The landscape of the UFC’s light heavyweight division has been significantly altered. Dominating his competition for the better part of a decade, Jon Jones left the division last year with no compelling contender to challenge his title.
September of 2020 dawned a new era. Jan Blachowicz became the undisputed champion following a one-sided beatdown of Dominick Reyes at UFC 253. Blachowicz countered Reyes’ attacks, hurting him with combinations before a stifling left hand ended the night.
Approximately 30 minutes later, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya successfully defended his title, finishing Paulo Costa in dazzling fashion. Adesanya landed 26 of 27 leg kicks, destroying Costa’s knee. A second round sequence of kicks and lethal counter strikes would end Costa’s night, leaving another champion without a contender. At UFC 259, Adesanya and Blachowicz will meet with illustrious light heavyweight gold on the line.
In pursuit of legendary accolades, Adesanya looks to become just the 5th fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold two belts in different weight classes. With 20 wins in as many fights, “The Last Stylebender” has excelled, finishing 15 of his 20 victims by knockout. Adesanya brings an unmatched fluency to the octagon with an innate ability to control pace.
Carrying an 80 inch reach, Adesanya’s distance management is his greatest ally. Costa is one of the most feared men at 185 pounds, yet failed to land a solid punch on the champion. When it comes to elusiveness, nobody fits the bill as perfectly as Adesanya, who boasts a 65% strike defense rate.
Stepping into his first title defense, newly crowned champion Jan Blachowicz is riding the most impressive win streak of his career. With 3 of his last 4 victories coming by knockout, Blachowicz has demonstrated an urgency to finish his opponents throughout his rise to the top. The newly turned 38-year-old has ended 17 of 27 professional fights before the final bell, capturing 5 UFC performance bonuses.
Jan’s best work is done on the feet, where he lands 17.45 significant strikes per round, but don’t underestimate his ground game. Blachowicz has finished 9 fights by submission, and possesses a frame built to overwhelm his opponents.
Inside Z’s Corner
Israel Adesanya has blossomed into one of the UFC’s brightest superstars. In less than 2 years with the promotion, he proved to be what he said he was: The greatest middleweight on planet earth. In 9 UFC fights, Adesanya has demolished the upper echelon of middleweight, knocking off the 3 best fighters in less than a year’s time. The fluidity on display when “The Last Stylebender” performs is poetic. The 31-year-old Nigerian is a puzzle yet to be solved, showcasing an incredibly diverse striking game. Adesanya demoralizes his opponents with an array of kicks, using his lengthy frame to dissect the legs, body and head.
The City Kickboxing product boasts lethal precision in his hands as well. Despite a skinnier frame, Adesanya has the third most knockdowns in middleweight history (10) and holds the UFC record for most knockdowns in a title fight with 4 at UFC 236. Don’t tell Israel he lacks power.
Hailing from the frigid depths of Poland, Herculean monster Jan Blachowicz can be deemed Adesanya’s toughest test to date. Primarily a striker, Blachowicz explodes forward with paralyzing torque behind his strikes. He’s a counter puncher who thrives off of reading movement and exploiting technical errors.
Despite doing most of his work on the feet, Blachowicz adds a layer to this matchup that has flown under the radar: The 38-year-old owns a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that compliments his 52% takedown accuracy, good for second best in the division’s history. With a well-rounded skill set, the light heavyweight champion has the tools needed for a long reign as king.
Adesanya vs. Blachowicz is one of the most stylistically interesting title fights of recent memory. Israel is dynamic and complex in his flow of movement whereas Jan is so simple, yet effective in his approach. Despite the move up in weight, Adesanya still holds the height and reach advantages. At kickboxing range, I give him a clear edge. He’s measured with his attacks, and every strike is thrown with purpose. Adesanya will show Jan a creativity lacking otherwise at 205 pounds.
The biggest x- factor in this fight will be Adesanya’s use of leg kicks, and I fully expect a careful plan of attack. Negating Jan’s forward pressure is vital to Israel’s success, and consistent chops to that lead leg will do just that. Adesanya presents the more polished striking game, and an 86% takedown defense to keep him upright. For these reasons, I believe the 5th double champion in UFC history is upon us.
Prediction: Adesanya by decision.