knows he has a major advantage on the mat and furthermore any time on the mat allows him to avoid Hunt’s heavy hands. With Blaydes ability to secure takedowns and Hunt’s rather porous takedown defense, it’s hard to imagine Blaydes doesn’t have success on the floor. I picture this being very similar to the Hunt and Lesnar bout. Hunt had a couple of minor chances on the feet, but ultimately was put on his back for prolonged periods of the fight. Blaydes will avoid the huge hands that Hunt possesses and win this fight via control for the biggest win of his career. While the Over 1.5 (-195) is likely to pop, it coincides with a Blaydes victory. I don’t see a scenario in which Mark Hunt wins this fight beyond 1.5 rounds, so the better bet is to lay the juice on Blaydes moneyline (-160). The physical advantages size and length combined with the huge advantage in grappling set this up for Blaydes to have a dominant performance.