UFC 291: Blachowicz Welcomes Divisional Debutant Pereira with High Stakes

Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira, UFC 291
Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira, UFC 291 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

With the title now vacant at 205 pounds, former champion Jan Blachowicz and divisional debutant Alex Pereira have a huge opportunity to make a statement at UFC 291.

Few fighters have aged as gracefully as Jan Blachowicz in the spotlight.  The 40 year-old blazed a path to the title in impressive fashion as he stopped the likes of Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson, and Dominick Reyes to become one of the most inspiring champions of recent history.  The Polish powerhouse had previously struggled with a 1-4 run between 2015 and 2017 that didn’t suggest he’d go on to championship glory at the time.  But grit and determination may be more significant in combat sports than any other athletic competition, and Blachowicz made turned things around to eventually take the throne and even defend it against current superstar Israel Adesanya.

While he’s enjoyed great success, Blachowicz has something to prove on Saturday.  His last three fights have seen him struggle against high level opponents and age (both his and that of his opponents) is starting to become a bigger point of discussion.  His experience and versatility remain two of the most significant weapons on either side on Saturday, and the prospect of engaging in a battle with wrecking machine Jiri Prochazka for the vacant title is enough added incentive for any fighter.  But first, he must earn a double victory against both Father Time and a young dynamo.

Alex Pereira completed his promise last year, going into MMA and making the most of the fast track to the title in shocking the dynamic Adesanya to win the middleweight title.  While the rematch did not go his way, the fanfare around the event served to boost his popularity and establish him as an exciting breath of fresh air amongst the best in mixed martial arts.  That popularity is apparent going into Saturday as there are several fighters on the card that have headlined more events and pay-per-views and yet Pereira’s fight with Blachowicz is the one co-headlining the stacked show.

While Blachowicz has questions regarding whether or not he has too much tread on his tires, Pereira has questions about whether he has enough.  “Poatan” was one of the biggest middleweights in the division, but the twenty pound difference to move up to light-heavyweight is one that has been difficult for several fighters to acclimate to.  While Pereira has already rehydrated to nearly 230 pounds, he also needs to show that his skills can translate against the skills of the more experienced contenders.  He has the least amount of experience of any current or former title holder, and he must prove that his striking and athleticism is enough if he finds himself in a multi-faceted bout with Blachowicz.

With Jamahal Hill having recently vacated the light-heavyweight title, the winner between Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira is expected to be the front runner to welcome back former champion Jiri Prochazka later this year/early next year for the belt.  This opens a number of scenarios as a Pereira headliner would do well in Brazil should the UFC return to the country for a pay-per-view.  Should Blachowicz win, it’s easy to imagine the event doing well in Eastern Europe as both he and Prochazka hail from that region of the world and MMA is enjoying a great moment in Europe in general.