UFC on ESPN+ 43: Blaydes vs. Lewis Preview

Ranked UFC heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis have the chance to position themselves as the next title challenger on Saturday night, competing atop a busy card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Here is a full preview of the evening.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (5:00PM EST / 2:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Serghei Spivac (11-2) vs. Jared Vanderaa (11-4) (Heavyweight)

Jared Vanderaa will have a tough challenge in his UFC debut, as he is scheduled to fight Serghei Spivac in the first bout of the evening.

Vanderaa earned his UFC contract in the Fall, defeating Harry Hunsucker within a round on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Spivac will be competing in his fifth UFC fight on Saturday. He returned to the win column in his last bout, taking a majority decision against Carlos Felipe in July.

Vanderaa’s UFC debut was first scheduled for December, although it was scrapped after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Bout 2: Aiemann Zahabi (7-2) vs. Drako Rodriguez (7-1) (Bantamweight)

Another debut will be showcased on the prelims, as Drako Rodriguez will enter the promotion against Aiemann Zahabi. Rodriguez was given his UFC contract in 2020 after submitting Mana Martinez within a round with a triangle choke. He entered the fight after attaining six wins and one loss on the regional scene.

Zahabi will attempt to spoil the promotional debut of Rodriguez and break a two-fight losing streak. He last fought in May of 2019, where he lost on scorecards to Vince Morales.

Like the first fight on the card, the bout between Zahabi and Rodriguez was set to happen in December before a COVID-19 test caused it to get moved.

Rodriguez missed weight for the fight, coming in four-and-a-half pounds over the non-championship limit.

Bout 3: Chas Skelly (18-3) vs. Jamall Emmers (18-5) (Featherweight)

Featherweights Chas Skelly and Jamall Emmers are scheduled to compete on the preliminary card. Emmers scored his first UFC victory in August, taking a decision win against Vince Cachero. His UFC debut was earlier in the year, where he lost on scorecards to Giga Chikadze.

Skelly’s fight on Saturday comes after over a year outside of competition. His last fight was in September of 2019, where he picked up a decision victory against Jordan Griffin.

Bout 4: Shana Dobson (4-4) vs. Casey O’Neill (5-0) (Flyweight)

Undefeated flyweight Casey O’Neill will make her first UFC appearance on Saturday’s prelims when fighting Shana Dobson.

O’Neill has quickly attained an impressive pro record of five wins in just the past two years. O’Neill earned her first stoppage win with strikes in September, defeating Christina Stelliou on a UAE Warriors card in September.

Dobson will be riding the momentum of a massive upset in her last bout. Dobson was put down as a heavy underdog for her last fight, however, she prevailed and stopped Mariya Agapova with ground and pound in the second round. The fight snapped Dobson’s three-fight losing streak and evened her pro record.

Bout 5: Julian Erosa (24-8) vs. Nate Landwehr (14-3) (Featherweight)

Former M-1 Champion Nate Landwehr will be paired against Julian Erosa on Saturday. Landwehr picked up his first UFC victory in 2020, as an all-out brawl against Darren Elkins earned him a decision win. He has struggled to find a bout since then, as positive COVID-19 tests have interfered with two bookings.

Erosa started his second UFC run in June, stopping Sean Woodson with a darce choke to hand him his first loss as a pro. Erosa’s previous UFC run was from 2018 to 2019, where he lost three consecutive fights before getting cut by the promotion.

Bout 6: Eddie Wineland (24-14-1) vs. John Castaneda (17-5) (Bantamweight)

UFC veteran Eddie Wineland is scheduled to compete against John Castaneda on Saturday night. Entering his 15th fight for the promotion, Wineland will attempt to bounce back from a 2020 loss to Sean O’Malley.

Castaneda will be in the hunt for his first UFC win. The former Combate Americas fighter had an unsuccessful promotional debut in 2020, losing on scorecards to Nathaniel Wood.

Bout 7: Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) vs. Luis Pena (8-3) (Lightweight)

Lightweights Drakkar Klose and Luis Pena will look to battle back from recent losses in their prelim bout.

Klose lost a back-and-forth fight to Beneil Dariush in his last appearance, getting stopped in the second round of their bout at UFC 248. He had a three-fight win streak prior to the pay-per-view loss.

Pena was stopped late in his last fight, getting caught with a guillotine choke by Khama Worthy back in June.

Bout 8: Jared Gordon (16-4) vs. Danny Chavez (11-3) (Featherweight)

Coming back after his UFC debut win in 2020, Danny Chavez will fight Jared Gordon in what is scheduled to be the last fight on Saturday night’s prelims.

Chavez entered the UFC in August, defeating TJ Brown via decision at UFC 252. His UFC signing came after stringing together a three-fight win streak on the regional scene.

Gordon won his last bout, taking a decision win against Chris Fishgold. The win put Gordon back on the right track after losing three of his previous five bouts.

Gordon missed the non-championship featherweight limit for the fight, coming in at 150 pounds on Friday.

Main Card (8:00PM EST / 5:00PM EST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 9: Andrei Arlovski (30-19) vs. Tom Aspinall (9-2) (Heavyweight)

UFC veteran Andrei Arlovski will have a big challenge on Saturday night’s prelims, fighting rising heavyweight Tom Aspinall.

Aspinall is currently on a five-fight win streak that consists purely of first-round stoppage wins including two which have taken place in the UFC. Aspinall made his UFC debut in July, stopping Jake Collier within a minute with punches. Just three months later, he took Alan Baudot out of a fight in the second round.

Arlovski enters the bout with a streak of his own, as he picked up decision wins over Philipe Lins and Tanner Boser in 2020.

Bout 10: Nassourdine Imavov (9-2) vs. Phil Hawes (9-2) (Middleweight)

Both looking for their second UFC win, Nassourdine Imavov and Phil Hawes will clash on the main card. Imavov had a strong showing back in October, defeating Jordan Williams in his UFC debut to earn his sixth consecutive bout. Later that month, Hawes got eyes on him with an 18-second stoppage win against Jacob Malkoun.

The bout was first set to happen on a card in January, although it was removed from the lineup after Hawes was not medically cleared to compete.

Bout 11: Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1) vs. Chris Daukaus (10-3) (Heavyweight)

Continuing with the trend of heavyweight action on the card, Aleksei Oleinik will compete against Chris Daukaus.

Daukaus has had impressive performances in his ongoing rookie year in the UFC. Daukaus made his UFC debut in August against Parker Porter, stopping him late in the first round with strikes. Two months later, it only took Daukaus 45 seconds to stop Rodrigo Nascimento with punches.

Oleinik is returning after losing a main event bout to Derrick Lewis in 2020. Ending a two-fight win streak that he built earlier in the year, Oleinik was hit with ground and pound early in the second round that forced the referee to end the fight.

Bout 12: Darrick Minner (25-11) vs. Charles Rosa (13-4) (Featherweight)

Featherweights Darrick Minner and Charles Rosa are booked to make their first appearances of 2021 on Saturday’s main card.

Minner had a quick showing in his first UFC win, stopping TJ Laramie within a minute with a guillotine choke in September. The win came after a long road on the regional scene that saw him compete 33 times since 2012.

Rosa has been a part of the UFC roster for a long time, although there is one thing he has not had in his run so far. Having fought eight times in the promotion now, he has yet to win two consecutive fights. Through the years it has been a consistent pattern of a win followed by a loss. That could end on Saturday, as Rosa’s last fight was a split decision victory against Kevin Aguilar.

Bout 13: Ketlen Vieira (11-1) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (13-5) (Bantamweight)

The bantamweight division will be under the spotlight in the co-main event as Ketlen Vieira will fight Yana Kunitskaya.

Kunitskaya won her last fight, defeating former Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion Julija Stoliarenko on scorecards. Kunitskaya currently has a UFC record of three wins and two losses.

Vieira last competed in September, where she defeated Sijara Eubanks via decision at UFC 253. Her previous fight, a stoppage loss to Irene Aldana in 2019, stopped the undefeated 10-fight win streak momentum that Vieira had built up during her career.

Vieira weighed in at 138 pounds on Friday, meaning she missed the non-championship bantamweight limit by two pounds.

Bout 14: Curtis Blaydes (14-2) vs. Derrick Lewis (24-7) (Heavyweight)

Ranked heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis will gamble their win streaks in the main event of Saturday night’s card.

Lewis has won his last three bouts. After picking up decision wins against Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi on pay-per-view cards in the past year, Lewis returned to the main event picture in August with a stoppage win against Aleksei Oleinik. A win for Lewis would be huge, as proper logic would assume that it would make him one of the frontrunners for a heavyweight title shot.

However, Blaydes will look to take that opportunity himself. With four straight wins including a five-round decision win against Alexander Volkov in 2020, Blaydes is ranked second in the heavyweight division – only below champion Stipe Miocic and scheduled next challenger Francis Ngannou.

Saturday night’s main event was first meant to take place in December, although it was later moved to a different date after Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19.

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