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OK then. Still a few weeks away but this is too good a card to not be talking about. Back on Fight Island as well! PPV MAIN CARD Jan Blachowicz vs Glover Teixeira - Light Heavyweight Title Aljamain Sterling vs Petr Yan - Bantamweight Title Islam Makhachev vs Rafael Dos Anjos Li Jingliang vs Khamzat Chimaev Magomed Ankalaev vs Volkan Oezdemir ESPN PRELIMS Alexander Volkov vs Marcin Tybura Amanda Ribas vs Virna Jandiroba Tai Tuivasa vs TBA Zubaira Tukhugov vs Ricardo Ramos ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Michal Oleksiejczuk vs Shamil Gamzatov Makwan Amirkhani vs TBA Damir Ismagulov vs Magomed Mustafaev Tagir Ulanbekov vs Allan Nascimento Hu Yaozong vs Alen Amedovski Guessed the bout order for now, I’ll update it as and when. But that’s the card. Ridiculous. And best of all, we’ll be getting this at a decent hour for once. Think I saw somewhere that the main card should kick off at 8pm UK time! Jan Blachowicz vs Glover Teixeira sits atop an absolutely stacked card. Good fight. We’ve had better main events but we’ve certainly had worse. I’m looking forward to it. As much as we all love a bit of bad blood and a grudge match, sometimes it’s refreshing to just see a battle of babyfaces. Whatever the result here, you know a good egg is leaving with the gold. Style-wise, I can’t imagine it not being fun to watch either. Blachowicz is 38 years old with a record of 28-8 and 17 finishes. Fought most of his pre-UFC career in KSW in Poland, where he became the Light Heavyweight champion. Wins over former UFC fighters like Sokoudjou, Houston Alexander and Goran Reljic got him noticed and by October 2014, he was making his UFC debut, stopping Ilir Latifi with a body kick in less than 2 minutes. He had a few setbacks early on. He went 2-4 in his first 6 trips to the Octagon. But he kept plugging away and quietly stacking up wins. By 2020, he was a contender. And Jon Jones stepping away and vacating the belt only helped his chances of reaching the top. He took on Dominick Reyes for the vacant strap at UFC 253 in September 2020 and the ‘Polish Power’ was unleashed. I don’t think anyone saw Blachowicz coming as far as being in the title mix went. Mostly because Jones had been so dominant that I don’t think anyone could picture a champ at 205 beyond him. But Jan putting Reyes away in that manner was very impressive. Especially as Reyes had taken Jones to the wire in a razor close fight only months earlier. Jan The Man followed that up with a champ vs champ ‘Superfight’ against Israel Adesanya in March. He won a clear unanimous decision, dominating for large spells of it, successfully defended his title for the first time and handed Adesanya the first loss of his pro MMA career. You look back over Jan’s career and maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that he’s risen up the ranks the way he has. He’s currently 9-1 in his last 10 and has won his last 5. He doesn’t do anything flashy and he doesn’t talk a bunch of shite. He just goes about his business and keeps winning fights. For Glover it’s been a long and rough road to get to this point. Grappling is his original background and would turn out to be his gateway to MMA. He actually beat Dean Lister in the ADCCs, which I don’t think many people realise. Started his MMA career training at ‘The Pit’ with Chuck Liddell, back when Chuck was in his prime. Turned pro in 2002 and after initially going 2-2 in his first 4 fights, something clicked for him and he just started wrecking shop. From mid 2006 until 2013, Glover went unbeaten, rattling off 20 straight wins, 18 inside the distance. During this streak he beat the likes of Sokoudjou, Marvin Eastman and former UFC Heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez. I remember hearing for years how he was a beast. There was almost this mythical aura around him. Chuck would bring him up a lot and even Dana would mention him from time to time, which was unusual for him to praise someone he never had under contract. But Visa issues delayed it for years. By 2012, it finally got resolved and he was UFC bound. He made short work of Kyle Kingsbury in his debut but it was his second UFC outing that really got people’s attention. He battered, bloodied and bludgeoned a game but woefully outmatched Fabio Maldonado. One of the most vicious and disturbing beatings in UFC history. Aside from one big punch that rocked Glover for a few seconds, it was just wall to wall GBH and Fabio got messed up. Over the years that followed, Glover had his ups and downs. Wins over Rampage Jackson and Ryan Bader got him a UFC title shot in 2014, but he came up short and got his long winning streak ended by Jon Jones. He’s had a few losses since, the brutal knockouts he suffered at the hands of Rumble and Gustafsson being the most memorable. But on the whole, it’s been more good than bad. And currently he’s enjoying a late career resurgence. He’s won 5 in a row and stopped Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith in his last two. He also subbed the dangerous and much younger Ion Cutelaba not too long ago. 32-7 now. He’ll be turning 42 years old just 2 days before this fight. You’ve got to think this is his last chance at UFC gold. And his best chance. Let’s face it, good as he is, he was never beating prime Jones in 2014. No Light Heavyweight was. With Jones out the way, as tough a task as beating Jan Blachowicz is, it’s much more doable than that was. I like both of these two but I can’t lie, I’m fully rooting for Glover here. What a story it would be for him to finally win that belt now, right at the end of his career after an unexpected resurgence. My heart says Glover but my head’s telling me Big Jan gets it done. He’s riding high now coming off that Adesanya win. Plus, although Glover is tough as fuck and has shown a few times he can come back from the brink to pull out a win, he does seem to get wobbled at least once every fight. If it happens here I can’t see Jan letting him off the hook. Glover’s always a threat though, even when he’s rocked. It’s what makes his fights so exciting. And for all the talk of Glover’s age, Blachowicz is only 3 years younger. Hopefully it’s a great fight, with both looking good. But ultimately, Glover holding the belt at the end. Aljamain Sterling vs Petr Yan 2. OK then. Time to finally settle it. Feels like we’ve been waiting for this forever but the first fight was only in March. I think the mess leading up to that first fight makes the whole thing feel like it’s dragged even more though. If you remember, this all started when Henry Cejudo retired and vacated the Bantamweight title. Yan then beat Jose Aldo in July last year to become the new champ. And Sterling was fresh off a stunning 90 second submission over Cory Sandhagen. Yan vs Sterling was originally supposed to happen in December at UFC 256 but got scrapped and postponed until UFC 259 in March this year. It finally happened and for 4 and a bit rounds it was an action packed, engrossing battle. Sterling had set a ridiculously fast pace right away and Yan seemed a bit flummoxed by it early on. As the fight wore on though, Sterling wasn’t able to keep it up and Yan was getting into the fight big time. I’ll have to rewatch the fight to refresh my memory but by the 4th, I’m sure I had Yan ahead and in control of the fight. Then for reasons known only to him… It baffled me then, it still does now. It wasn’t like he was losing and threw the knee out of desperation. Like I said, the momentum was with him at this point in the fight. You could hear the referee warning him that Sterling was a downed opponent so there was no grey area here. It was blatantly intentional. Yan was rightly disqualified and Sterling was awarded the belt. Just a shite situation for all involved. Winning a title on a DQ is cack but I’m not sure what what else could’ve been done. Yan’s knee was about as cut and dry as it gets as an intentional foul. You watch it back and it wasn’t even like it was a heat of the moment thing where he threw the knee in a wild flurry. He paused, had a couple of seconds to think about it and just blasted him. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Yan did it. He was winning and he pissed it all up the wall. Proper Andrew Golota vibes. The fallout has been a bit ugly as well. Sterling copped some shit for celebrating with the title despite ‘not actually winning it’. And they’ve both been having digs at each other every chance they get in the months that have followed. Sterling’s had to take some time out for a neck injury, I think, so it took a while for a date to get nailed down for this rematch. Finally got confirmed over the summer and here we are. Hopefully there’ll be no controversy this time because I really think there’s a classic to be had here with these two. The first fight was shaping up to be something special before Yan went all Pride rules on him. It’s got serious potential to be a FOTY contender for me and now with the added backstory of the first fight and the bad blood, it just adds that extra bit of spice to it. I’m a huge fan of both bell to bell, even though Yan seems a bit of a bellend outside the cage, so I’m absolutely buzzing for this. Islam Makhachev vs Rafael Dos Anjos is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** on this bad boy. Even as loaded as this card is, this is the fight that stands out to me. Anyone who’s read my posts over the last year or so will know I’ve been banging the drum about wanting to see Makhachev finally get that step up in a big fight, and this matchup in particular is the one I’ve been calling for. We should’ve already seen it in November actually. It was all set to headline over 5 rounds on that show but Makhachev dropped out about a week before the fight with staph infection. I was gutted. Paul Felder ended up stepping in on short notice and RDA won on points. Despite the pullout the last time these two were paired up, RDA has been inactive since and Makhachev’s fought twice so far this year. He beat Drew Dober in March and then Thiago Moises in July, both by submission. Makhachev’s been talked about for a while as being one of the most promising up and comers in the stacked Lightweight division. A student of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, a protégé of Khabib, now 20-1 in MMA and on an 8 fight winning streak. It really feels like now is the time to step him up to that next level and see what happens. While Dos Anjos might be older and a step slower than his peak, he’s still a skilled, tough and experienced veteran and a former UFC champ. He’s had his losses but only really at the highest levels. You have to really have something about you to beat RDA. And even more to finish him. Got to think that’ll be Makhachev’s aim here. Not just to win, but to finish RDA. Something even Khabib was unable to get done back in 2014. After living in Khabib’s shadow for so long, a statement like that would go a long way. A win here full stop would be a breakthrough for him. A finish would be next level. And if RDA wins, what a feather in his cap that would be. The guy everyone wants to write off as past it beating the guy many think is the future of the 155 jungle. It’d be a huge ‘fuck you’ to everyone trying to close the book on his career. Fucking love this fight. Only negative I can find is that it’s only 3 rounds now. 5 rounds of these two would’ve been incredible. Li Jingliang vs Khamzat Chimaev. Here we go. Finally, Chimaev’s back. He’s kind of become a bit of a forgotten man due to the layoff but he was the talk of the MMA world in 2020. The hype on him was silly at times but he’s passed every test so far so who really knows? Maybe he’s everything he’s been cracked up to be. We should hopefully get some answers here, or at least more of a read on what he’s about, because Jingliang is no pushover. He’s 33 years old, a BJJ black-belt and has a MMA record of 18-6 with 13 finishes. He’s got solid stoppage wins over Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, Dhiego Lima and David Zawada. But his biggest win came in his most recent fight in January, when he sparked Santiago Ponzinibbio in a round. It was a bad one as well. Ponz went down quick. Chimaev is the big prospect here. 9-0, 9 finishes, has utterly dominated every second of his UFC career so far. Oh and sorry to do this again but… Crumbled poor Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds in his last fight. The thing is though, that was a year ago now. And he hasn’t just been out of action, he’s really suffered in his battle with long COVID from everything I’m reading. It was so bad that at one point he even said he was done with fighting. He was scheduled to fight Leon Edwards about 3 times at the start of this year but didn’t make it. It’s really knocked him about. Thankfully he’s turned the corner and should hopefully be good to go now. “I am still here, unfortunately for my opponents.” - Khamzat Chimaev Interesting times ahead. There’s been a ton of hype, Dana’s probably his biggest cheerleader. And with that there also comes the detractors. People saying he’s only hype, has beat bums etc. For one, we can’t say he’s a future champ or all hype yet. It’s too early. And he might be neither. Chances are he’ll fall somewhere in the middle. Also, he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert in seconds. Meerschaert is a 47 fight veteran and has won his 2 fights since by submission. Including derailing Makhmud Muradov who was on a tear previously. That win by Chimaev is looking better with every feel-good win our Gerry secures. It all remains to be seen but that’s the fun of it. On paper, Jingliang should be at least a test for Chimaev, if not more. Especially with Chimaev coming back from the time on the shelf. Really fun matchup this. I’ll say this though. If Chimaev does win, after this layoff and his health problems, and it looks anything like the massacres we’ve seen so far, then it’s time people shut the fuck up on the ‘hype job’ stuff. Whether he goes all the way or loses his next fight, something like that would prove he’s the real deal. Magomed Ankalaev vs Volkan Oezdemir. This should be a right banger. It was supposed to happen on that Brunson vs Till card. The London card that wasn’t in London. Can’t remember why it got delayed, I’m just happy it’s been rescheduled. People like to slag off the Light Heavyweight division but there’s still some cracking fights popping up. Ankalaev’s probably the real darkhorse of 205 for me. For the longest time, all the talk about the next wave of LHW prospects had centred around Dominick Reyes, Johnny Walker, Aleksandar Rakic and now most recently Jiri Prochazka. But Ankalaev has been sneaking up on us and racking up wins without much fanfare the whole time. He’s 15-1 with 9 knockouts and has won his last 6 in a row. His only loss was a submission against Paul Craig in the very last second of a fight he’d been winning comfortably. If he’d held on for literally one more second, he’d still be undefeated as I type this. He’s rebounded nicely since though. He beat Nikita Krylov in his last fight and absolutely murdered Ion Cutelaba in cold blood before that. Nasty bastard. And still young, he’s not long turned 29. He just needs that breakout win over a solid name to really catapult himself into the mix at the top end of the division. Oezdemir could be that guy but he certainly won’t be a willing stepping stone. He’s already mixed at the top of 205. He came into the UFC with some hype and was knocking heads off in seconds. Living up to that ‘No Time’ nickname. But he got bashed in his title shot against Daniel Cormier in 2018 and went on a bit of a slump after that before bouncing back with wins over Rakic and Latifi. His points loss to Reyes was questionable as well, a lot of people thought Volkan was hard done by with the judging that night if I recall correctly. He got brutally switched off by Jiri in his last fight though, so coming back against an animal like Ankalaev is a ballsy move. Should be fireworks. If Ankalaev wins I’d like to see him matched up with Rakic next. Let’s start pitting these up and comers against each other and see what’s what. Alexander Volkov vs Marcin Tybura. Ehh. It’s alright, I suppose. As far as Heavyweights go, we could’ve got a lot worse than this. It’s not doing much for me but it’s not awful or anything. Both beat up Greg Hardy, so there’s that. Good fellas. And Hardy forgot his shinebox. Anyway, Volkov was starting to put together a nice little streak. He got the TKO over Walt Harris last October then followed up with another stoppage against Alistair Overeem in February. He was building momentum and the Overeem performance in particular was probably the best he’s ever looked in his career. It all got undone in June though, when Ciryl Gane picked him apart for 25 minutes. No shame there. Gane won the interim title in his next fight and looks like he’s gonna go on to become something special. But it really pissed on Volkov’s chips. Coming off the best win of his career, looking better than ever, and this fucking Gane comes along. If you’re Volkov you’ve got to be asking, why now? Gane the bastard. Tybura is 22-6 and on a 5 fight winning streak. Like I said, bashed up Greg The Wifebeater in December, which was lovely. But then bashed up Walt Harris in June, which wasn’t lovely. Not sure what happens here. On the strength of Volkov’s showing against Reem he should be able to get the better of this. But Volkov isn’t always the most consistent and the Gane loss might’ve set him back mentally. Amanda Ribas vs Virna Jandiroba is one of my favourite fights on the card. Sounds mad considering how deep a card it is but I love this pairing. I’ve been a big fan of Ribas for a while now. One of the more likeable fighters on the roster these days for me. If someone said she was Junior Dos Santos’ little sister, I wouldn’t doubt it. They’ve both got that goofy, child like happiness to them. She can definitely fight as well. She’s coming off a bad knockout loss to Marina Rodriguez in January but I still think she can be a player at Strawweight. She’s still only 28 and she looked impressive in her wins over Paige VanZant and Randa Markos. But the win over Mackenzie Dern in 2019 was her best. And it’s aged well with how great Dern’s looked since. Ribas could still be a problem for most of the division, in my opinion. But that loss to Rodriguez was a big setback. Hopefully she can bounce back. But do I hope she can bounce back in this fight? I don’t know. In just 3 fights, Virna Jandiroba has quickly become an undercard favourite of mine. I didn’t see her Invicta stuff or her first couple of UFC fights. My introduction to her was her fight with Felice Herrig last August. She just completely went through her like a knife through butter. Dominated and submitted her in less than 2 minutes. Her grappling was beautiful to watch. Reminded me of early BJ Penn. She came up short against Mackenzie Dern on points after that but fought well. Then in June she battered Kanako Murata on the feet, tied her in knots on the ground and broke her arm, forcing the ref to call it off between rounds. Not sure how far she can go but she’s class. Awesome grappling, not the prettiest striking but she commits and it’s effective for her style. Thinking about how she could match up with Namajunas, Zhang, Jedrzejczyk and even Dern in a rematch, there’s so many potentially brilliant fights to make. This one with Ribas should be bags of fun as well. I hate that one of them has to lose though. It’s either gonna derail Jandiroba’s progress or set Ribas back even further. Hopefully they have one of those barnburners where they both come out of it with their stock raised regardless of the actual result. Zubaira Tukhugov vs Ricardo Ramos. Not that fussed but it’s a decent little fight. Tukhugov is 19-5-1 now and lost a decision to Hakeem Dawodu in his last fight. That was last September though so he’ll have been out over a year by the time he steps into the cage here. Nothing really sticks out in my memory about his fights. The main thing I remember him for is when he jumped the fence to give Conor McGregor a slap after the Khabib fight. Aside from that, I’m drawing a blank on him. Ramos is 15-3 and has been a bit hit and miss in the UFC. The highlight for him so far would be his spinning elbow KO against Aiemann Zahabi a few years back. He also subbed Luiz Garagorri (who I liked the look of at the time) in a round as well. Hopefully he’ll be able to get something enjoyable out of Tukhugov here. Michal Oleksiejczuk vs Shamil Gamzatov. Could be a bit of a slobberknocker this. Oleksiejczuk is Polish, 26 years old and he’s 15-4-0-1 with 10 knockouts. He’s had a few half decent UFC wins. He beat Khalil Rountree back in 2017 as well but it got overturned to a NC because USADA caught him using something naughty. He’ll never be a contender, he’s nothing special from what I recall seeing of him. But he throws bombs with reckless abandon and there’s always room on a card for a nutcase like that. Gamzatov is undefeated at 14-0 with 10 finishes. It’s one of those records that doesn’t actually tell you much though. Half of it is unknowns and the few names I recognise aren’t that good. Still, he’s not lost so you can’t dismiss him. It’s how he does now that matters. As he steps up in levels. Oleksiejczuk isn’t amazing but at least he’s dangerous. We’ll see how Gamzatov approaches it. Damir Ismagulov vs Magomed Mustafaev. Don’t know enough about either really but it doesn’t sound a bad fight on paper. Can’t recall if I’ve even seen Ismagulov fight before but he’s 20-1 and hasn’t lost since 2015. He’s a former M-1 Lightweight champion and he’s beat Thiago Moises, Joel Alvarez and Rafael Alves so far in the UFC. Mustafaev I’m a bit more familiar with. He’s 15-3 and his biggest scalp is undoubtedly his first round TKO over Rafael Fiziev in 2019. His only losses are to Kevin Lee and Brad Riddell but even then I vaguely recall him giving Lee some bother before getting caught in a choke and the Riddell loss was a split decision. Not like he’s just been dominated or completely outclassed. At first glance it’s a nothing fight really but these guys could be better than we think. Tagir Ulanbekov vs Allan Nascimento. Bit of a shot in the dark here. Think I’ve seen Ulanbekov once, his UFC debut, but that’s it. He’s a teammate of Khabib’s and 13-1. Didn’t blow me away in his Octagon debut but he said himself it was his first time without Khabib’s old man in his corner and it took some getting used to. Curious to see how he looks here now he’s got that first fight and any ‘Octagon jitters’ out the way. Never heard of Nascimento. He’s from São Paulo, Brazil and has a record of 18-5 with 15 finishes, nearly all by submission. Hu Yaozong vs Alen Amedovski. Partridge shrug. I know barely anything about Amedovski. And Hu Yaozong? More like Who Yaozong? Don’t recall him at all. Sherdog is my friend. Amedovski is Macedonian, 8-2 with 8 knockouts. He did fight in the UFC a couple of times in 2019, which is where I vaguely remember him from, but lost both times to Krzysztof Jotko and John Phillips. He’s been inactive ever since. Yaozong is 26 years old with a dazzling 3-2 record and lost to Cyril Asker and Rashad Coulter in the UFC back in 2017/18. No recollection of that. And again, he hasn’t been seen since. Where have they dug these two up from? And how have they ended up on a card like this? Proper random.