So it turns out that size does matter in the UFC and that Jan Blachowicz is the real deal in the light heavyweight division, in case you weren’t sure.
The legendary Polish power wasn’t on show in the UFC 259 main event, but the light heavyweight champion successfully defended his crown against the middleweight superstar that is Israel Adesanya as he handed the 185lbs champion the first defeat of his career.
It was a relatively cautious display from both in the early rounds, as they exchanged leg kicks and jabs for the most part and you could’ve made an argument for them going either way. The championship rounds belonged to the 37-year-old though, as he finally used his wrestling and took Adesanya to the ground with relative ease before controlling from top position and landing ground and pound for the win.
While many expected Adesanya to become a double champion due to his stunning striking skills and superstardom, Blachowicz proved size matters – especially when there is a genuine weight discrepancy. In all the other two-weight title fights, the eventual double champ has gone up to their more “natural” division and they usually end up staying there.
For Adesanya, he’s already king at his natural weight class as evidenced by weighing at as low as 183lbs before. While he came in at 200.5lbs before this fight, that’s usually what we’d weigh on fight night in the middleweight division. He didn’t put on any weight whatsoever, while Blachowicz probably weighed around 230lbs in the cage.
It shows that the weight classes are in place for a reason and while Adesanya is a legit phenom when it comes to mixed-martial arts, talk of Blachowicz not being a true or deserving champion are firmly quashed.
Both men will go their separate ways now, with Adesanya returning to 185lbs and likely to face one of Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Darren Till or Marvin Vettori while Dana White confirmed that Blachowicz’s next title defence will come against veteran Glover Teixeira at some point this year.
In the other men’s co-main event, we saw a first as Aljamain Sterling was crowned the new bantamweight champion of the world after Petr Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee in the fourth round.
Yan was winning on two scorecards when he had Sterling knelt down on his knees and trying to control his posture. The Russian seemingly asked his corner if he could throw a strike and when his corner incorrectly replied with a yes, he threw a violent knee to Sterling’s face. The referee had already told him Sterling was a down opponent, making the strike illegal, an thus an intentional foul.
After consultation with the doctor and Sterling, the fight was waved off meaning Yan was disqualified and in turn loses the belt. Sterling threw the belt on the floor after the official decision was announced and cried in the octagon, before revealing in the post-fight interview that he didn’t want to win that way and they would run it back immediately.
UFC president Dana White confirmed that he wanted to make that happen, while Yan apologised on social media citing a mere miscalculation on his part saying he just assumed that Sterling’s knee wasn’t on the ground.
A rematch will go down well among fans, who had enjoyed a fantastic fight up to that point. Yan had begun to assert his dominance with Sterling’s pace beginning to fade after a promising start but they’ll have to do it all over again.
While many seem to be calling Sterling a “paper champ” in honour of what he called Yan in the build-up to their fight, he is the rightful champion. It isn’t his fault that Yan kneed him while he was downed and basically concussed him and he was clearly struggling afterwards with his eyes glazed over and staggering around.
Some suggested that the title shouldn’t change hands on a DQ, which is just baffling to me considering it would allow the champion a cheap way out of a fight if they were losing late on. But some also suggested that the rule about kneeing a downed opponent is a bad rule anyway.
Whether it is or isn’t is besides the point though, because the rule is in place right now and is known by everyone as an illegal strike. He gets the win due to not being able to continue and Yan won’t be overly punished and will get an immediate rematch so we can get a true finish to the fight.