Though it is not the fight either man expected, light heavyweight contenders Dominick Ryes and Jan Blachowicz will usher in a new chapter in the division when they collide for the title at UFC 253.
TITLE SHOT EARNED.
— UFC (@ufc) February 3, 2020
March 19, 2011.
That is the last time that someone besides Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier held the UFC light-heavyweight championship. Jones would go on to have a historic reign for roughly a decade. Cormier went on to claim the belt when he was absent. But all these years later, both men have departed the weight class with no plans on returning. That has opened the door for two surging contenders to make their mark as the page turns on what has historically been one of the best divisions in the UFC.
Several months ago, Dominick Reyes pushed Jon Jones to the limit in what has become one of the most scrutinized decisions in recent years. To this day, many still contend that Reyes should have received the nod and toppled the longtime kingpin from the throne. “The Devastator” had the performance of his life, completing a rise that saw him go from an undefeated prospect joining the UFC in 2017 to reeling off six straight victories en route to a title shot. With his performance in March, many see him as the uncrowned king who could prove his dominance should he continue his path through the division.
He states that he has made peace with the fact that a rematch with Jones is not in the cards, for now at least. Though the asterisk will follow him due to the circumstances, Reyes has a chance to prove his greatness in his own right. One need look no further than at the last several welterweight champions as proof of that. The fact that they never defeated reigning champion Georges St-Pierre to claim gold did little to hurt their case as the best fighter competing as the years went on. So too would be the case for Reyes,and Blachowicz for that matter, should he dispatch the top contenders available.
DOWN & OUT.
Flashback to when @JanBlachowicz proved he was contender level 📈
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2020
The road to a title shot has been a long one for Jan Blachowicz. After enjoying an impressive career in KSW, his UFC career stalled with a 2-4 start that looked as though it would not progress further at the time. Relegated to the prelims and being placed on cards that only aired on Fight Pass rather than television, Blachowicz turned the corner after returning to his old coach in 2017. He put together a four fight win-streak, culminating in a title eliminator against Thiago Santos. Though he came up short against the Brazilian knockout artist, the fight served to finally propel Blachowicz into the high profile bookings that had eluded him in the UFC.
The Polish contender bounced back from the loss with arguably the biggest victory of his career: a devastating knockout victory of former champion Luke Rockhold. He followed that up with a five round decision over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and earlier this year stopped ranked contender Corey Anderson. Blachowicz scored the latter victory in Jon Jones’ home of New Mexico with the now former champion in attendance in the front row. Though it is not the fight that many expected that night, a title shot has nonetheless finally materialized for “Prince of Cieszyn.”
Stylistically, Reyes’ multifaceted attack and speed poses the most problems for Blachowicz in the fight. Keeping a high output figures to be his best path to victory as it puts early pressure on Blachowicz. Should he manage his energy well and avoid exchanges early, Reyes figures to be ahead on the scorecards with plenty in the gas tank as it goes into the later rounds. Blachowicz will need to use kicks and forward pressure to wear down Reyes throughout the fight. The Polish contender has shown one-shot stopping power, but his best route to victory will be to go to the body early and drag the fight into deep waters where he should be the far fresher of the two if he’s been able to execute the game plan.
THE THRONE IS FOR THE TAKING.
— UFC (@ufc) September 25, 2020
The new champion will likely turn their attention towards Thiago Santos or Glover Teixeira, who are expected to meet later this year. Either of the aforementioned fighters could step directly into a title bout should their fight fall apart again for any reason depending on the return schedule of this Saturday’s winner. Apart from the two, a dark horse to get a title shot is Aleksander Rakic who has posted a 5-1 record in the UFC and is coming off a dominant victory over Anthony Smith in August.