The Octagon heads back to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this Saturday for UFC 267. The card features 15 fights in total, including the main card that features two UFC title fights. Let’s take a closer look at the six fights on the main card here at The AllStar.
Main event light heavyweight title bout: Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira (five rounds)
Blachowicz is the UFC light heavywight champion. The 38-year-old Pole won the vacant 205lbs belt last year over Dominick Reyes and then he defended his belt with an upset decision win over Israel Adesanya earlier this year. Overall, Blachowicz has won nine of his last 10 fights as he’s completely turned his career around and become a champ. Considering he was nearly cut a few years ago, it has been amazing to see him make this career turnaround.
Teixeira is the No. 1 contender at 205lbs. The 42-year-old Brazilian has compiled a 15-5 record in the Octagon dating back to 2012, and he is currently riding a five-fight win streak that includes a stoppage win over Thiago Santos in his last outing. Against Santos, we saw once again that Teixeira has a lethal submission game. However, he did get dropped in that fight, and historically, he hasn’t had the greatest chin. It will be interesting to see how Teixeira’s chin holds up against Blachowicz in what has the makings of a drawn-out fight.
Total rounds (2.5) Over -115 vs. Under -115
The total has been set at 2.5 rounds for this fight, which makes it tricky to bet on given the finishing prowess of both men. Having said that, both guys have been going longer in their fights as of late. So if I was forced to lean towards one side here, I would lean towards the over.
Although Texieria is incredible on the ground, Blachowicz has steadily improved his wrestling and grappling in recent years and he should be able to hold his own in that department. Therefore, it comes down to the striking, and I give Blachowicz the edge in terms of both power and volume. Look for Blachowicz to defend his belt by decision or late stoppage.
Co-main event vacant bantamweight title bout: Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen (five rounds)
Yan is the former UFC bantamweight champion and the current No. 1 contender. The 28-year-old Russian won the 135lbs belt last summer on Fight Island with an epic beatdown over Jose Aldo before losing his belt in his first title defense against Aljamain Sterling when he was disqualified. The loss to Sterling was Yan’s first in the Octagon and dropped him to 7-1 overall in the UFC. While he technically lost to Sterling via DQ, he showed before the ending of that fight that he truly is one of the best bantamweights we have ever seen in the UFC.
Sandhagen is one of the top-three ranked bantamweights in the UFC. The 29-year-old American has been in the UFC since 2018 and overall he has racked up a 7-2 record in the Octagon. Although he has lost some tough fights in the Octagon, Sandhagen has also looked amazing at times such as when he knocked out Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes. After losing a close decision to TJ Dillashaw in his last outing, Sandhagen stepped up on short notice when Sterling pulled out of UFC 267, and he will be looking to win the 135lbs belt.
Total rounds (4.5) Over -135 vs. Under +105
The total has been set at 4.5 rounds, with a slight lean towards the OVER as far as the betting odds go. Although Sandhagen and Yan both have the power to finish each other on the feet, it does feel like this fight is more likely going to go over the total and make it to the scorecards.
Yan vs. Sandhagen should be a competitive fight but it’s hard to go against Yan. By all accounts, he should be the UFC bantamweight champion right now. Against Sandhagen, I expect Yan to utilize more of his grappling skills in order to control him and win a decision.
A lightweight bout sees No. 6 ranked Dan Hooker step up on short notice to take on No. 5 ranked Islam Makhachev. On paper, Makhachev is the biggest favorite on this whole card, and it’s easy to see why. After all, Makhachev is only 30 years old and he is already 9-1 in the UFC including his current eight-fight win streak. Makhachev’s grappling is extremely dominant and very reminiscent of former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, his longtime friend. Indeed, he has used his wrestling to great effect in the UFC. He is also starting to become more of a finisher, having submitted his last two foes.
As for Hooker, he is a great fighter in his own right. But the prevailing thought from most analysts seems to be that he is going to struggle with the grappling of Makhachev. Although Hooker is actually a very underrated wrestler in his own right, it’s just hard to see him stopping Makhachev’s shots for 15 minutes. Hooker is the better striker and definitely has the power to knock Makhachev out if he gets the chance. But barring a KO on the feet, it’s hard to see him winning this fight. Look for Makhachev to grind on Hooker for a decision.
In a heavyweight bout, No. 5 ranked Alexander Volkov takes on No. 9 ranked Marcin Tybura. Starting with The 33-year-old Volkov, he first joined the UFC in 2016 and he has since racked up a 7-3 record in the Octagon. Volkov is 6’7″ which makes him one of the tallest heavyweights in the UFC. He also does a good job of utilizing his 80″ reach to keep his opponents at bay with his jab. As well, he packs serious power in his right hand, making him a dangerous fighter. Though Volkov lost a decision to Ciryl Gane in his last fight, he knocked out Alistair Overeem before that, and he’ll look to get another KO here against Tybura.
Tybura is 35 years old now but he has finally started to become more consistent with his performances as he’s won his last five straight fights. Tybura has been using his grappling to great effect in order to take his opponent down to the mat and grind them out. However, in his last fight against Walt Harris, he had to survive an early onslaught of punches. It’s hard to believe he will be able to survive against someone like Volkov who has more gas in the tank. Before Tybura’s current win streak, he was on a skid of losing four of fights five, with three of those losses coming by KO. I think his chin fails him here as Volkov gets the finish.
In welterweight action, unranked phenom Khamzat Chimaev makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon when he takes on No. 11 ranked Li Jingliang. Just 27 years old, Chimaev took the UFC by storm in the summer of 2020. He made his debut on Fight Island and stopped John Phillips at 185lbs. Chimaev returned 10 days later and stopped Rhys McKee at 170lbs. He then fought a month later and stopped Gerald Meerschaert up at 185lbs. Chimaev was then booked in a welterweight title fight against Leon Edwards but had to pull out due to COVID-19. Now that he is finally healthy, Chimaev is looking to get his hype back.
The 33-year-old Jingliang has been in the UFC since 2014 and he has gone 10-2 overall during that stretch while fighting mostly tough competition in the Octagon. In his last fight earlier this year, Jingliang knocked out Santiago Ponzinibbio for his best win yet. Overall, he has won four of his last five fights. He is also a bit of a bonus machine, having won six bonuses in his last eight fights. As good as Jingliang is with his striking, though, it is hard to see him having any sort of success in stuffing Chimaev’s takedowns. Given that Chimaev has won all of his career fights by stoppage up to this point, there is a chance he finishes Jingliang.
Kicking off the main card is a light heavyweight bout between No. 7 ranked Magomed Ankalaev and No. 8 ranked Volkan Oezdemir. Starting with Ankalaev, he is 29 years old and has racked up a 6-1 record since joining the UFC in 2018. His UFC career started with a last-second submission loss to Paul Craig but he hasn’t lost since then. He has shown huge power in his striking to go along with improved grappling as he’s become a top contender at 205lbs.
The 32-year-old Oezdemir, meanwhile, joined the Octagon in 2017 and he won the first three fights of his UFC career before getting a title shot. He then fought Daniel Cormier for the 205lbs strap back in 2018 and lost via knockout, the first of three straight losses for Oezdemir. Since then, he has gone 2-1, but with a KO loss to Jiri Prochazka in his last fight. Oezdemir can crack with the best of them, but Ankalaev has proven to be quite durable so far in the UFC. In fact, it seems more likely that it’s Ankalev who knocks Oezdemir out in this fight.