Fresh off of another impressive performance from champion Kamaru Usman, another set of fighters will be in action on Saturday February 20 with UFC on ESPN+ 43. There are so many different names for these events that it is easy to get confused, but it is worth pointing out that this is also UFC Vegas 19, a testament to what Dana White has been able to do over the 11 months since everything shut down. Those events, much like this one, have been held at the UFC Apex.
Saturday’s card on ESPN+ features a main event between heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes. Those that like the heavyweight-laden cards should be big fans of this one. The main event is one of four fights with large men for this round of bouts. Three are on the main card, along with an interesting women’s bantamweight bout between Yana Kunitskaya and Ketlen Vieira.
This certainly isn’t the best UFC card coming out of a pay-per-view event. In the main event, Curtis Blaydes is a -400 favorite over Derrick Lewis. Blaydes only has two losses to his name and both came against Francis Ngannou. Maybe Blaydes will get a third crack at Ngannou if he beats Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 in March 27.
Blaydes will have to get through this one first, but he should. Lewis is a backyard brawler type of fighter. He’s not a grappler or a wrestler. He wants to stand and throw. Blaydes is a really well-rounded heavyweight. That’s not to dismiss what Lewis has accomplished in his career, but simply to say that he’s a one-trick pony that has one really good trick. The quicker, thinner, and younger Blaydes should have a pretty easy time in this fight.
At -400, the price is a bit chalky, but you’ll have other options at DraftKings Sportsbook this week for the fight, such as the round in which Blaydes will win or you can increase Lewis’s price even more by taking him via knockout if you want to take the long shot.
That is the beauty of betting UFC at DraftKings Sportsbook. You don’t just have to take money line prices on the favorites. Props are available on every fight and you can also live bet UFC at DraftKings while you follow along on ESPN+.
We’ll get back to the women’s bantamweight fight that is the lead-in to the main event in a minute. First, we’ll discuss the other heavyweight fights.
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus
Aleksei Olenik is +140 against Chris Daukaus, with -177 on the favorite price here. Oleinik will be appearing for the 75th time in a pro MMA fight. You would think that the 43-year-old would be winding down a bit, but he won two of his three fights in 2020. Oleinik is susceptible to big strikers, like we saw in his knockout loss to Lewis back in August, but the guys he had a wrestling advantage over have struggled against him.
Daukaus is a really big striker, hence the line here on this fight, but Oleinik is rangy for a heavyweight and has a bit of a reach advantage here. If he can keep Daukaus to the outside and get in there to wrestle with him, he can pull this upset. I wouldn’t put it past the wily vet to do that. Daukaus hasn’t seen guys with that kind of skill set often.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall
Here’s another old man, at least by UFC standards, in Andrei Arlovski, that had a good 2020. Arlovski outwrestled and outlasted Tanner Boser and Phillippe Lins last year. The Boser decision win was a little bit iffy, as Boser landed more strikers and was the more active fighter, but Arlovski got the nod.
Boser and Lins couldn’t knock out the cagey vet. Tom Aspinall has won nine fights and seven have been by knockout, including each of his last five. He scored two UFC knockout wins in his first two fights at the tail end of 2020. Aspinall is a big -265 favorite here with Arlovski at +200.
This is one where I would look at the striker to have an easier time.
Serghei Spivac vs. Jared Vanderaa
The other heavyweight fight is actually the first fight on the card between Serghei Spivac and Jared Vanderaa. Spivac (listed as Spivak) is the -250 favorite in this one. This seems like a tougher fight to call, despite the big line. Anytime you get a big underdog price in a heavyweight fight, all it could take is one shot. That’s what Lewis will be hoping for in the main and what Vanderaa will be hoping for in the first fight of the night.
Yana Kunitskaya vs. Ketlen Vieira
It wasn’t that long ago that Yana Kunitskaya was fighting for titles. She did it three times in Invicta and then once more in UFC against Cris Cyborg. She’s a +215 underdog here in this fight against Ketlen Vieira. Kunitskaya lost by knockout to Aspen Ladd at the end of 2019 in a fight that was really competitive. It was a strong fight all around, one that Kunitskaya could very well have won.
This line seems to be very critical of her body of work. Or maybe it’s just an indication of how high the markets are on Ketlen Vieira. Vieira’s only loss came against Irene Aldana at UFC 245 in what was a good back-and-forth fight going into the last 10 seconds of the first round. Vieira went a long time between her win over Cat Zingano on 3/3/18 and that loss to Aldana on 12/14/19. Beating Sijara Eubanks doesn’t mean much.
Is Kunitskaya a live dog here? I would argue that she is.
DraftKings has odds listed on all of the fights on the card. One that will likely get a lot of attention is Phil Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov. Hawes is a modest -125 favorite with even money back on Imavov. Both fighters are 9-2 with limited UFC experience, but Hawes did at least have a stop in Bellator, an appearance in WSOF, and lost to Julian Marquez on his first Dana White Contender Series try. I like Hawes in that one over Imavov, who fought on really small regional circuits before getting to UFC.
UFC debutant Casey O’Neill draws in against Shana Dobson in this women’s flyweight fight. Dobson beat Mariya Agapova as almost a 10/1 underdog back in August. It was one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. My guess here is that O’Neill, a pretty highly-touted prospect, is drawing into a good spot from the matchmakers to score a win over somebody that has something of a name. O’Neill is -155 in this one and looks to be a good bet.