A new UFC Light Heavyweight king will be crowned this Saturday night at UFC 253. As Dominick Reyes (12-1) and Jan Blachowicz (26-8) look set to battle for the belt vacated by Jon Jones earlier in the year, at ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi.
And while the fight may be overshadowed by the PPV’s Main-Event between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa, it still has all the makings of a captivating championship clash. Both men have reached the same destination, but have taken completely different roads.
How we got here:
Dominick Reyes joined the UFC in 2017 and quickly went through some of the company’s biggest names including OSP, Volkan Oezdemir, and Jared Cannonier. And his first-round knockout of former-Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, last October, was enough for ‘The Devastator’ to get a title shot against Jon Jones.
The pair produced a classic five-round war at UFC 247, which Jones won by a controversial decision. Even though the fight left many questions regarding the Light Heavyweight landscape. One thing was for certain, Dominick Reyes is for real.
It would be fair to say, that Reyes’ Polish counterpart has taken a longer, harder road to the top. Blachowicz is now 37, and yet, is seemingly in the prime of his career.
The Polish star began his UFC career poorly and won just twice in his first 6 UFC bouts. The rocky start led to many critics questioning if Jan belongs at world level. Spoiler alert. He does!
Blachowicz is now 7-1, in his last eight fights, and his knockouts of Luke Rockhold, and most recently, Corey Anderson solidified the veteran as a top Championship contender.
Jon Jones (who was still Champion at the time) was cage-side for Blachowicz’s last win. Afterwards, Blachowicz called out the Pound-for-pound king, and it seemed that ‘Bones’ was more than willing to oblige.
However, Jon Jones vacated the Light Heavyweight strap in August choosing to pursue a potential Heavyweight fight with Stipe Miocic instead. This left Reyes and Blachowicz as the two obvious contenders for the vacated belt. And now for the first time in years, a new man will rule the 205-pound division. But who will it be?
Both men have decent grappling and wrestling credentials, but I expect this one to stay standing for the most part. Even though he has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Blachowicz is famous for his “Polish power”, and kickboxing ability so I don’t expect him to try to take Reyes down too much.
Reyes’ style is less conventional than that of Jan Blachowicz, and his footwork and movement is something we rarely see from men that are as big as the Californian. Personally, I can’t see this one lasting long. And Reyes agrees “I don’t think it will (last longer than one round)”, he said at today’s final press conference.
Like many Light Heavyweight fights, this one is likely to be determined by who lands first. I believe Reyes’ more fluid and accurate striking will help him win the fight by first-round knockout.
There are, of course, many unknowns going into this massive title fight. However, one thing seems clear, regardless of who wins on Saturday night, the Light Heavyweight division is in safe hands.