Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions Jan Blachowicz and Israel Adesanya will clash in a Light Heavyweight battle TONIGHT (Sat., March 6, 2021) at UFC 259 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Blachowicz’s rise to UFC gold ranks rather highly on the scale of all-time great career renaissances. The man captured a title at least three losses and five years after most had written him off. Now, he’ll look to continue doing the impossible by handing a decorated champion his first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) loss. On the other hand, “Stylebender” came into the Octagon with immediate promises of greatness, and it’s impossible to argue he has not lived up to his word. Now, Adesanya looks to take a huge step for both his popularity and legacy by capturing another belt and adding his name to the short list of double champions.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dominick Reyes (UFC 253), Corey Anderson (UFC Fight Night 167), Luke Rockhold (UFC 239), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 127), Nikita Krylov (UFC Fight Night 136), Jared Cannonier (UFC on FOX 26), Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 164)
Key Losses: Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 145), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 93), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 64), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: Blachowicz found power and a deeper gas tank late in his career, and the results were rather immediate. As his confidence grew, Blachowicz put more and more punches on jaws, resulting in more knockouts and even more improvement from “Polish Power.”
There is a remarkably clear strategy for Blachowicz in this fight, and it involves bullying “Stylebender.” Blachowicz does not want to trade kicks with Adesanya, who is quicker, more versatile, and much better at evading strikes from that range. Blachowicz tends to just absorb kicks, firing back occasionally with big swings (see his loss to Thiago Santos).
Instead, Blachowicz has to pressure his foe; he has the chin to do it! He would be wise not to head hunt, however, as Adesanya does well leaning back to avoid punches. Instead, Blachowicz should be looking to dig low kicks whenever Adesanya does pull back. If Blachowicz manages to back his foe into the cage, that will help eliminate Adesanya’s lean, making punches to the chest and face an easier task.
Otherwise, I’d love to see Blachowicz make use of his size and strength advantage. Wrestle! Even if he doesn’t complete a single takedown, wrestling bigger men is exhausting, and Blachowicz throws nasty punches on the breaks of clinches (ask Luke Rockhold).
Key Wins: Robert Whittaker (UFC 243), Paulo Costa (UFC 253), Yoel Romero (UFC 248), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 236), Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29). Brad Tavares (TUF 27 Finale), Derek Brunson (UFC 230), Anderson Silva (UFC 234)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Adesanya is one of the slickest strikers in the history of MMA. Really, he might just be the best. The decorated kickboxer manages range tremendously well with long distance strikes like the jab, thudding kicks and incredible feints. Then, when opponents try to close in on him, Adesanya excels at leaning back while still firing counters.
Opposite a big man in a small cage, footwork will be perhaps the most important part of Adesanya’s strategy. He wants this bout to be fought at a very specific distance, where his advantage is obvious. Anything closer than that range, however, and “Stylebender” will likely start getting touched.
Getting pushed into the cage simply isn’t an option.
Fortunately, Adesanya is really a master of giving his opponent lots to think about at range. If his feints are flowing, and he’s landing a variety of kicks to different targets, it grows far more complicated to pressure.
Early on, when Blachowicz is at his most dangerous, Adesanya has to be content to kick the leg and move, much like he did to Paulo Costa. As showed in his loss to Santos, Blachowicz can be flustered by this approach, and his eventual response is to charge forward with punches.
Adesanya would be wise to evade the first couple bull rushes, but once he has the timing, Adesanya can show off his brilliant counter punching.
The Light Heavyweight title is on the line ...
Win or lose, Blachowicz has already done the impossible by turning his career around all the way to the very top. However, it would be undeniably sweet to turn away Adesanya, who clearly sees him as a beatable champion (at least, more so than Jon Jones). Blachowicz already earned his spot in history by taking the title, but handing Adesanya his first professional loss is perhaps an even greater distinction.
On the other hand, Adesanya is trying to create his Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez moment: a master class against a veteran (but less than dominant) champion who sends him on a rocket to superstardom. Just how much Adesanya ascends depends on the caliber of his performance, but a second title win cannot hurt.
At the same time, a loss may impart some reality on Adesanya’s lofty dreams. Grand ambitions are an important driving factor in great athletes, but all hit their limits eventually, and Adesanya made find out that he’s best suited for the weight class he already holds a belt in.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 259 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 259, Jan Blachowicz and Israel Adesanya will go to war in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?