Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to action later today (Sat., Oct. 30, 2021) to stage UFC 267 on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, streaming for “free” on ESPN+. The event will feature a Light Heavyweight title fight between division kingpin Jan Blachowicz and hard-hitting No. 1-ranked contender, Glover Teixeira. In the co-main event, Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen will collide for the interim Bantamweight title and a chance to rematch division champion, Aljamain Sterling, in early 2022.
Since winning the Light Heavyweight title more than one year ago thanks to a violent second-round technical knockout victory over Dominick Reyes, Jan Blachowicz has only defended his shiny new belt once. That came against reigning Middleweight roost ruler Israel Adesanya, a win I still feel the Polish bruiser isn’t getting enough credit for. Can you imagine if it had been Jon Jones the one that schooled “The Last Stylebender?” We’d likely still be talking about it today. Instead, it feels like it’s nothing more than a small blip in Blachowicz’s career resurgence, which has seen him win five straight since mid-2019. Overall, he has won a cool nine out of 10 since 2017. Not bad for a man who once considered retirement.
But, we’re not going to open up that can of worms ... again.
Instead, let’s focus on the task at hand. Blachowicz will face another man who is enjoying a career resurrection in the form of fellow hard-hitting 205-pound wrecking ball Glover Teixeira. Like Jan, Teixeira has also won five straight, which was good enough to earn him a second shot a fulfilling his dreams of becoming UFC champion. Teixeira came up short in his first opportunity against the aforementioned Jon Jones way back in 2014, but seven years later the power-punching Brazilian finds himself back in the big dance with the chance to become world champion at age 41.
As for the match up itself, it’s no secret both men prefer to stand-and-bang, though Teixeira is no stranger to the submission world, strangling a few people along the way. I really don’t foresee this fight spending much time on the mat. The two power-packing veterans will have the same goal in mind: knock the man in front of me clean out. Both have the power to do it, but only one will achieve the objective. No one will confuse either of these two men with Canelo Alvarez when it comes to movement and reflexes, so the chances will be plentiful for each of them to score a highlight-reel knockout. For my money, I see Blachowicz packing just a tad bit more power in his fists, which will eventually touch Teixeira’s face a bit too much for his liking. One clean hit from either man is more than good enough to bring fans to their feet and their foes crashing to the canvas. This time around it will be Blachowicz landing early and often. Teixeira will make it a battle, but once the Polish bruiser gets in his groove it’s going to be a night of misery for the Brazilian bomber that will end with him seeing the lights above.
The only matchmaking issue I have with this card is Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura. Volkov is coming off a loss to current interim 265-pound champion, Ciryl Gane, while Tybura is on a hot streak, winning his last five fights with his last lost coming almost two years ago. I understand that Volkov is No. 5 and Tybura is No. 9, but I would have preferred to see Tybura face someone on a winning streak, as well.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The co-main event was initially set to feature a long-awaited rematch between Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and ex-division king, Petr Yan. But, after “Funkmaster” complained of lingering neck issues — which was the root of the initial delay — he bowed out of the fight and replaced by Cory Sandhagen.
Also, Walt Harris and Tai Tuivasa were lined up for a big man tussle on this card, but was scratched after Harris had to bow out. Tuivasa will now face Augusto Sakai next month. Alessio Di Chirico was forced out of his scheduled bout against Albert Duraev and replaced by Roman Kopylov. A scheduled bout between Damir Ismagulov and Magomed Mustafaev was canceled one day before the fight after Ismagulov missed the Lightweight limit by seven pounds.
Aside from Sterling’s neck issues, Rafael dos Anjos was forced to bow out of his scheduled bout against Islam Makhachev for the third time after he sustained an injury deemed to serious to let him compete. He was replaced by Dan Hooker.
Former ACB Middleweight Champion Albert Duraev graduated from the “Contender Series” to put his nine-fight win streak on the line to make his UFC debut against Roman Kopylov. Coming off a loss to Karl Roberson, Kopylov will be motivated to get back in the win column after losing the first fight of his career after racking up eight straight wins in the last five years.
Benoit Saint-Denis brings his undefeated record of 8-0 to the eight-sided cage for the first time to face Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. An 11-fight UFC veteran, dos Santos is looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Muslim Salikhov at UFC 251, his second defeat in three fights.
After losses in RIZIN and Dana White’s “Contender Series,” Allan Nascimento eventually found himself in the big show, getting the call up to face Tagir Ulanbekov in an undercard fight. Nascimento is just 2-2 in his last four fights while Ulanbekov has done much better, winning four straight including his UFC debut against Bruno Silva over a year ago.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Amanda Ribas came out of the gates swinging (and winning) by earning four straight UFC victories including big triumphs over Mackenzie Dern and Paige VanZant. Her momentum was derailed by Marina Rodriguez, who knocked her out at UFC 257 earlier this year. Trying to get back in the win column won’t be easy when she goes head up with Virna Jandiroba, who is 3-1 in her last four outings. She is coming off a win over Kanako Murata and is eyeing her first back-to-back win streak since 2019.
In Featherweight action, Ricardo Ramos and Zubaira Tukhugov will duke it out in a battle of contenders who have yet to find the formula to give them consistent wins. Tukhugov did start off his UFC career with four straight “W’s”, but he’s cooled off since, going just 1-2-1. Ramos, on the other hand, started off 3-0 only to go 3-2 since. Now those aren’t exactly bad numbers but it just won’t cut it if they want to climb the ranks and ever get into the championship conversation.
Shamil Gamzatov will put his undefeated record (14-0, 1-0 UFC) on the line against Michal Oleksiejczuk. Gamzatov is a highly-experienced Light Heavyweight who has competed just about everywhere including World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and Professional Fighters League (PFL). Of his 10 finishes, seven came in the very first round so he knows how to get after it. Oleksiejczuk broke his two fight skid in his last outing by taking out Modestas Bukauskas at UFC 260, so he’ll be going for his first two-fight win streak in two years.
Andre Petroski and Hu Yaozong will collide in a Middleweight bout between two up-and-comers who are fairly young in their UFC careers. Yaozong is 0-2 inside the Octagon after starting his MMA career with three straight wins. On top of going without a win so far inside the eight-sided cage, he hasn’t competed in three years, so there is no telling what kind of fighting shape he’ll be in come fight night. Petroski, meanwhile, came out on top in his UFC debut by knocking out Micheal Gillmore in the third round earlier this year.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Remember when Makwan Amirkhani had some kind of rep? Me neither. That’s because it was so long ago and to be honest, barely noticeable. Still, he did have some after an eight-second UFC debut in which he knocked out Andy Ogle, winning two more fights after that. Since then, Amirkhani has been hot and cold (mostly cold), collecting a rather tepid 3-4 record, going 1-3 in his last four fights. He has lost two straight and if he loses his third in a row when he tangos with Tristan Connelly, he could be on his way out of the promotion quieter than when he came in.
Interest Level: 8.5 of 10
After a couple of lackluster “Fight Night” events over the last few weeks, UFC is coming out strong with its next PPV offering. Best of all it will cost you nothing but a mere subscription to ESPN+. In the co-main event, Yan will attempt to win back the title (albeit on an interim basis) he lost due to an illegal knee he landed on Sterling at UFC 259 when he takes on the always-unassuming, yet always-dangerous, Cory Sandhagen in a title fight many felt should have been going down anyway. Yan was dominating his fight against Sterling before the illegal blow and most feel Sandhagen was robbed of a decision win over T.J. Dillashaw this past summer. In the end, Dillashaw was unable to take this title fight due to injury, leaving Sandhagen the man with the obvious choice to replace him. Both men have losses to Sterling, so not only are they eager to win the title, but they also want nothing more than to get one back on “Funkmaster.”
Dan Hooker’s popularity grew exponentially after he volunteered to replace Rafael dos Anjos against Islam Makhachev a month removed from his previous bout at UFC 266. What makes his courageous gesture even more commendable is the fact that he will once again have to be away from his family for several weeks once the fight is over due to New Zealand’s strict quarantine protocols for COVID-19.
Build this man a statue already...or just cut him a check.
As for the fight itself, Hooker has the knockout power to give anyone trouble, but it’s going to take top notch wrestling to defeat Makhachev. Training with Khabib Nurmagomedov on a daily basis has transformed Makhachev into what many call the second coming of “The Eagle.” But, he is not that. Makhachev is his own man and staking his own claim to 155-pound greatness. Sure, he still has a ways to go before he reaches Khabib status, but he sure does look like he has the tools to get close. Winner of eight straight, Makhachev has left behind a trail of destruction along the way to earning the No. 5 spot on the rankings. A few more wins and he could very well find himself in title contention. But, getting through Hooker is no easy task. “The Hangman” has had his downs over his last three fights, but he is still a dangerous foe. An upset win over Makhachev will boost his confidence, momentum and his ego ... and rightfully so.
In further main card action, Khamzat Chimaev will finally get to make his highly-anticipated return after COVID-19 and several other issues slowed the roll he built for himself in 2020 in an epic run, which saw him win three fights in the span of three months. He will put his undefeated (9-0, 3-0 UFC) record on the line when he faces Li Jingliang, winner of four of his last five fights inside the Octagon. A win over Chimaev would be huge for the Chinese-born fighter, who lost some momentum after his loss to Neil Magny. A victory for Chimaev will remind people why Dana White was so high on him and why “Borz” likes to talk so much.
After finally putting Ion Cutelaba in his rear-view mirror, Magomed Ankalaev defeated Nikita Krylov earlier this year to collect consecutive win No. 6. He will attempt to get lucky No. 7 on “Fight Island” when he battles a man once considered a legit title contender in Volkan Oezdemir. The Swedish brawler lost his steam in “No Time” after dropping three straight fights to Daniel Cormier, Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes. He bounced back to collect two straight wins only to lose to get knocked out by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251. Now, he’s simply looking for a win to prevent falling further down the 205-pound ladder.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 267 Main Event on ESPN+:
205 lbs.: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira
UFC 267 Co-Main Event on ESPN+:
135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. Petr Yan for Interim Bantamweight Championship
UFC 267 Main Card on ESPN+ (2 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Dan Hooker vs. Islam Makhachev
265 lbs.: Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Volkov
170 lbs.: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Li Jingliang
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir
UFC 267 Prelims Card on ESPN+ (10:30 a.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Virna Jandiroba vs. Amanda Ribas
145 lbs.: Ricardo Ramos vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
185 lbs.: Albert Duraev vs. Roman Kopylov
170 lbs.: Benoit Saint-Denis vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
205 lbs.: Shamil Gamzatov vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Lerone Murphy
185 lbs.: Andre Petroski vs. Hu Yaozong
125 lbs.: Allan Nascimento vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 267 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” bouts at 10:30 a.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 2 p.m. ET.
For much more on this weekend’s UFC 267 card click here.