Just one week after Conor McGregor’s triumphant return at UFC 246, the UFC now travels to Raleigh, North Carolina, this Saturday for a UFC Fight Night event.
The UFC Raleigh poster features two big fights this weekend. In the main event, heavyweight giants Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos will battle for the opportunity to move up in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings. Before then, Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Chiesa will meet in what should be an exciting welterweight bout.
Read on for complete betting odds and an in-depth preview of what to expect from the main event this weekend.
UFC Raleigh Odds
All odds listed are from BetDSI
- Curtis Blaydes (-263) vs. Junior dos Santos (+211)
- Michael Chiesa (+211) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (-263)
- Alex Perez (-256) vs. Jordan Espinosa (+208)
- Angela Hill (-179) vs. Hannah Cifers (+147)
- Darko Stosic (+103) vs. Jamahal Hill (-123)
- Bevon Lewis (-435) vs. Dequan Townsend (+333)
- Arnold Allen (-270) vs. Nik Lentz (+216)
- Justine Kish (+141) vs. Lucie Pudilova (-169)
- Felipe Colares (+474) vs. Montel Jackson (-667)
- Lina Lansberg (+132) vs. Sara McMann (-159)
- Brett Johns (-110) vs. Tony Gravely (-110)
- Herbert Burns (-101) vs. Nate Landwehr (-119)
Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos
After 14 professional fights, the story of Curtis Blaydes’ career is that he has beaten everyone but Francis Ngannou. The monster heavyweight fighter is 7-2 in the UFC with wins over proven talent such as Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt, but two losses to Ngannou have stopped Blaydes from rising to the true top of the rankings and earning a title shot.
Following his first-round defeat in November 2018, Blaydes has bounced back with consecutive wins against Justin Willis and Shamil Abdurakhimov. A win against Junior dos Santos puts him directly underneath Ngannou and heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, but it’s tough to see him getting a shot at either considering his failed efforts to defeat the heavy-hitting heavyweight on two occasions now.
Junior dos Santos is in an incredibly similar situation right now. Following his loss to Stipe Miocic in May 2017, dos Santos returned more than a year later to defeat Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa, and then Derrick Lewis. It appeared — for a brief moment — that a dos Santos career resurgence was underway and that he may once again challenge for the heavyweight crown.
Yet, much like Blaydes, dos Santos fell short when it mattered the most. Dos Santos was crushed by Ngannou in just 71 seconds at UFC on ESPN 3 in June last year. He’s now fighting against Blaydes in Raleigh to determine who is the best of the second-tier heavyweight fighters in the UFC right now — assuming that Miocic, Cormier, and Ngannou are the top tier.
Last weekend’s main event proved that even if our picture of the fight is wrong (no one expected Conor McGregor to hammer Donald Cerrone with shoulder strikes), the overall analysis of the fight and how it plays out can still be accurate. Despite the fight playing out in an incredibly strange way, we did predict McGregor to smoke Cerrone inside the first round.
This week, we have a heavyweight fight that isn’t as straightforward as McGregor vs. Cerrone, but some key takeaways leave us leaning toward backing the underdog in this fight.
Dos Santos’ advantages in this fight mostly revolve around his superb boxing ability. He’s one of the best boxers at heavyweight, and there’s a reasonably large gap between him and the vast majority of the heavyweight division in that regard. Dos Santos can work behind his jab to set up power strikes, and he can work the body just as well as the head. This is unlike many other heavyweights, including the feared Francis Ngannou, who mostly randomly swing their arms until they clip an opponent and put them to sleep. Dos Santos, at least, has some process behind his striking.
Blaydes is capable on the feet, but his best work is done when he is wrestling. UFC fans who have watched Blaydes before can easily picture the heavyweight ragdolling his opponent’s inside the Octagon. Blaydes is strong, athletic, and has the wrestling ability to make a fight extremely difficult for anyone.
The safest and most direct pathway to victory for Blaydes this weekend is to move forward and apply relentless pressure to Dos Santos. This will prove successful for a variety of reasons but none more so than the fact that dos Santos has horrible positioning ability and is known to get trapped against the cage. Just as it’s easy to imagine Blaydes throwing his opponents around the cage, it’s easy to remember dos Santos getting clipped while escaping from the cage against Miocic, or just recklessly trying to circle away from danger with his hands down.
Dos Santos is an excellent fighter when he has the space to operate — say, in the middle of the Octagon. But if he’s backed up at any stage, he’s going to have trouble landing his straight punches against Blaydes, especially if he is forced to fight from his back foot. Blaydes needs to push dos Santos to the cage and work him there for minutes at a time.
But even if he does, he needs to secure a takedown, and that may be no easy feat against the Brazilian. Dos Santos will be aware of the takedown threat and will likely adapt his gameplan to remove the threat of being wrestled by Blaydes. It’s not unlikely that dos Santos will be able to keep this one standing and employ his boxing for the duration of the fight.
As we come to the end our preview, one thing is for sure. Wrestling is of vital importance if Blaydes wants to win. If there’s no wrestling, dos Santos will dominate. And if there’s some wrestling, dos Santos may still win.
This fight appears to be much more competitive than the bookmakers have it. Although we’d predict Blaydes to win (only just) because of his athleticism and wrestling, dos Santos has more of a chance than the odds reflect.
For that reason, we’ll be betting on dos Santos to win this fight.
Bet: Junior dos Santos to win: +211 atBetDSI
Bet explainer: At odds of +211, dos Santos’ recorded win probability sits at 32.2%. We consider his win probability to be somewhere closer to 42%, and for that reason, we’ll be going for the value play at UFC Raleigh.
Jake is a mixed martial arts reporter from Australia. At WagerBop, he merges his appreciation of combat sports and a strong passion for analytics to uncover opportunities for readers.