UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz (28-8) is poised to do battle with No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira (32-7) this weekend in the main event of UFC 267. Fighting before the 205ers is a bantamweight interim-title bout between Cory Sandhagen (14-3) and former champion Petr Yan (15-2). Also featured on the card is the return of Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) and an appearance from Islam Makhachev (20-1).
This card has a decent slate of prelims and a main card that makes me feel giddy. The 2 p.m. pay-per-view boasts six fights and 11 ranked fighters. Every single bout is a contender for Fight of the Night, making this card simply impossible to miss.
Blachowicz vs. Teixeira
Our headliner between Blachowicz and Teixeira is extremely interesting, namely due to the similar reputations both of these fighters have. We are looking at the top two in a division still reeling from the long, dominant reign of Jon Jones (26-1), who retained the light heavyweight belt over 11 title defenses.
Blachowicz claimed the title in a bout with Dominick Reyes (12-3) and subsequently defended said title against Israel Adesanya (21-1). Both wins were in rather dominant fashion over extremely legitimate competition, which speaks to Blachowicz’s abilities. Despite this, I think that Jan doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect or attention he deserves and would go as far as to call him the UFC’s most underrated and underappreciated champion.
Teixeira is likewise long underappreciated and overlooked. In his ascension to a title shot, Glover has picked up wins in five straight. With the inclusion of Saturday’s main event, Glover has entered as a moderate underdog in each of his last three bouts.
How Blachowicz can win: Simple: Legendary Polish Power. Blachowicz’s moniker is very real — he hits extremely hard at 205 lbs and has disposed of many opponents via knockout. I refuse to speak down on Teixeira for his age because he has proven time and again that that’s no factor, so I will instead talk about his chin. Two of Glover’s three losses in the UFC have been via punches. So long as Blachowicz can keep up a consistent barrage and stuff the takedowns, he can take Glover out sooner or later over five rounds.
How Teixeira can win: Glover’s skill set is what adds an extra layer of excitement to this fight. His game plan of takedowns followed by mauling ground and pound is what disposed of Anthony Smith (36-16) and what softened Thiago Santos (22-9) up for the rear naked choke. Teixeira is super slick once the fight reaches the mat, and if he can get Jan down, we may see yet another Brazilian journeyman touch UFC gold, à la Charles Oliveira (31-8).
Charlie’s Prediction: Blachowicz via Decision
Peter’s Prediction: Blachowicz R2 KO/TKO
Yan vs. Sandhagen
Serving as the co-main event, Sandhagen and Yan’s interim bantamweight title bout is going to be fireworks too. Yan served as the actual champion up until his last fight when an illegal knee to the head of Aljamain Sterling (20-3) disqualified him and stripped him of the belt. Yan and Sterling were set for a rematch at 267, but Sterling had to pull out with his neck still healing from surgery.
Enter Sandhagen. Sandhagen is coming off the heels of a razor-thin split decision with TJ Dillashaw (18-4) in July, my front-runner for fight of the year. The interim match should be Yan and Dillashaw — a personal dream fight of mine. However, TJ opted for surgery of his own on his knee in July and obviously couldn’t make the fight in late October. All the same, Sandhagen is an extremely legitimate and very explosive mixed martial artist and should pose a legitimate threat to Yan.
How Yan can win: Yan is the best striker in the UFC bantamweight division. He poses such technical yet destructive strikes. Yan can take this home if he closes the distance and engages in a fire fight with Sandhagen. Yan is pretty good at keeping the fight where he wants it. In his fight with “Aljo,” Sterling attempted 17 takedowns and only managed to complete one. Yan lost the belt in a fight he was pretty much winning until he did something stupid. Don’t expect any slip-ups this time.
How Sandhagen can win: Cory is going to have to fight like hell to simply keep Yan at a distance. This matchup is pretty similar to that with Dillashaw, and Sandhagen likely learned a few lessons about the stout, power-punching type. If Cory can use his three-inch reach advantage, he can try to pick Yan apart at range and open him up for a Sandhagen flying knee or two.
Charlie’s prediction: Yan R4 KO/TKO
Peter’s prediction: Yan via Decision
Other things to watch for: Khamzat’s return
Former welterweight rising star and fan-favorite Chimaev is back after a long bout of health issues spurred by a positive COVID-19 test. Chimaev was supposed to fight Leon Edwards (19-3), and later prematurely announced his retirement from mixed martial arts at the age of 27 due to health concerns.
But “Borz” is back, and he’s set to fight Li Jingliang (18-6). Li is a decent mixed martial artist and has a ranking next to his name in the welterweight annals. That being said, this feels like a layup for Khamzat. He was previously fighting the No. 3 170er on the planet and is now gearing up to face a guy who couldn’t get a win over Neil Magny (25-9). Chimaev is currently a north of -500 favorite for his awaited return to the Octagon.
Check out @RedCornerDFP for full predictions of this weekend’s card.