One of the sport’s most unexpected champions meets one of its most timeless veterans this Saturday when Jan Blachowicz defends his UFC Light Heavyweight title against the immortal Glover Teixeira atop UFC 267. Also on tap are a Bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen and the return of Khamzat Chimaev against Welterweight slugger Li Jingliang.
Four more UFC 267 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Shall we take a gander?
115 lbs.: Amanda Ribas vs. Virna Jandiroba
Though a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension kept her out of action for two years, Amanda Ribas (10-2) made up for lost time by winning her first four UFC bouts. This set up a pivotal clash when Marina Rodriguez, who survived Ribas’ grappling onslaught to stop her in the second (watch highlights).
She’ll enjoy one inch of height and two inches of reach on “Carcara.”
After winning and defending the Invicta Strawweight title, Virna Jandiroba (17-2) stepped up on short notice to face Carla Esparza in her UFC debut, resulting in the first loss of the Brazilian’s career.
She has since won three of four, all three by finish within two rounds.
Her recent stoppage of Kanako Murata marked her first professional (technical) knockout win and her fourteenth stoppage overall.
Ribas’ Octagon success has come largely from her overpowering wrestling and strong Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which Jandiroba can theoretically match or exceed. “Carcara” is one of the most effective wrestlers in the entire division, and Ribas doesn’t post the sort of submission threat that Mackenzie Dern used to shut down her takedown offense.
Jandiroba also showed much-improved stand up in her win over Murata, suggesting that she can hold her own on the feet as well. So long as she stays aggressive and doesn’t let Ribas set the pace like she did Dern, Jandiroba grinds her way to another Octagon victory.
Prediction: Jandiroba via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Ricardo Ramos vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
Ricardo Ramos (15-3) — a graduate of “Lookin’ for a Fight” — won five of six before falling short against fellow up-and-comer Lerone Murphy. He did better for himself against Bill Algeo, whom he took down eight times en route to a unanimous decision win.
He has ended 10 professional fights inside the distance, seven via submission.
A combination of a failed drug test and a suspension from the UFC kept Zubaira Tukhugov (19-5-1) out of action for three years, though he managed to get back on track with a draw against Lerone Murphy and brutal knockout of Kevin Aguilar. He wasn’t quite as fortunate against Hakeem Dawodu, who rode a late surge to a split decision victory.
He faces a one-inch height disadvantage and a four-inch reach disadvantage.
It’s hard not to be a bit disappointed with how Ramos and Tukhugov have panned out. Despite showing huge promise early in their Octagon careers, neither has particularly stood out in recent efforts. This is essentially a make-or-break fight — they’re both still reasonably young, but I don’t see the loser climbing the mountain.
If both men are at their best, Tukhugov’s wrestling gives him a notable edge that Ramos’ fancy-pants kickboxing can’t overcome. If Tukhugov comes in out-of-shape and gasses to death again, Ramos has the skills and cardio to capitalize in a big way. I’ll split the difference and say Tukhugov does enough good work early to ride out the inevitable comeback attempt.
Prediction: Tukhugov via split decision
185 lbs.: Albert Duraev vs. Roman Kopylov
Albert Duraev (14-3) — who started his professional career 5-3 — claimed ACB’s Welterweight and Middleweight titles during his unbeaten run in the promotion. A three-year layoff followed, which he ended in Sept. 2021 with a contract-winning submission of Caio Bittencourt on “Contender Series.”
His 14 professional wins include nine by submission.
Roman Kopylov (8-1) tore through Fight Nights Global’s Middleweight division during his tenure, knocking out all five of his opponents and winning their title in the process. This led to a 2019 UFC debut against Karl Roberson, who out-lasted Kopylov to choke him out in the third round.
He steps in for Alessio Di Chirico on short notice for his first fight in nearly two years.
Putting aside the recency bias, which is all Duraev, this is still a rough out for Kopylov. The latter showed a distinct vulnerability to low kicks and strong submission attacks, which Duraev has in spades, and compromised his genuinely strong technical boxing by letting Roberson dictate the pace. Though he’s a fair bit sharper than Duraev on the feet, Kopylov looks to have too much coming his way to make the most of it.
Kopylov is still skilled enough to sprawl-and-brawl his way to victory if he executes perfectly, but it’s hard to see him doing so after that rough debut and lengthy layoff. In the end, Duraev wears him down for an eventual finish on the mat.
Prediction: Duraev via second round submission
170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski vs. Benoit Saint-Denis
Elizeu Zaleski (22-7) put a UFC debut loss behind him with seven consecutive wins, including three Fights of the Night and a wheel kick knockout of Sean Strickland. He presently finds himself in a 1-2 skid, most recently dropping a controversial decision to Muslim Salikhov on “Fight Island.”
He fights for the first time in 15 months.
France’s Benoit Saint-Denis (8-0) entered the fast-rising Brave CF promotion at 4-0, only to suffer a “No Contest” because of a headbutt-induced cut in his debut. He returned to form with four consecutive wins, among them two arm-triangles in 2021.
“God of War” has submitted seven opponents and knocked out one other.
This is one of those interesting fights where there’s no real middle ground; one man will dominate on the feet, the other on the mat. Saint-Denis is far too easy to hit to survive a lengthy striking exchange with “Capoeira,” who in turn has few answers for Saint-Denis’ powerful top game.
Even if he has underperformed in his last few fights, I favor Zaleski. Vulnerable to takedowns he may be, but he’s quite difficult to hold down and has never been submitted as a professional. Zaleski will definitely have enough opportunities to catch Saint-Denis on the feet, and he hits more than hard enough to make the most of them. In short, he catches Saint-Denis with something nasty within the first two rounds.
Prediction: Zaleski via first round technical knockout
I don’t need to sell this card to you, especially not when it will stream for “free” on basic ESPN+. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2021: 149-76-2 (2 NC)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 267 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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