Matches to Make After UFC 259

By Brian Knapp Mar 7, 2021

Someone forgot to tell Jan Blachowicz he was supposed to be a footnote on Israel Adesanya’s unabated march to history.

“The Pride of Poland” waded through considerable difficulty, hit his stride through takedowns and positional control, thumbed his nose at the skeptics and retained the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown with a unanimous decision over reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in the UFC 259 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 49-46, 49-45 and 49-45.

Blachowicz outlanded “The Last Stylebender” by narrow margins in the first three rounds, more than holding his own with a man who was thought to be a vastly superior technician on the feet. The 38-year-old Pole spent the final 10 minutes exploiting one of the few holes that still exist in Adesanya’s game, as he executed takedowns, advanced to dominant positions and applied his ground-and-pound. Blachowicz connected with 115 total strikes in the fourth and fifth rounds, absorbing only 31 in return.

In the aftermath of UFC 259 “Blachowicz vs. Adesanya,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira: Blachowicz finds himself in the unenviable position of following in the footsteps of an all-time great who never lost his title in the cage. Indeed, the shadow of Jon Jones still looms large over the 205-pound weight class. No one can say for certain how Blachowicz would have fared against the former champion, but with Jones having relocated to the heavyweight division, his successor has begun the process of carving out a strong legacy of his own. Turning away Adesanya’s bid to become a simultaneous two-division titleholder represents a significant piece of the puzzle. Now, Teixeira lurks. One a five-fight winning streak, the ageless Brazilian has not fought since he submitted Thiago Santos—ironically, the last man to defeat Blachowicz—with a rear-naked choke in the UFC on ESPN 17 main event in November.

Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena or Valentina Shevchenko-Jessica Andrade winner: The UFC has a conundrum on its hands. Nunes retained the women’s featherweight championship with a woefully one-sided rout of Megan Anderson in the co-headliner, as she dismissed the Aussie with a triangle armbar a little more than two minutes into their encounter. Anderson conceded defeat 2:03 into Round 1. Nunes has so thoroughly dominated two weight classes that there are no obvious viable challenges left for her to meet. That could change if Pena manages to beat Holly Holm at UFC Fight Night 191 on May 8. However, should Holm emerge victorious, the UFC may need to entice the Shevchenko-Andrade winner to step up in weight after their April 24 showdown for the flyweight title at UFC 261.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan: A stunning lack of discipline from one of the sport’s most disciplined fighters resulted in the bantamweight championship changing hands, as Yan was disqualified for a blatant illegal knee against Sterling in the fourth round of their co-feature. The concussed Sterling—who led on one of the three scorecards at the time of the foul—was unable to continue 4:29 into Round 4. An immediate rematch seems like a no-brainer.

Islam Makhachev vs. Tony Ferguson: A potential heir apparent to American Kickboxing Academy stablemate Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev flexed his world-class skills and systematically dismantled Drew Dober before submitting him with a third-round arm-triangle choke from half guard in their lightweight showcase. Dober raised the white flag 1:37 into Round 3, having been thoroughly outclassed by one of the sport’s emerging stars at 155 pounds. Makhachev, 29, has rattled off seven straight wins since his surprising knockout loss to Adriano Martins in 2015, improving to 8-1 in the UFC and 17-1 overall. He has the look of a future title contender. Ferguson finds himself on a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his stellar 30-fight career. The 37-year-old Californian last fought at UFC 256, where he dropped a unanimous decision to the ascendant Charles Oliveira on Dec. 12.

Aleksandar Rakic vs. Magomed Ankalaev: Due the tepid nature of his approach, Rakic appears to have done little to raise his stock with a unanimous decision over the aforementioned Santos in the main card opener. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Rakic, 29, steered clear of danger and kept the Brazilian at bay with repeated leg kicks, a strong jab and a vigorous clinch game. The Austrian contender has won 14 of his past 15 bouts and cemented himself as one of the UFC’s 10 best light heavyweights. Nevertheless, his lack of urgency could prove problematic when it comes to securing the blockbuster opportunities he desires. Ankalaev extended his run of consecutive victories to six with a unanimous decision over Nikita Krylov in the UFC Fight Night 186 co-main event on Feb. 27.
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