Rising Stars: Curtis Blaydes

The UFC heavyweight division has always been a spectacle to watch. Whether it was the size of the fighters or how hard they hit, the division has always drawn a lot of attention. The heavyweight champ is even nicknamed the “badest” man on the planet (with Daniel Cormier being the champion at the time this article is being written). However, outside of the super fight that recently took place between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier the heavyweight division had slowly been stagnating. Fighters such as Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum have held the top spots in the division for far too long. Mark Hunt has somehow managed to keep himself a ranked fighter and Derrick Lewis always has back problems. Around a year ago a breath of fresh air was introduced to the division in the form of Curtis Blaydes. He was the first of a series of now highly ranked heavyweight contenders including Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov (who has been around for a while). Even though his UFC career had a rocky start, Curtis Blaydes has turned out to be a highly skilled top contender who has shown on multiple occasions that he can wrestle and strike with world-class fighters.

Born in Chicago, Illinois Blaydes was raised by his father. He was first introduced to wrestling through his high school’s team, with his first year of competition leading him to a 25-0 record. The following year was much different. Blaydes went 14-9 with each loss lowering his self-esteem. During practice that year he decided to quit the team unable to deal with the losses. The wrestling coach called Blaydes’s dad, telling him what had happened. When Curtis returned home his dad made him join the wrestling team again.  His dad said that he wouldn’t let him quit and that he needed to keep working harder. Curtis credits his dad with the work ethic he has now, saying that without his dad making him join the team again he wouldn’t be where he is today. When Curtis graduated from high school he received a scholarship to Northern Illinois. While in college he lost his scholarship and had to leave the school and would later attend a junior college. During this time an old high school teammate encouraged him to start boxing. Once Blaydes started lessons he quickly got the hang of it and within three months was competing in an amateur boxing match. He later moved on to MMA and eventually got a call from the UFC. His first fight was against the then-unknown Francis Ngannou. Blaydes lost when one of Ngannou’s punches closed his eye and the doctor had to stop the fight. Curtis took this loss very hard, but he turned that energy into hard work and has now become a phenomenal fighter. After his first UFC loss, Blaydes has fought six times with 5 wins and one no-contest. His last two wins have come over Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem propelling him into the top five where hopefully he will get a title shot.

Blaydes fighting style is based around wrestling. In his first UFC Blaydes only knew how to throw the jab properly. Since then his striking has improved dramatically. Showcased in his last fight against Alistair Overeem, Blaydes landed a devasting combo that rocked his opponent. He then preceded to unload a barrage of punches before taking Overeem to the ground and finishing the fight with elbow strikes. He isn’t afraid to take his opponents down but, sometimes gets clipped because of his inexperience on the feet. His ability to take a shot was showcased in his fight against Mark Hunt where he absorbed multiple shots from the K-1 kickboxer who is notorious for his signature walk-off knockout. With his future looking bright, Blaydes looks primed for a title shot. Whether or not he will get one is the question. The Brock Lesnar situation may force Blaydes to fight a heavyweight in the top 5. I believe that his next fight will be against Stipe Miocic with the winner getting a shot at whoever wins the fight between Brock and Cormier. I wish all the luck in the world for Blaydes and I hope he as an illustrious MMA career.

 

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