Prime Picks: UFC 267 ‘Blachowicz vs. Teixeira’

By Jay Pettry Oct 29, 2021

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While the last two Ultimate Fighting Championship shows featured no ranked competitors in their traditional weight classes, the promotion will pull out all the stops on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With lines so lopsided—all five main card tilts see 2-to-1 favorites at minimum—a full slate of plus money is worth snagging. Should one wish to be braver than most, a five-fight main card underdog parlay would net brass bettors a jackpot of over +100000 (+100506 at the moment). The value is off the charts in this UFC 267 edition of Prime Picks.

Jan Blachowicz Wins Inside Distance (+107)

Fortune favors the bold. Pursuing four lines of plus money is inherently risky, but in each case, the fighters involved present very clear paths to victory should they be able to implement their own game plans. When it comes to the UFC 267 headliner, Blachowicz is the only current favorite we will pursue, but at -290, the moneyline is not a worthwhile proposition. The best way to make bank in these situations is to drill down into prop money, which in this case means not only does the Polish fighter defend his title but puts out Glover Teixeira in the process.

Impressive five-fight winning streaks for both men will come to a head in this five-round light heavyweight championship affair. Blachowicz’s last three victims—Corey Anderson, Dominick Reyes and Israel Adesanya—jump off the page. On the other hand, Teixeira’s outlasting Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos merits recognition. Both big men are Cinderella stories in that neither was expected to go far, let alone vie for a belt or win it. Four losses in five bouts from 2015-17 all but wrote off Blachowicz as a serious contender, but by going 9-1 in his last 10, he has turned that narrative on its side. In many instances, fighters who have a bevy of finishes leading up to their UFC stint find that slow down once competition increases. The former KSW great has done practically the opposite, developing shocking knockout power that allowed him to put three of those five names out as he claimed the belt.

Just as unlikely in his position, Teixeira at 42 years of age has carved another path through the division with impressive performance after impressive performance. A win for the Brazilian would be ultimate cherry on top of a career that had seen him shrugged off for years and never able to beat the top names. His last two appearances against Smith and Santos do draw some cause for alarm, as he has taken serious damage in both outings, only to come back and wrest victories from the jaws of defeat. Against Blachowicz, Teixeira might find this Homer Simpsonian version of taking everything his opponent can throw at him, only to rebound, will eventually dry up. The takedown might not be as easy when Blachowicz is clubbing him with strikes, and the cardio of the Polish titleholder is truly at the championship level.

The largest question involves whether or not Blachowicz can land the damaging blow that sets Teixeira reeling. Blachowicz’s finishing instinct, which allows him to sense when an opponent is hurt and tactically chase him down to get the stoppage, is a well-honed tool for the 38-year-old Polish champion. Teixeira hoping he can survive the worst of the onslaught and turn the tables with a well-timed takedown will work against him in the first few rounds, as the 2021 version of Blachowicz is not one that wilts when the fight does not go his way. Whether by strikes or from an unlikely tapout—Teixeira has yet to be submitted, but grappling chops deteriorate when one gets punched in the face—the plus line of Blachowicz dramatically ending the Brazilian’s inspirational run is too valuable to pass up. Should one disagree, Teixeira at +245 is the easiest alternative pick, so long as he can pull one more rabbit out of his hat.

Cory Sandhagen (+180)

The lion’s share of scoring media members awarded the win to Sandhagen when he met T.J. Dillashaw in July. Nevertheless, two cageside judges thought Dillashaw did enough to get his hand raised and made it official. The activity on the feet and Sandhagen’s massively improved takedown defense acumen were thought to be the difference makers for “Sandman.” Not only did Sandhagen stuff 17 of 19 attempts from the former champ, but he outlanded the man with the most strikes in UFC bantamweight history across five rounds. This kind of in-your-face headhunting approach may take the lead-fisted Petr Yan out of his game when they vie for the interim belt, and Sandhagen is a very live underdog here.

Yan’s power has been deceptive since he joined the roster in 2018, landing nine knockdowns in eight fights, including at least one in his last four bouts. The Russian is skilled everywhere, whether from his Master of Sport designation in boxing or his Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, and his well-rounded skills make him a dangerous test for anyone in the division. Ultimately a striker first, Yan will need to find a way to close the distance and put his hands on Sandhagen without eating shots on the way in. Still, his best course to victory may be with his wrestling, as he has grounded each of his last six adversaries once or more. Yan could take Sandhagen out of the fight by putting him on his back early and often, making the Elevation Fight Team rep tire himself out by forcing scrambles again and again. Both men have distinct paths to take home the unexpected interim strap. Sandhagen’s volume, pressure and solid defense gives him one that should make him a much closer betting option than he is now. If you instead see this as one-way traffic for the Russian, Yan Wins by Decision is +168, also plus money.

Dan Hooker (+475)

Putting scratch down against a favorite above -500 can on its face feel alarming, but this is a line that, like Yan-Sandhagen, should be far closer than its current display. Indeed, Hooker has only won one of his last three bout, but none of those opponents utilized a style Islam Makhachev can emulate. At his core, Makhachev is a suffocating grappler who can turn top position to a submission in the blink of an eye. In the last several years—not since Hooker’s 2016 matchup with Jason Knight—no fighter could keep the Kiwi down for long. This will be tough sledding and a significant step up in competition for Makhachev, one that will show whether the Dagestan native is ready for primetime. He may very well pass the test, but the value of this betting line firmly rests on Hooker’s shoulders.

Being tall and rangy can work to Hooker’s advantage against the combat sambo expert, but it can also be his undoing, depending on how it is utilized. Hooker prides himself on fighting at a kickboxing range, all while throwing high volume and not being afraid to mix things up suddenly to keep his adversary guessing. Should Makhachev get in on him and wrench the fight to the mat, it will be up to Hooker to scramble out of danger or threaten with sweeps from his back. Alternatively, Hooker could surprise the Dagestani contender by pursuing his own takedown and giving Makhachev a taste of his own medicine. Playing on the ground is a dire risk for Hooker, however, and other than for dramatic effect, he should not sit around in Makhachev’s guard. If a bet on Hooker is not to your liking, Makhachev by Submission at +245 may be the way to go.

Jingliang Li (+425)

The final plus pick is against another massive favorite, one that has a plethora of intangibles hanging over his head leading to this welterweight scrap. Not just a COVID-19 long hauler, Khamzat Chimaev has been away from the scene for over a year during the longest layoff of his brief career. On the other side, Li picked up his biggest win to date in January, when he punched out the returning Santiago Ponzinibbio. This is a clear trap fight for Chimaev, going up against an iron-chinned Chinese opponent who has no concern for cardio. Chimaev has never fought into the third round as a pro, and Li can take him into deep waters and figuratively drown him in order to spring the huge upset.

The jury is very much still out on Chimaev, a fan favorite who burst on the scene with three victories in a little over two months in 2020. This fast start at one time earned him a crack at top contender Leon Edwards, only for that to dissipate due to his COVID-19 diagnosis. The illness was severe enough to nearly force the Chechen-born fighter to hang up his gloves altogether, adding yet another brick to the wall of swirling questions for Chimaev. Li is the wrong man to return against—a fact to which Ponzinibbio can attest—and if Chimaev is overlooking him, he has made a grave error. Seven of the last nine victories for “The Leech” have come by knockout, and it remains to be seen how Chimaev reacts when his chin gets checked by someone who will not fall to pieces after the first few blows or a demoralizing takedown. Li can ruin the party of the massive favorite with his durability and power, and he is unquestionably worth a bet as he remains this big of an underdog. If you are of the mind that the Chimaev train keeps rolling, a win by decision at +260 may be his safest plus play, as Li will hang in there to the bitter end.

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