3. Petr Yan vs Cory Sandhagen (UFC 267, October 2021)
A fight that was thrown together at short notice for the interim bantamweight championship back in October served up a thriller in Abu Dhabi.
Yan and Sandhagen went head-to-head in a bout that saw each man have their moments, but ultimately it was the Russian fighter who saw gold wrapped around his waist at the end of a 25-minute war of pure technical striking ability.
There was a mix of wrestling in there too as both contenders showed every facet of mixed martial arts is important. It was a really excellent fight and while it probably lacked moments where the fight looked like it was going to end, it was a great example of a world class MMA fight.
2. Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42, November 2021)
A main event bout that lived up to it’s billing between two of the very best featherweights in the world today.
Max Holloway took this fight after his title shot got delayed, and Rodriguez was making his first appearance in almost two years but it was one of the most exciting fights of the year.
Both fighters consistently threw fire at each other, with both taking plenty of damage and producing moments that would have ended the fight against a lesser opponent. On this occasion Holloway was forced to use his superior wrestling in the latter rounds to secure a victory, before both men took a trip to the hospital together.
A fight that had you on the edge of your seat for the full 25-minutes, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.
1. Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler (UFC 268, November 2021)
A lightweight banger that somehow exceeded expectations of the fans despite many calling it the fight of the year before it even happened.
Both men knew that a win would likely see them granted the next title shot at 155lbs and both men promised fireworks – and boy did they deliver.
It was a fight that saw both guys swinging for the fences from the opening minute and connecting, but their chin and willpower held out for a full 15-minutes for Gaethje to go the distance. It was a fight that you can watch any time for entertainment, even knowing the result.
The fight of the year by quite a distance, but arguably one of the best fights of all-time too.
The UFC returned to Fight Island this past weekend and once again there was a Russian lightweight dominating in his division that took a lot of the headlines.
Instead of Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 though, this time it was Islam Makhachev at UFC 267 as he took Dan Hooker to the mat and mauled him into a kimura submission win in the first-round of their highly anticipated bout.
It was a marquee name to add to Makhachev’s resumé, as he cemented himself among the top five and likely moved up into the top three of the UFC’s rankings at 155lbs with the win.
With the lightweight title up for grabs at UFC 269 in December in a bout between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, many are looking at UFC 268’s blockbuster bout between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler as the potential number one contender fight for the winner.
However with such a dominant and one-sided win for Makhachev in Abu Dhabi, what is next for him?
In reality, it should be the title shot. Makhachev’s nine-fight win streak is now the third longest in UFC history at the weight, behind only Khabib’s 13-fight run and Tony Ferguson’s 12-fight streak that was ended in May 2020.
He has beaten contenders all the way through the rankings and the only thing missing from his list of victims is one of the current ranked top five fighters.
Despite this though, he has more than earned his shot. His win streak is unmatched but on top of that both Gaethje and Chandler have already had title shots in their most recent fights and been beaten.
Poirier is more than deserving of his title fight which he’ll get next month, while Beneil Dariush is on a seven-fight win streak but only one of those opponents was ranked in the top ten at the time of their bout.
A fight against either Oliveira or Poirier would be a fresh match up for fans and would be highly competitive. It is the perfect and most logical next step for the organisation, the division and for Makhachev himself.
Should something crazy happen in that bout and it makes the bout impossible to make, then he should face the winner of the Gaethje and Chandler match up.
Whatever happens, it would be a travesty for Makhachev to miss out on the next title opportunity. He’s not only winning fights, but he’s finishing opponents and looks better with each and every outing.
The UFC’s return to Fight Island at the weekend was a rousing success as UFC 267 provided some incredibly memorable moments in Abu Dhabi.
A super-stacked card saw a new champion crowned as Glover Teixeira finally reached the top of the mountain by submitting Jan Blachowicz in the second-round, while Petr Yan reclaimed his title with a brilliant decision win over Cory Sandhagen.
On top of that however, we found out the hype behind Khamzat Chimaev is very real as he dominated against Li Jingliang to a first-round submission win.
After over a year out of the cage and a long, hard battle with COVID-19 the question marks around Chimaev were genuine. When he struggled to make weight before the bout too, eyebrows were raised even more.
But once he stepped into the octagon all those doubts were washed away within seconds. Chimaev ducked under a punch and immediately secured a takedown, lifting Li up and walking him across the octagon while shouting at Dana White for looking at his phone during the fight.
He then put him down, landed some strikes and worked for a submission, securing a rear-naked choke that put Li to sleep in just 196 seconds.
It means Chimaev has absorbed just two strikes in his entire UFC run to date, which stretches to four wins and four finishes now, a stunning record.
He will now break into the top ten in the rankings this week and with only big names ahead of him and a championship fight in his division this weekend, 2022 could be a huge year for the Swedish fighter.
In the title picture up a couple of weights, Teixeira was finally able to reach the top of the mountain aged 42 thanks to a big win.
It was the second time lucky for the Brazilian as he finally claimed the light heavyweight championship, but the future doesn’t look much easier for him.
Jiri Prochazka weighed-in as the back-up to the title fight and has been confirmed as the next contender for the belt, meaning Teixeira will need to defeat an absolute demon in the striking world who is in the peak of his career.
With 25 knockout wins from 28 career victories, Prochazka offers a completely different threat with his incredibly unorthodox striking and Teixeira will need to use his grappling and jiu-jitsu as best as possible to stand any chance of win on the night.
Petr Yan also claimed another title win with an excellent win over Cory Sandhagen, growing stronger and stronger as the fight went on to continue to prove himself as the best 135lbs fighter in the world currently.
He proved to everyone that he is comfortably the best striker in the division but also that his wrestling is still among the best around, making a rematch with Aljamain Sterling seem even more like a foregone conclusion.
He called for a fight against TJ Dillashaw next instead of Sterling, despite winning the interim title, in a fight that would pit two of the world’s best against each other once more in the most stacked division around.
With UFC 268 coming up this weekend, the title pictures in the UFC could be about to change drastically once more but UFC 267 was a truly excellent card.
Tagir Ulanbekov def Allan Nascimento via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
A couple of hard low kicks early from Nascimento to start the fight, but Ulanbekov taking the centre and flicking his jab out nicely. Another nice leg kick from Nascimento and then he follows that up with a nice right hand. Flying knee attempt just misses but Ulanbekov grabs a body lock and takes the fight to the ground immediately. Nascimento defending really well on the ground and threatening with an armbar, then sweeps to the top but Ulanbekov immediately gets up and tries to get the fight back down against the cage. Ulanbekov battling against submission attempts and ends up in a mounted guillotine and it’s tight! Nascimento fighting it and eventually pops his head out to survive! Amazing! Ulanbekov gets back to top position and is resting in a controlling position, with Nascimento threatening with a guillotine of his own. He now moves to a kimura trap to try and get to his feet but the round ends. Great round. 10-9 Ulanbekov for me.
Good start to the round again from Ulanbekov with his jab landing well, before he shoots in deep for a takedown. Nascimento defends it well against the cage but eventually Ulanbekov is able to change levels and get the fight down. Nascimento threatening with a kimura from the bottom, but Ulanbekov defending it well and eventually gets back into full guard without the threat. Nascimento being very active off his back, but Ulanbekov trying to stifle him from the top to control him. Nascimento tries for a triangle but Ulanbekov deals with it easily, before Nascimento lands a huge elbow from the bottom. Nascimento goes for an armbar and starts smashing him with elbows from the bottom to see out the round. Close, but I edge to Nascimento there for attacking more despite being on the bottom. 19-19.
Big knee attempt from Nascimento early on but Ulanbekov gets the fight to ground once again immediately. Nascimento went for a kimura trap immediately and swept him to get on top but once against Ulanbekov raced to the next position to maintain control. Ulanbekov in full guard just stalling and looking for a bit of ground and pound, but Nascimento seems happy enough on his back to look for submissions. Ulanbekov trying to pass guard but Nascimento is looking to make him defend as much as possible. He finally passes into half guard now and starts looking for some short elbows from the top. Big left hand lands but Nascimento still being active and trying to sweep him. Final minute and Nascimento goes for another kimura, but Ulanbekov defends it excellently again. Nascimento goes for a triangle armbar but Ulanbekov defends it and ends the round with some big ground shots to likely claim a win. 29-28 Ulanbekov.
Andre Petroski def Hu Yaozong via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (4:46)
Lots of feinting early on from both guys, before Petroski flies in with a big left hand that just misses. Petroski lands two big left hands and then Yaozong goes for a head-kick that gets blocked and he ends up on his back. Petroski goes straight for the neck and jumps on a mounted guillotine but it’s not quite in yet. He lets go and takes the back, rains down some big ground and pound. He goes for the rear-naked choke and it’s tight but Yaozong explodes out and Petroski goes for a d’arce but Yaozong gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a big left hand again but Yaozong is still coming forward. Petroski throws two big strikes that lands clean but Yaozong eats it. Three huge left hooks land from Petroski but Yaozong is still standing and Petroski is exhausted. Single leg takedown from Petroski but Yaozong gets straight back up and keeps coming forward. One more left hand lands for good measure as the round ends. Crazy round. 10-9 Petroski.
Immediate takedown from Petroski and he goes for a guillotine again, but Yaozong scrambles out quickly and gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a huge left hand and then a couple more, before another takedown where he now looks to control the position. Another attempted guillotine from Petroski before he looks to control again. Petroski moves to side control and looks for a head-and-arm choke but Yaozong grabs his own leg to defend it. Petroski looks to move to his back but Yaozong defends it again, but Petroski is controlling him much better now. Petroski moves into full mount and then goes for the head-and-arm choke again, but once again Yaozong defends it. Yaozong gets back to his feet but Petroski keeps a body lock and takes him down once again. Petroski flows on the mat and takes Yaozong’s back again and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Petroski controls until the buzzer goes. 20-18 Petroski.
Petroski lands a big left hand as Yaozong pressures him to the cage early in the final round, but Petroski shoots for a takedown and then runs him the entire way across before getting him down. Petroski takes control and looks to move to his back, then lands a few big ground strikes before pulling Yaozong backwards onto the mat. Petroski flowing well and looks for a guillotine, before Yaozong gets back to his feet. Yaozong sprawls and slips and then Petroski lands a huge one-two Douglas Lima style. Petroski gets another takedown and ends up in full mount, landing big elbows but Yaozong refusing to give up. Another huge elbow from Petroski and he works to control again. Petroski moves to side control and locks up a head-and-arm choke once again and forces the tap with 15 seconds left! Great win from Petroski.
Lerone Murphy def Makwan Amirkhani via Knockout, Round 2 (0:14)
Early takedown in the opening round from Amirkhani as soon as Murphy switches to an orthodox stance. Amirkhani controlling him against the cage and looking to advance to three-quarter mount, but Murphy doing relatively well to defend so far. Amirkhani keeping the body lock tight and Murphy is trying hard to break the lock, but Amirkhani keeping it tight and keeping the fight as grappling heavy as possible as we enter the final minute. Amirkhani completely controlling the action through the first five minutes as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Amirkhani.
Amirkhani goes for an early takedown as soon as Murphy switches to orthodox again but Murphy blasts a HUGE knee and Amirkhani is out!!! Oh my word what a KO!!
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Shamil Gamzatov via Knockout, Round 1 (3:31)
Great first round from Oleksiejczuk who keeps the fight standing for the most part, before landing a crisp right uppercut that puts Gamzatov down. He follows it up with some big ground and pound and that’s all she wrote!
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def Benoit Saint-Denis via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Saint-Denis opens with a body kick, then Zaleski lands a nice one-two. Nice body kicks from Zaleski and some hard low kicks, but Saint-Denis coming forward still and then creates an angle for a takedown and slams Zaleski down. Zaleski gets back up relatively easily though and lands another hard low kick. Saint-Denis ripping some strong kicks to the body, but Zaleski responding with leg kicks. Big exchange of punches and Zaleski lands a hard right hand that rocks him, but Saint-Denis shoots in for a double leg to buy himself some time. Zaleski gets back up again quickly and continues to chop the lead leg. Level change from Saint-Denis but Zaleski keeps it standing, then just slips a big uppercut. Great round, 10-9 Zaleski for me.
Fast flurry of strikes between the two leads to Zaleski landing a big counter-right hand. Saint-Denis keeps coming and eats another huge right hand and then Zaleski lands a flush knee to the head. Saint-Denis is badly hurt but Zaleski keeps coming forward and landing big strikes. Saint-Denis won’t go down but Zaleski is pouring it on! Huge strikes and another big right hand and Saint-Denis is just refusing to go down. Zaleski is battering him and the entire arena is screaming for the referee to stop the fight but he won’t. Zaleski is lighting him up but he won’t go down and then he shoots for a takedown. Somehow, the round goes the full five minutes. Unreal. 20-17 at least.
Somehow they come out for the final round and Zaleski lands a hard low kick. Accidental eye poke from Zaleski causes a pause of the action. Saint-Denis tells the referee he can’t see , but the referee restarts the fight anyway without bringing in a doctor??? Zaleski lands a right hand that wobbles Saint-Denis, who shoots for a takedown that gets sprawled. Zaleski sitting on the top in full guard before they get back to the feet. Head-kick from Saint-Denis is blocked and Zaleski comes forward again with a right hand. Big left hand from Saint-Denis lands before a takedown attempt, but Zaleski is able to scramble to switch the position and then get back up. Final minute now and there’s an accidental low blow by Zaleski to cause another pause in the action. The referee takes a point away from Zaleski (???) who now steps forward with some more aggression. Round comes to an end with Zaleski chasing Saint-Denis down, but that should be that. 29-26.
Albert Duraev def Roman Kopylov via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-27 x2)
Kopylov starting off confidently in the centre, landing hard low kicks and one that even drops Duraev momentarily. Duraev explodes with a one-two and then a leg kick of his own. Duraev lands a right hand down the middle, then lands a low kick and left-hook combo that stuns Kopylov. Another hard leg kick from Duraev as he starts to pressure Kopylov back against the cage. Big elbow strike lands but Kopylov is giving as good as he’s taking so far. Duraev currently just too quick for Kopylov at the moment, but no great damage being done. Kopylov catches a high kick and lands a few uppercuts before they separate and Duraev goes for some more jabs. 10-9 Duraev at the end of the first.
Kopylov lands a big left hand early in the second and drops Duraev! Duraev manages to survive with good movement and then shoots in for a takedown against the cage. Duraev goes for a takedown and Kopylov grabs the fence to deny it! The referee stops the action, gives a hard warning and resets them which allows Duraev to get an immediate takedown. Duraev then transitions straight into full mount and starts attacking with ground and pound and threatening with a head-and-arm choke. Big ground and pound from Duraev and Kopylov is trying to fight back but getting hurt bad. Duraev landing big, heavy elbows from the top in full mount and Kopylov is getting beaten up bad. Duraev going for a head-and-arm choke but Kopylov defends it and Duraev goes straight back to the big elbow strikes from the top. Kopylov turns on to his belly and Duraev takes his back to look for a choke, before smashing in more ground and pound. Duraev goes for a rear-naked choke and it’s in deep but Kopylov is saved by the bell! 20-17 Duraev.
Nice body shot from Kopylov and a head-kick is blocked, before Duraev goes straight back for a takedown against the cage. Kopylov defends it well but Duraev keeps trying until they separate and reset in the middle of the octagon. Nice body kick from Kopylov again, but Duraev lands a big right hand and then goes back in for a takedown. Kopylov defending it excellently though and as he escapes, Duraev goes down with exhaustion. Kopylov lands a big left hand and Duraev is exhausted, but so is Kopylov. Kopylove with his hands on his knees, trying to invite Duraev towards him. Duraev just taking his time to circle as we enter the final minute but both men are just waiting for the final bell at this point. Duraev goes for a takedown but gets caught and then Kopylov goes for a big takedown of his own to end the round. 30-26 Duraev.
Zubaira Tukhugov def Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start to this one as Ramos comes out very kick heavy, with low kicks and body attempts while Tukhugov just staying calm and patient. Nice left hand counter lands from Tukhugov that stumbles Ramos, which immediately makes the Brazilian think twice. Tukhugov forcing Ramos against the cage with his pressure and lands a big left hand. He follows it with a big right hand that opens up a huge cut! Tukhugov throws a big body shot and is pressuring Ramos hard now. Low kick from Ramos but Tukhugov counters with a nice one-two down the pipe. Big right hand swings wildly and misses but Ramos is very focused on avoiding rather than causing damage right now. Big counter-right hand from Tukhugov lands again. Tukhugov goes in for a left hook but Ramos counters with a spinning reverse elbow that opens a big cut up on Tukhugov! What a round! 10-9 Tukhugov for me.
Start of the second similar to the first, with Ramos trying to be first and Tukhugov trying to counter. Big right hand from the Russian lands but Ramos continuing to be on the front foot. Tukhugov slips a big combination and points at Ramos, before Ramos slips a counter one-two straight back. Nice low kick from Ramos lands and then a big one-two down the pipe. Tukhugov goes for a single leg but lets it go and lands a right hand of his own. Tukhugov starting to pressure Ramos against the cage but the Brazilian doing well to move and circle. Big right hand from Tukhugov lands and he follows up with two nice jabs. Tukhugov fires in with a blast double leg and gets a back trip to take the fight down with ten seconds left and likely take the round. 20-18 Tukhugov for me.
Tukhugov looking to take the initiative early on again and stepping forward with his jab. Ramos looks like he’s tiring but is landing his right hand well. Ramos lands a big knee with his back against the cage and then explodes forward with more strikes. Tukhugov stays calm though and continues to land his jab, while avoiding Ramos’ bigger strike attempts. Another stiff jab by Tukhugov but Ramos just misses with an elbow. More jabs from Tukhugov, who is pressuring Ramos backwards consistently. Ramos lands a right hand and then a low kick but Tukhugov still coming forward and then shoots for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. A few trip attempts but the buzzer goes and Tukhugov should earn the decision win.
Amanda Ribas def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Jandiroba shoots straight in for a takedown but Ribas sprawls and denies it immediately. Ribas fires a one-two down the pipe after slipping Jandiroba’s strike attempt, before Jandiroba sees another takedown attempt denied. Big one-two lands from Jandiroba and then she shoots for a takedown and secures it into full guard. Jandiroba goes for body-head strikes but Ribas throws her legs up and looks for a very unique submission, but Jandiroba stays calm, escapes and goes back to the ground and pound. Jandiroba scoops her over to the cage and stacks her up, looking for some strikes then launches down with a huge elbow. Jandiroba completely controlling on the ground right now with relentless pressure but then the referee stands them up. Jandiroba lands a big right hand that drops Ribas but the buzzer goes and potentially saves her! 10-9 Jandiroba.
Lots of bouncing to open the second round and then Ribas lands a big right hand straight down the pipe. Jandiroba responds with a right hand of her own before a spinning back kick from Ribas lands to the body. Nice counter right from Ribas again as both women stand toe-to-toe. Lots of big actions from both women but not much landing as of now, with Ribas pushing the action and Jandiroba on the back foot. Jandiroba goes for a single leg takedown but Ribas reverses the attempt and ends up on top, before they scramble up to their feet again. Lots of tough grappling to end the round, but Ribas takes it. 19-19.
Ribas pressuring hard in the third now with nice combinations and ending them all with a kick. Jandiroba is slowing up quite clearly and she shoots for a lazy takedown that Ribas stuffs then tries to trip her herself. Nice left hand from Jandiroba before Ribas counters the next strike with a nice left hand. Spinning kick to the body doesn’t land clean, before Jandiroba goes for another takedown but is denied. Big head kick from Ribas lands and Jandiroba is hurt! She goes for a spin kick that misses and that allows Jandiroba to recover her senses, but she’s very tired. Ribas still fresh and being first with her strikes as the fight winds down to a close. Should be a comeback 29-28 win for Ribas.
Ankalaev opening up early with some speedy strikes down the pipe, but Oezdemir staying calm in front of him. Oezdemir throws a wicked left hook that lands, then follows up with a left uppercut that wobbles Ankalaev. Oezdemir goes for a flying knee but misses and Ankalaev gets a body lock and puts him up against the cage. Oezdemir has Ankalaev backing up against the cage but both men are just missing with their strikes. Big one-two down the pipe from Ankalaev and he drops Oezdemir! He goes to finish but Oezdemir gets back up quickly and they reset. Another jab and left hand from Ankalaev lands and he’s now taking the centre. Oezdemir looks hesitant and Ankalaev’s left hand is landing at will almost. One-two followed by two more right-hands by Ankalaev as the round ends. 10-9 Ankalaev.
Oezdemir tries to rush in with his right hand but Ankalaev escapes, clinches up and then lands a big left hand on the break. Hard low kick from Oezdemir before Ankalaev throws another combination that just misses. Oezdemir steps forward with a right hand but Ankalaev counters with a hard right hook that cuts Oezdemir above the eye. Oezdemir’s only success really coming from low kicks but Ankalaev controlling the range and throwing his left hand well. Uppercut from Ankalaev lands and then he locks up a body lock against the cage, throwing hard knees to the thigh of Oezdemir. Ankalaev tries to get a takedown but Oezdemir defends well, then blocks a big left hand on the break. 20-18 Ankalaev.
Ankalaev staying very calm and jabbing well in this final round. Nice jab and a big right hand lands but Oezdemir eats it well. Oezdemir goes for a takedown but Ankalaev denies it and then lands a hard right hand. Ankalaev turning up the pressure a little now with a left head kick but Oezdemir still trying to find a moment. Big right hand lands from Oezdemir but Ankalaev eats it and steps to the side before returning to his jab. Entering the final minute now and both guys seem to have accepted the result of this one, with not much happening. Hard body kick from Ankalaev before a stiff right jab lands too. Takedown attempt from Ankalaev as the round ends, in what should be a 30-27 win for him.
Khamzat Chimaev def Jingliang Li via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1 (3:16)
Chimaev ducks under a right hand and goes straight for a takedown on Li, who defends it well before eventually getting lifted, slammed and controller. Chimaev throwing some ground strikes again but Li defending well, although Chimaev is controlling him with wrestling so far. Heavy ground and pound from Chimaev as he puts a hook in and starts searching for a choke. Chimaev goes on the back and flattens Li out and starts smashing him with ground and pound! Huge shots from Chimaev but Li is still trying to fight him! Chimaev switches to the back and goes for a choke and sinks it in! Li fighting the submission but Chimaev switches sides, readjusts the grip and puts Li to sleep! Wow!! What a performance! The hype is real!
Alexander Volkov def Marcin Tybura via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Great start from both guys as Volkov comes forward with some body shots and stiff hooks, but Tybura replies with a big left hand of his own. Volkov using his length well to land straight shots and avoid Tybura’s returns so far, before Tybura changes levels on him to no avail. Tybura gets inside and goes for a takedown, but Volkov denies him really well before breaking with an elbow attempt. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura steps forward again with pressure to close the distance. Tybura changes levels on Volkov but he turns him and ends up on top, landing a big elbow early. Tybura stalling on the ground by just holding Volkov tight to him and Volkov goes for a forearm to the throat to try and disrupt the breathing. Volkov lands a few more ground strikes to end the round in control and take it on the cards, 10-9.
Volkov using his front kick well once again and the big right hand following behind it. Tybura pressing the pace and forcing him backwards, but his takedown attempts are being denied quite comfortably. A few uppercuts in the clinch from Tybura land before another takedown attempt is denied. Volkov throws a knee that is caught and Tybura tries for another takedown, but Volkov denies him again and lands a right hand as they separate. Nice one-two from Tybura lands and Volkov is starting to tire now. Left hand misses from Tybura again and then Volkov lands a beautiful right hook. Tybura fakes a jab and goes for another takedown but Volkov denies it and sees out the round. Hard to score, but it’s probably even going into the third.
Tybura on the front foot once again in this final round, almost chasing Volkov but neither doing much damage. Volkov lands a hard knee to the body before Tybura goes for another takedown that gets stuffed. Nice one-two from Volkov as they separate but it’s still Tybura pushing forward. Big left uppercut followed by a right hand from Volkov lands and then he denies yet another takedown! Short left hook from Tybura lands and then he goes in for a takedown again that Volkov defends routinely at this point. Tybura tries a hip toss but Volkov holds a body lock and has the back, landing big knees to the thigh. Big right hands from Volkov land and then some nice combinations as Tybura starts to tire. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura responds with a big left of his own. Final minute now and both guys are breathing heavy. Volkov lands a big right hand, slips Tybura’s strikes and lands a nice combination to back Tybura up. Straight right hand each as the round comes to an end, should be a Volkov decision win 29-28.
Islam Makhachev def Dan Hooker via Submission (Kimura), Round 1 (2:25)
Hooker trying to keep length nice and early here with a few low kicks as Makhachev takes the centre and just looks for his moment. Makhachev throws a nice hook then dips low and catches Hooker’s leg to get an immediate takedown and move straight to half guard in his own corner. Makhachev throws a nice elbow in tight and is now attacking a kimura! Makhachev readjusts the grip, steps over and twists the arm behind the back and secures the tap out! Unbelievable performance from Makhachev!
Petr Yan def Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
An exchange of leg kicks between the two in the opening minute, as Yan takes the centre and Sandhagen looks to circle on the outside and use his length. Yan lets a left hand fly but it just misses, before a nice low kick followed by a body shot from Sandhagen. Low kick from Yan and Sandhagen counters with two nice left hands before changing levels to go for a takedown. Yan defends it well though and they go back into a close exchange of striking. Hard low kick from Yan lands before Sandhagen steps forward and just misses with a left. Sandhagen forces Yan to the cage and lands a few touching shots, before a nice kick to the body. Hard strikes from Sandhagen land but Yan returns with a big right hand of his own before Sandhagen changes levels again. Big flying knee from Sandhagen lands and the round ends. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Hard low kick from Sandhagen to open up the round, before both guys use their feints really well. Body kick from Yan lands but he misses with the follow up right hand and Sandhagen responds with a right hand of his own. Huge body kick from Yan lands clean and then Sandhagen responds with a nice left hook to the body himself. Head kick attempt from Yan is caught and Sandhagen throws a nice right. Yan responds with a low kick and then a big left hand to the chin. Sandhagen moving well still and touching Yan well, but Yan starting to counter with powerful strikes of his own. Yan just misses with a big left hand and both guys exchange body shots again. Sandhagen goes for a takedown but Yan defends it well and keeps the fight standing. Big knee from Sandhagen again but Yan eats it well. Yan pushing forward and putting his pace on this fight, but Sandhagen using his length well to stay out of real danger. 19-19.
Soft left hands from Sandhagen before he checks a leg kick and lands a beautiful left down the pipe to wobble Yan. Yan comes forward with a spinning kick to the body before Sandhagen lands his jab again. Huge left hook to the body from Yan lands but Sandhagen comes forward again with his jab and circles on the outside. Hard leg kick but Yan checks it and then he lands a big left uppercut. He goes for a combination but Sandhagen avoids it and lands a one-two of his own. Yan trying to turn the pressure up but Sandhagen slipping shots well and avoiding clean hits. Big one-two from Yan lands but Sandhagen staying calm and circling on the outside. Body kick from Yan but Sandhagen moves forward to trade with him. Yan throws a big hook and then a spinning back fist and drops Sandhagen! He goes for vicious ground and pound but Sandhagen stays calm and after some scrambles, they get back to the feet and the round ends. 29-28 Yan.
Yan starting to walk Sandhagen down a bit now but he isn’t going anywhere. Nice jabs again and a nice knee attempt just misses, but Yan is throwing big left hands and landing clean. Another big left from Yan lands flush but Sandhagen still standing. Body shot from Sandhagen gets a big left straight reply from Yan, but Sandhagen continuing to poke at him with jabs. Yan with a body kick and then a beautiful one two lands. Sandhagen shoots for a takedown and gets it, but both guys go for a heel hook before they scramble back to their feet. Yan ducks under a spinning back fist then lands some big combinations to the head and body. Yan continuing to march forward and the big hooks are landing, but Sandhagen responds with a big elbow. Yan steps forward and blasts Sandhagen with a huge right hand, but Sandhagen just eats it. Yan stuffs a takedown and they start scrambling again, with Yan throwing big combinations. 39-37 Yan.
Final round and Sandhagen still trying pick his shots while Yan is walking him down. Hard low kick from Yan gets a big reaction from Sandhagen, before he tries another jump knee that Yan blocks. Yan looking to close distance again but Sandhagen still fresh and moving well, flicking out his jab. Yan goes for three hooks but misses them all thanks to good movement, before Yan tries for a takedown and Sandhagen denies him. Huge head kick from Yan lands but Sandhagen shakes his head and says no, before Yan goes for more big hooks. Final 90 seconds and Yan is still coming forward. Right jab from Yan before Sandhagen makes him miss several times. Big left hand from Sandhagen lands and then he avoids the spinning back fist. Big knee from Sandhagen with ten seconds left but Yan responds with a spinning kick to the chin and they go wild with seconds remaining to end the fight. What a bout! 49-46 Yan for me.
Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:02)
Hard leg kick from Blachowicz opens up the fight as Teixeira looks to take the centre. Teixeira changes levels and goes for the takedown, before spinning him off the cage and securing it. Straight into full guard as Blachowicz looks to tie him up and avoid that vicious ground and pound game of Teixeira’s. Teixeira pulling the head up and making Blachowicz very uncomfortable on the bottom, grinding his elbows and head against him too. Teixeira goes for an elbow but just misses, then cranks the neck up again and then lands a short elbow. Final minute and Teixeira starting to be more active from the top position and that’s the round. 10-9 Teixeira.
Blachowicz comes out with the jab early and lands a nice left hand combination, before denying Teixeira’s takedown attempt. Big left uppercut from Blachowicz before Teixeira closes the distance and rushes Blachowicz against the cage with a clinch. Blachowicz denies another takedown attempt and is just popping his jab. Teixeira goes wild and lands a big left hand that wobbles Blachowicz! Blachowicz responds with a nice right hand combination that staggers Teixeira himself, but the Brazilian gets a takedown quickly and moves into mount immediately! Teixeira flattens him out and gets the arm under his neck and gets the tap!!! Unbelievable!! AND NEW!!
Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight banger to open up the main card! Ankalaev is on a six-fight win streak with knockout wins over Ion Cutelaba twice including at UFC 254 and then a decision against Nikita Krylov at UFC Vegas 20. Oezdemir on the other hand saw his two fight win streak snapped by a violent knockout by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251.
Ankalaev is a violent kickboxer with stunning power and great technique on his side. Oezdemir on the other hand is a good striker too with legit one-punch knockout power and good grappling defence skills (except against Daniel Cormier). Ankalaev likely has the power and technique advantage in this fight, but Oezdemir is a slick mover and I think he has the speed edge here.
Oezdemir will need to use his calf kicks well and hope to land with one of his powerful looping hooks, but those hooks will likely be countered by the crisp, straight strikes of Ankalaev and I expect he’ll turn the lights out midway through the fight. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 2
Li Jingliang (18-6) vs Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super exciting welterweight banger between Li Jingliang and the returning Khamzat Chimaev. Li is coming off a stunning knockout win over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Island 7 where he was a huge underdog, while Chimaev is fighting for the first time since his third win in 60-odd days at UFC Vegas 11 where he KO’d Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds.
Li is a very powerful striker with great low kicks and crisp boxing, while Chimaev has shown great power in his hands but also a relentless ground game that just completely crumbles his opponents. Chimaev’s background is also in kickboxing and on the regional scene he was knocking guys out for fun.
If Li is to earn a victory in this one he needs to keep the fight standing and exchange on the feet. Unfortunately for him, Chimaev’s power is enough that he won’t be scared to exchange on the feet but also his wrestling game is just too good to be able to avoid for 15 minutes. Chimaev takes his time but eventually storms a takedown and pummels Li until the referee steps in. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2
Alexander Volkov (33-9) vs Marcin Tybura (22-6) – (Heavweight/220-265lbs)
A very fun heavyweight bout between two guys looking to stay in-and-around the top five. Volkov started the year with a knockout win over Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 but then got dominated by Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30. Tybura on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak currently with KO’s over Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17 and then Walt Harris at UFC Vegas 28.
Volkov is a power, technical boxer who stands at 6ft 8′ and is very mobile and athletic. Tybura on the other hand is a powerful striker who uses his leg kicks really well and throws good combinations with his hands. His previous toughest opponent was arguably Derrick Lewis and he got stopped in the third round, while Volkov dominated Lewis until a literal last second KO in the fifth.
With his size advantage and technical prowess, this fight seems to play into Volkov’s hands. He’s got a pretty good chin on his own, good knees to the box and enough power to end it early. In the end, I think he pieces Tybura up for 15 minutes and gets a wide decision win. PICK – Alexander Volkov via Decision
Islam Makhachev (20-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun fight at the top of the lightweight division as Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker on short-notice. Makhachev is on an eight-fight win streak, with stoppages against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 most recently. Hooker was on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Dustin Poirier at UFC Vegas 4 and Michael Chandler at UFC 257, but bounced back with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266. He replaces Rafael Dos Anjos on just a few weeks notice.
Makhachev is the prodigy of former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his style in the cage shows that. He is a terrific wrestler with brilliant pressure and a decent array of strikes too, while Hooker is a kickboxer with amazing cardio and good knockout power in his hands too. Hooker loves to throw knees up the middle and he is always game for a fight, but this seems like a stretch too far.
Makhachev is comfortable on the feet but he will look to shoot in for the takedown and grind on Hooker. ‘Hangman’ is a good scrambler, but Makhachev is by far the best wrestler he’s fought and the likelihood of him getting back up could be slim. Islam may get caught once or twice but once he gets the reads he’ll take him down and dominate him for a wide and dominant decision. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Petr Yan (15-2) vs Cory Sandhagen (14-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights of the year on paper for the interim bantamweight title. Petr Yan was unstoppable in the UFC, claiming the title with a KO win over Jose Aldo at UFC 251 before his disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 meant he lost the belt. Sandhagen was on a tear and earned a shot himself with KO’s over Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18 before a razor close defeat to TJ Dillashaw in July.
Yan is a brilliant all-rounder, with excellent boxing, tremendous footwork and good wrestling too. He has fight-changing power on the feet but is also patient enough not to rush in and commit himself. Sandhagen is a brilliant striker with great range and length, with a decent wrestling game in his back-pocket too. Yan is the smaller guy by some way here, but he is a clean, technical fighter who is in his prime right now.
Sandhagen will no doubt look to use his length and spinning techniques to keep the fight in his world, but Yan’s forward pressure and wrestling ability means he just has a little edge. Sandhagen has struggled in later rounds in the past and I think Yan can outwork him over 25 minutes for a thrilling win. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Jan Blachowicz (28-8) vs Glover Teixeira (32-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight title fight between the top two ranked guys in the world. Blachowicz is coming off the back of five-fight win streak including winning the belt with a KO of Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 before a dominant win over Israel Adesanya at UFC 259. Teixeira earned himself a title shot with a five-fight win streak of his own, ending in a dominant KO win over Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 13.
Blachowicz is a really well-rounded fighter with his ‘legendary Polish power’ matched up with great wrestling and excellent cardio. Teixeira on the other hand has got crisp boxing and excellent power, while his ground game is among the nastiest in the UFC in any weight. Blachowicz and Teixeira are both veterans of the sport, but the four-year age gap does certainly help the champion.
Teixeira will likely want to use his clean technique on the feet to land his big strikes, while Blachowicz will look to close the distance and make it dirty to use his physical style before unloading his big right hand. Teixeira will also look to get this fight to the ground to use his jiu-jitsu, but if Blachowicz ends up on top he’ll have the edge there too because of his physicality. Blachowicz for me has a power and speed edge on the feet and I think he lands one of those big shots early and gets the finish with some ground and pound. PICK – Jan Blachowicz via Knockout, Round 3
Shamil Gamzatov (14-0) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (15-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting fight at 205lbs between two prospects in the division. Gamzatov is an undefeated stud with one win in the UFC against Klidson Abreu back in 2019. Oleksiejczuk snapped a two fight losing streak last time out with a split decision win over the now released Modestas Bukauskas at UFC 260.
Gamzatov is a good grappler with strong wrestling skills but he’s also got decent power in his hands to try and pressure opponents with. Oleksiejczuk on the other hand is a powerful kickboxer with good cardio and a decent offensive takedown game too. It’s a fight where generally both fighter’s strengths play into the opponent’s weaknesses.
Normally in that scenario you go with the wrestler because they can dictate where the fight goes. ‘Lord’ has got decent takedown defence though and if he can survive the initial blitzes he can land big strikes more as the fight goes on to secure a victory. PICK – Michal Oleksiejczuk via Decision
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (22-7) vs Benoit Saint-Denis (8-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun welterweight clash up next as Elizeu Zaleski takes on the undefeated debutant. Zaleski has lost two of his last three in the UFC, with a split decision defeat against Muslim Salikhov at UFC 261 last time out. Saint-Denis has gone 8-0 with a 100% finish rate, including seven submission wins.
Zaleski is a talented kickboxer with great power in his hands and a good ability to scramble to his feet when he is taken down. Saint-Denis on the other hand is the total opposite, who will charge forward for takedowns early and use his natural strength to keep him down and search for finishes. Saint-Denis’ striking is horrendous and if Zaleski can get them to exchange on the feet he has a huge chance.
Zaleski does give up takedowns relative easily though which Saint-Denis will love, but he’s never been submitted in his professional career. He’s good at scrambling back up and in those striking exchanges he has the power to end it. Saint-Denis will slow as the fight goes on and Zaleski will land a nasty combination to secure a highlight reel KO. PICK – Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos via Knockout, Round 2
Albert Duraev (14-3) vs Roman Kopylov (8-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fun middleweight clash in this one as Duraev gets a quick turnaround following his win on Dana White’s Contender Series last month. A neck crank victory earned him a contract and he’s met against prospect Kopylov, who lost his only UFC fight back in 2019.
Duraev is a brilliant wrestler with excellent low kicks and submission skills, while Kopylov is a good kickboxer who has had troubles against grapplers in the past. Stepping in on short-notice, Kopylov will be fighting for the first time in two years but it seems like a rough fight for him.
Kopylov has the edge on the feet but with Duraev’s pressure, wrestling and submission skills the likelihood is he won’t get much of a chance to use that. Duraev is likely to rush him, pound him and then choke him out early to make a big impression. PICK – Albert Duraev via Submission, Round 1
Ricardo Ramos (15-3) vs Zubaira Tukhugov (19-5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun featherweight bout up next between a Brazilian and Russian prospect. Ramos earned a win against Bill Algeo at UFC Vegas 27 via decision, while Tukhugov dropped a split decision to Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 253 last time out.
Ramos is a very technical kickboxer with good wrestling skills in his back pocket too, while Tukhugov is your standard beastly wrestler who looks to drag his opponent down over and over again and just wear him out. Ramos secured eight takedowns in his last fight to show his chops, but he has been taken down fairly regularly in his career which doesn’t bode well for him.
Tukhugov has had issues with his cardio in the past that he’ll need to have in check for this fight, but ultimately I think his wrestling his good enough to win at least two rounds and thus the fight. PICK – Zubaira Tukhugov via Decision
Amanda Ribas (10-2) vs Virna Jandiroba (17-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very interesting and fun women’s strawweight fight is the featured prelim bout on the night. Ribas submitted Paige Van Zant at UFC 251 but then got knocked out by Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257 in January last time out. Jandiroba suffered defeat to Mackenzie Dern at UFC 256 before returning to the win column against Kanako Murata at UFC Vegas 29.
Ribas is a stud grappler, with brilliant submission skills to go with her excellent jiu-jitsu. Her striking isn’t the most crisp, but she can generally hold her own in the stand-up against someone who isn’t a primary striker. Jandiroba is a brilliant wrestler who has shown improved stand-up and great power in her most recent outings. It’s a really intriguing fight because while Ribas is great with her submissions, I wouldn’t say she’s as dangerous as Dern despite her win over her.
Jandiroba’s cardio is unmatched and she is one of the better wrestlers in the division. If she can push the pace against Ribas, who cuts A LOT of weight, and land her power punches mixed in with her wrestling she should be able to secure a really close, entertaining win. PICK – Virna Jandiroba via Decision
UFC 267 took a small hit at the weigh-ins on Fight Island this morning after one fight was scrapped and Khamzat Chimaev missed weight on his initial attempt.
The UFC returns to Fight Island for the first time since the start of the year with two title fights headlining the card as Jan Blachowicz takes on Glover Teixeira in the light heavyweight division, while Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen go head-to-head for the interim bantamweight title.
But on a stacked 15-fight card, there was no chance it would go down with no hiccups and that was ultimately the case on Friday morning.
The returning Chimaev was the last one to take to the scale for his welterweight bout against Jingliang Li and initially weighed in half-a-pound over the 171lbs limit for the fight, seemingly touching the towel too after stripping down.
He returned shortly after and after the scale initially gave an incorrect reading, he officially weighed in at 171lbs for the fight to make it official.
At the start of the weigh-ins though there was a huge miss for the lightweight fight between Magomed Mustafaev and Damir Ismagulov.
Imsagulov, who was preparing for his fifth UFC fight having won each of his previous four, weighed in at 163.5lbs for the bout – a massive 7.5lbs over the 156lbs limit.
That means that the bout has been officially scrapped by the UFC, with Mustafaev making weight at the 156lbs limit.
Both title fights were made official, with all four fighters weighing in at their respective maximum limits.
UFC 267 will take place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on Saturday October 30th with a special start time of 15:30 BST for the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, with BT Sport starting their coverage with the prelims from 17:00 BST.
FULL WEIGH-IN RESULTS
Jan Blachowicz (205) vs Glover Teixeira (205) Petr Yan (135) vs Cory Sandhagen (135) Islam Makhachev (155.5) vs Dan Hooker (156) Alexander Volkov (263) vs Marcin Tybura (249) Li Jingliang (171) vs Khamzat Chimaev (171)** Magomed Ankalaev (205.5) vs Volkan Oezdemir (205.5) Amanda Ribas (115.5) vs Virna Jandiroba (116) Ricardo Ramos (146) vs Zubaira Tukhugov (146) Albert Duraev (186) vs Roman Kopylov (186) Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (170.5) vs Benoît St. Denis (171) Michal Oleksiejczuk (206) vs Shamil Gamzatov (206) Makwan Amirkhani (146) vs Lerone Murphy (146) Hu Yaozong (186) vs Andre Petroski (185.5) Damir Ismagulov (163.5)* vs Magomed Mustafaev (156) Tagir Ulanbekov (125) vs Allan Nascimento (126)
* Missed weight, fight cancelled per UFC. ** Missed weight on initial attempt, made 171lbs on second attempt.
Last week at UFC Vegas 41 we had a rough time with our picks, landing just 7/13 correct with three perfect picks to move us up to 446/702 (63.53%) with 190 perfect picks (42.6%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that with this huge 15-fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Tagir Ulanbekov (13-1) vs Allan Nascimento (17-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight bout opens up the card on Fight Island. Ulanbekov has won his last four-in-a-row, including his UFC debut against Bruno Silva at UFC Fight Island 5 last year. Nascimento was beaten on Dana White’s Contender Series but then returned to Brazil with a victory to earn this UFC debut.
Ulanbekov is a brilliant wrestler, who uses his top game and ground and pound strikes to control his opponent and win fights. Nascimento is more of an all-rounder, with explosive striking and good scrambles on the mat to go with 13 submission wins in his career. This fight is always certain to go to the ground, but it’s all about who ends up on top.
The likelihood in my opinion is that guy will be Ulanbekov. Nascimento has struggled with worse wrestlers in the past and while the Russian will have to be careful of potential submission attempts, I expect him to rack up plenty of top control to earn a decision win. PICK – Tagir Ulanbekov via Decision
Magomed Mustafaev (14-4) vs Damir Ismagulov (23-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An absolute banger at lightweight in a potential fight of the night contender next. Mustafaev has lost two of his last three in the UFC, with defeat to Brad Riddell most recently in February 2020 while Ismagulov has won 18-in-a-row including all four of his UFC bouts, with victory over Rafael Alves at UFC Vegas 27 most recently.
This is a super exciting fight. Mustafaev is a vicious kickboxer with super heavy kicks and brilliant punching power too. Something he doesn’t have though is brilliant wrestling, something Ismagulov has and is able to mix in with his own excellent striking. Mustafaev’s kicks could become nullified if Ismagulov looks to catch them, with the Kazakhstan fighter using his jab and low kicks of his own to earn victories.
Both men have the ability to end the fight in range, but neither have ever been knocked out before in their career. That leads me to think control could be key and with Ismagulov having the wrestling edge, he’ll claim the victory. PICK – Damir Ismagulov via Decision
Hu Yaozong (3-2) vs Andre Petroski (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A weird fight in the middleweight division between two relative novices in the UFC. Yaozong has lost both of his UFC appearances and hasn’t fought since way back in 2018, while Petroski was part of the contenders in the most recent Ultimate Fighter series who earned his first win against Michael Gillmore at UFC Vegas 35.
Yaozong is a decent kickboxer on the feet, but he really struggled in all his UFC bouts prior to get that going. Petroski on the other hand has shown great wrestling skills with a good mix of ground and pound and submissions on the mat too, but when the takedown isn’t available he tends to look a little lost. Lucky for him, the version of Yaozong we all know can’t defend takedowns for love nor money.
Three years away is a long time, plus the fact he is fighting in a new weight class and he’s never really looked impressive means I have to go with Petroski to blast a takedown early and eventually secure a finish from the top. PICK – Andre Petroski via Submission, Round 1
Makwan Amirkhani (16-6) vs Lerone Murphy (10-0-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
One of my personal favourite fights on the card is a banger between two European featherweights. ‘Mr Finland’ Amirkhani has lost each of his last two, dropping decisions to Edson Barboza and Kamuela Kirk most recently at UFC Vegas 28. Murphy on the other hand has earned successive wins in the UFC against Ricardo Ramos at UFC Fight Island 2 before a decision win over Douglas Silva de Andrade at UFC Fight Island 8.
Amirkhani is a very technical and fun kickboxer, with good volume, great cardio and unbelievable wrestling. Murphy on the other hand is a very well rounded fighter too, with great one-punch power and excellent wrestling of his own too to control opponents. Amirkhani has been able to take down everyone he’s ever fought in the UFC and while I don’t expect this to be different, Murphy is good enough to get back up and be more physical.
Murphy has shown an ability to rally if a fight isn’t going his way, while Amirkhani has shown that he finds it hard to turn things around. With Murphy’s power and wrestling ability too, I expect he’ll be able to control the fight the longer it goes and earn a win in an entertaining fight. PICK – Lerone Murphy via Decision
It’s been over a year since Jan Blachowicz laid claim to the throne in the light heavyweight division and took over from Jon Jones as champion.
An excellent performance against Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 saw him earn the knockout victory and end the long road to a title that he had been pushing for, for years.
It was his 15th fight with the organisation, which started with four defeats in his first six bouts between 2014 and 2017.
Following a defeat to Patrick Cummins at UFC 210, Blachowicz went to the well and honed his craft.
Six months later he returned to the cage in his homeland of Poland to submit Devin Clark, before a decision win over now middleweight contender Jared Cannonier meant he ended the year with some momentum.
He then avenged his loss to Jimi Manuwa the following year and then stopped Nikita Krylov via submission to make it three post-fight bonuses in four fights. He had arrived.
A knockout defeat to Thiago Santos followed, as the Brazilian made his own ascent towards a title challenge. But Blachowicz refused to lie down and built back up once again.
He starched Luke Rockhold at UFC 239 with a stunning knockout, before a split decision win over Jacare Souza in Brazil. He followed that up with a knockout win over current Bellator contender Corey Anderson to make it two more performance bonuses in three fights before the title fight with Reyes.
After dominating Reyes in that fight, his first defence came against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, who was moving up as an undefeated fighter to try and become a double champ.
But despite dominant displays in his two title fights, there are still question marks over his reign.
He never beat the long-time champion to win the belt, and his first defence came against an under-sized opponent who he didn’t even finish. At UFC 267 though, he will take on the official number one contender and experienced Glover Teixeira.
It’s a fight that is hard to believe has never happened before, but these two experienced giants are without a doubt two of the very best in the world in their division.
Teixeira is a super talented boxer on the feet, with one of the nastiest ground games in all of the UFC. This is a genuine test for Blachowicz, who is taking the bout seriously and readying himself for war.
But while question marks remain over his reign, there will be none should he leave UFC 267 victorious on Saturday night. He will be the undisputed best light heavyweight in the world, and his belt will prove it.
UFC 267 this weekend is set to be one of the biggest cards of the year, headlined by a double header of title fights at the top of the card.
One of those will be an interim title fight at bantamweight, arguably the most stacked division in the sport right now, between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen in a fight the people have dubbed as the people’s title fight.
They were supposed to run it back from UFC 259 after Yan became the first fighter to lose their title via disqualification when he kneed Sterling in the head while he was down and rendered him unable to continue.
The way that fight was going, Yan was set to retain his title. He had denied Sterling’s attempts to take him down and began finding the mark with his excellent boxing, while the cardio was holding up for him and Sterling was faltering.
A win on that night would’ve set up a title shot against Sandhagen. However because of the way that fight ended, ‘Sandman’ was forced to decide between waiting it out or taking another fight.
Listening to the company, he opted to take a huge fight against the returning former champion TJ Dillashaw and suffered a defeat in a razor close five-round war that could easily have gone either way.
At that point, it seemed as though he had lost his opportunity at the next title shot and would have to earn another win somewhere to get back into contention.
But when Sterling withdrew and Dillashaw had undergone knee surgery following his bout against Sandhagen, the UFC remembered that he didn’t need to take the fight that cost him the title shot and rewarded him.
Now you have two of the best pure strikers in the division going head-to-head, with UFC gold on the line and both men having a point to prove.
It’s the fight many wanted anyway and fans will now get to see arguably the two best 135lbers in the world go at it with the ultimate stakes on the line.
It’s the people’s main event and two of the very best in the world and my pick for the fight of the night on a stacked card.