Curtis Blaydes did exactly what he said he was going to do.
Prior to his main event fight against Alexander Volkov this past weekend, the 29-year-old Blaydes took to Twitter to make it known that he had no intentions of standing and striking with Volkov. Instead, he planned to use his wrestling to lead him to victory and when all was said and done, he landed 14 of 25 takedown attempts and scored a clear unanimous decision victory.
Now a winner of four-straight, Blaydes has established himself as one of the best heavyweights in the world, and with back-to-back victories over former champion Junior Dos Santos and Volkov, it could be argued that he is deserving of a title shot. Unfortunately for Blaydes, however, he currently finds himself in a bit of a difficult position despite his recent run of success.
First off, it will likely be quite some time before Blaydes receives a title shot simply due to the state of the division. Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, for example, will finally settle the score in a trilogy match scheduled to take place at UFC 252 on Aug. 15.
And after Miocic and Cormier, Francis Ngannou is the clear cut next contender. Not only has Ngannou won four-straight fights by way of stoppage but he also holds two TKO victories over Blaydes, making it incredibly difficult for Blaydes to argue that he is more deserving of a shot at gold than Ngannou is.
And aside from the state of the division, UFC President Dana White simply didn’t seem all that impressed with Blaydes’ performance this past weekend, which, as we’ve come to see, can make things a bit dicey for a fighter angling for a title shot.
“I like Curtis Blaydes, but Curtis Blaydes has the wrong attitude as far as I’m concerned,” White said at the UFC on ESPN 11 post-fight press conference. “I don’t have anything against the kid at all, (but) when you talk (expletive) like he talked this week, you better come in and whoop somebody’s ass when you talk (expletive) like that. When you talk the (expletive) that he did and perform like he did tonight? You look stupid.
“Yeah, he won. He talked a lot of (expletive) coming in this week. I don’t think you talk the (expletive) he talked this week and come in and perform like that. Talking about rag-dolling people, and he’s not getting paid, and yada yada, he should be getting the title shot. He gassed out at the end of the third round, made it to the fifth and won the fight. Yeah, he won.”
So, where does that leave Blaydes? Well, the Colorado native seems content to wait things out and seems far from interested in fighting any fighter ranked below him. That would seem to be a dangerous game, however, as it will likely be quite some time before the trio of Miocic, Cormier and Ngannou sort things out atop the division. And in this sport, things move very fast and fighters who aren’t active often get forgotten about.
On the contrary, though, Blaydes does also have a point. Who exactly is he supposed to fight? Currently ranked third in the division, he has already beaten three of the seven fighters ranked behind him in the top 10, and fights against any of the other contenders wouldn’t seem to benefit him all that match.
What would perhaps make the most sense would be for Blaydes to take on the winner of August 8’s bout between Derrick Lewis and Alexey Oleinik. That would give him the opportunity to stay busy while adding another respectable victory to his resume, while Ngannou fights for the title.
Then again, Blaydes may be serious when he says he’s content to wait things out. It’s a difficult decision to make, but once again, Blaydes is in quite a difficult situation, regardless of his recent success.
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.