What mattered most at UFC on ESPN 11 in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
* * * * *
1. Curtis Blaydes says he’s ‘the heel’
Curtis Blaydes is taking a curious approach to his career right now. No one is going to sit here and argue his unanimous decision win over Alexander Volkov was the most exciting of fights, and Blaydes is under no illusions that was the case.
Blaydes said afterward he’s accepted his role as “the heel.” That’s an interesting label to put on himself, mainly because it’s not entirely true. From a professional wrestling context, the heel is someone who intentionally tries to be disliked by fans. Blaydes might be relishing the hate, but he also can’t operate any other way.
It would be a massive disservice for Blaydes to ignore his biggest strength as the superior grappler whenever he can. His previous fight with Junior Dos Santos showed Blaydes can handle himself standing if needed, and while he did show some moment of vulnerability against Volkov standing, he was able to go to his grappling basically whenever he wanted.
Blaydes has made it clear he’s going to use this same approach no matter the opponent or stakes. That might carry him into some additional obstacles as he tries to claim the UFC heavyweight title, but Blaydes seems to recognize he can only be denied for so long.