Talented veteran, Jan Blachowicz, will welcome submission ace, Ronaldo Souza, to the Light Heavyweight division this Saturday (Nov. 16, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 164 from inside Ginásio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It’s amazing how one simple fix can change everything.
Blachowicz was defeated in four of his first six UFC fights, and these were frustrating losses. In many of them, Blachowicz won the first round or at least had serious moments of success. Then, he would start getting a bit tired, the fight would slowly pull away from him, and by the end of 15 minutes, the Polish athlete was on the wrong side of another decision loss.
I don’t know what precisely Blachowicz did to fix his cardio problem, but the results were immediate. Suddenly, all the skills Blachowicz had previously shown were coming together, allowing him to defeat really good opposition. He’s since won five of six fights — the sole loss a title eliminator match up with Thiago Santos — and is perhaps one more win from a title shot.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Blachowicz is a crafty kickboxer. “The Cieszyn Duke” does not seek to overwhelm opponents with power, as Blachowicz is a technician with sound fundamentals and smart tactics.
In general, Blachowicz prefers to operate as a counter puncher. He often fights from his back foot, drawing opponents into his hardest shots. While working from the outside, Blachowicz keeps a very active jab. Taking small steps back (giving ground), Blachowicz will look to plant and stick out a jab as his opponent steps forward. This was incredibly effective against Jimi Manuwa in their recent rematch, particularly because Manuwa tends to stand a bit square (GIF). Once the jab was established, Blachowicz did a nice job of setting up further left hooks and the right hand.
Blachowicz will break stance to fire multi-punch combinations, often with lunging uppercuts (GIF). This is also the habit that saw him blasted by a pair of Thiago Santos’ check hooks.
In addition, Blachowicz looks to pick at his opponent with kicks as they advance. Speed is the priority here, as Blachowicz will kick from his stance rather than load up the shot with power. Often, Blachowicz is stepping back before planting with a sudden switch kick to the belly, but he’ll look for quick digs into the lead leg as well.
The goal of Blachowicz’s approach is to land strikes from the very edge of his range, making it easier to evade/block whatever his opponent throws back and counter. It’s rather common for Blachowicz to trust his own distance and fire a check hook as his opponent throws or immediately after. In this example opposite Manuwa, Blachowicz caught Manuwa over-extending on a right hand and followed up with a left hook, cross, and body kick (GIF).
A major weapon of Blachowicz is the uppercut, which he’ll throw on the counter or as a lead. Generally, it’s his left uppercut, which can be thrown from the Orthodox stance or with a step into Southpaw that adds extra power. It’s a great weapon against crouching wrestlers like Patrick Cummins (GIF), and Blachowicz always follows up with more heavy punches after landing.
Against Manuwa, Blachowicz repeatedly found great success with his counter uppercut. Manuwa constantly hunts for the left hook and really loads up on the punch, which means he squares up his weight before throwing. Blachowicz countered by exploding into the uppercut as Manuwa shifted his weight, catching him square and low to the ground (GIF).
The final major weapon of Blachowicz’s gain is the power round kick. When moving forward, Blachowicz is more likely to commit his full weight behind the kick and really try to make it hurt (GIF). This shuffle into the kick really allows Blachowicz to load up and deliver a hugely powerful blow. Alternatively, Blachowicz will step back from the Orthodox into Southpaw, immediately firing the left kick when his foe steps forward.
In Blachowicz’s most recent win, the Polish striker knocked Luke Rockhold senseless twice in one fight. The finish came with a beautiful left hook on the break of the clinch — a proven weakness in Rockhold’s game. However, Blachowicz also did a nice job of setting up looping power shots by going low first, and that’s the technique that will be covered in this week’s technique highlight.
On the European mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, there are a great deal of fighters who rely on jiu-jitsu from their backs to counter takedowns rather than defensive wrestling. That mentality hurt Blachowicz earlier in his UFC career, but he’s since moved away from the mold.
Offensively, Blachowicz is certainly willing to wrestle. Blachowicz is a fighter who likes to jab from his back foot, and the timing for the double leg is often similar. As his opponent takes that step to close distance that Blachowicz has given up, he’ll plant and drive forward into a double leg instead of a jab (GIF). In a show of smarts against Manuwa, Blachowicz repeatedly used this double leg attempt to drive Manuwa back, turn a corner, and get his back off the fence.
Defensively, Blachowicz is decently difficult to takedown. He does a nice job of making clean shots difficult and fighting for underhooks along the fence. Against Rockhold, patient digging for underhooks and some hard elbows from the frame position proved more than enough to deny his foe’s shot.
The problem, however, comes when Blachowicz is successfully taken down. He’s still too willing to close full guard and roll for armbars, which is unlikely to work against high-level fighters consistently. Instead, it guarantees Blachowicz will spend more time on his back.
A black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Blachowicz has finished nine of his opponents via submission. Aside from the aforementioned armbar attempt that rarely works in the UFC — but to his credit, is done nicely — Blachowicz has scored pair of recent strangulation finishes.
The first, a bulldog choke over Devin Clark, was rather bizarre. Clark attempted to throw an overhand to disguise his double leg attempt, but he was way off-balance and his aim was off. As a result, he missed Blachowicz completely with the punch and ended up on a bad single leg shot. Ever the opportunist, Blachowicz crept his arm under the neck and locked up a rear naked choke grip. Though he was technically on the side of Clark rather than behind him, there was no escape once that grip was locked (GIF).
In Blachowicz’s most recent submission win, he expertly controlled Nikita Krylov before choking him out with a modified arm triangle. Perhaps more impressive than the submission itself was Blachowicz’s ability to keep Krylov completely flattened from chest and shoulder pressure. From side control, Blachowicz transitioned into North-South and around Krylov’s attempts to recover guard, keeping “Miner” pinned and exhausted. Krylov eventually gave up his back by turtling, but Blachowicz attacked with an arm triangle rather than taking the back. Locking in the hold, Blachowicz jumped across the body and then threw his hooks in. The result was an arm triangle somewhere between back mount and mount, directly on the side of Krylov, where Blachowicz could use his legs to extend into the already tight choke (GIF).
Blachowicz is one of the few highly ranked and established Light Heavyweights that have yet to square off with Jon Jones. He may be on just a single fight win streak, but that sole victory was one of the biggest highlights of his career. If he can deny “Jacare” in similar fashion, Blachowicz has a fair case for finally earning his title shot.
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Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.