For the first time in over nine years, the UFC light heavyweight title is being worn by a fighter not named Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier.
In the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 253 event from Abu Dhabi, 37-year-old Jan Blachowicz shocked the masses when he scored a one-sided TKO victory over former title challenger Dominick Reyes to secure the 205-pound strap following Jones’ decision to vacate it and move up to heavyweight earlier this year.
With the native of Poland now at the helm, there are certainly more options than one when it comes to future title fights. For example, Jones, to little surprise, teased a move back down to light heavyweight following Blachowicz’s win. What appears to be more likely at the moment, however, is a bout between Blachowicz and the winner of Nov. 7’s main event between ex-title challengers Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira.
Speaking on Blachowicz’s victory, Santos, who scored a TKO victory over the new champion when they met in 2019, admitted that he wasn’t surprised by how the fight played out.
“I told my friends, people close to me, and I knew Blachowicz could win the fight by TKO, so I called it,” Santos told MMAJunkie. “I knew before. Blachowicz has hands, has power, and Dominick should have moved more. He wasn’t moving well; I felt he was a little bit strange. He did the wrong game. He should have moved, but he went to fight, and Blachowicz, he’s good in 50-50 fight, he’s dangerous. He has hands, so I think Dominick did the wrong game (plan) and Blachowicz did what he should do.”
In terms of how a potential rematch between him and Blachowicz would go, “Marreta” certainly believes another finish would be possible.
“I didn’t see him so different,” Thiago Santos said. “Sure, he has more experience. Everyone tries to learn and improve their game, but I didn’t see such a difference between Blachowicz now and Blachowicz who I fought before.
“Every fight is different, but sure I’m going to lay down the hammer, I’m going to try and knock him out, and sure I can do this. I can knock everyone out. It’s what I like to do. It’s what I usually do with my opponents.”
Santos, a 36-year-old Brazilian, has won four of his last five bouts with three of those victories coming by way of stoppage. His most recent fight came against Jones for the title in July 2019, and although he suffered a split-decision loss, many felt as if he had done enough to win. Even worse, he suffered a brutal knee injury during the fight and hasn’t competed since.
While a rematch between Blachowicz and Santos would be intriguing, Teixeira can’t be counted out, as he’s looked rejuvenated as of late despite being 40 years old. Heading into his fight against “Marreta”, Teixeira has won four-straight bouts with three of those victories coming by way of finish. Most recently, he scored a brutal TKO win over Anthony Smith this past May.
Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira were initially scheduled to fight in both September and October but both men ended up testing positive for COVID-19 on different occasions, which pushed the bout back multiple times.
Here’s to hoping the fight remains intact and a contender to Blachowicz’s newly acquired throne emerges.
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.