Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight veterans Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022) at UFC 282 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Apologies to Jiri Prochazka, but I cannot imagine either half of our main event being terribly sympathetic toward “The Czech Samurai.” Prochazka’s shoulder exploding bumped a noteworthy co-main event to the top of the card, adding another pair of rounds and a golden strap into the equation. For Blachowicz, the former champion suddenly finds himself with an opportunity to regain his throne — not a bad turnaround seeing as he lost the belt just a single win ago. Ankalaev, meanwhile, seemed destined to face the entire division before actually receiving a title shot. Having won nine in a row, he’s more than earned this opportunity.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
YEAR-END PPV BLOWOUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closes out its final pay-per-view (PPV) of the year on Sat., Dec. 10, 2022, with a battle for the vacant Light Heavyweight crown between former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Jan Blachowicz, looking to stop the momentum of No. 3-seeded Magomed Ankalaev. In the co-main event of UFC 282, which will take place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, breakout star, Paddy Pimblett, intends to keep his momentum going at the expense of gritty veteran, Jared Gordon.
Key Wins: Israel Adesanya (UFC 259), Dominick Reyes (UFC 253), Aleksandar Rakic (UFC Vegas 54), Corey Anderson (UFC Fight Night 167), Luke Rockhold (UFC 239), Nikita Krylov (UFC Fight Night 136), Jared Cannonier (UFC on FOX 26), Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 164)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 267), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 145), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 93), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: A crafty kickboxer who developed real power late in his career, Blachowicz has turned into one of his division’s most consistent athletes. He’s difficult to take down and difficult to outpoint, meaning there’s no longer simple paths to victory against “Polish Power.”
It’s really essential that Blachowicz wins the kicking battle here. If Ankalaev is landing more and harder kicks, then Blachowicz has to close distance, which will play right into Ankalaev’s counter and wrestling games.
That’s no good.
Fortunately, Blachowicz has options against the Southpaw. He can let his right leg fly to the body freely, and his lead leg can target the lead calf or even the ribs, a strategy he used well against Reyes. Blachowicz should also be making it a point to knee check Ankalaev’s own kicks, as his kick defense against both Adesanya and Rakic proved pivotal in securing the victory.
If Blachowicz is winning the kick battle, it’ll go a long way in allowing him to box comfortably. Ideally, he can then establish his jab a bit, which will make pressuring Ankalaev without giving up easy takedown opportunities far more feasible.
Key Wins: Anthony Smith (UFC 277), Volkan Oezdemir (UFC 267), Thiago Santos (UFC Vegas 50), Nikita Krylov (UFC Vegas 20), Ion Cutelaba (UFC 254, UFC Fight Night 169), Dalcha Lungiambula (UFC Fight Night 163)
Key Losses: Paul Craig (UFC Fight Night 127)
Keys to Victory: Ankalaev is a complete fighter. A sharp counter puncher with a brutal top control game, the 30 year old very much appears to be the future of the division or at least a major part of it.
I believe it’s time for Ankalaev to really return to his wrestling roots. That’s how he won a majority of his pre-UFC bouts, but inside the Octagon, he’s been very content to strike. By and large, that’s worked out for him, but in this case, just striking would play into Blachowicz’s strengths.
Blachowicz has good takedown defense, but it’s not impenetrable. Really, the goal should be to strike enough to convince Blachowicz that he’s in a kickboxing battle, then immediately shift gears with a well-timed shot or caught kick.
Getting on top a single time is enough to drastically change the dynamic of this fight. Ankalaev is brutally effective from top position, able to drop nasty blows without giving up space in the process. Combined with Blachowicz’s tendency to play closed guard rather than scramble, the path for Ankalaev to do fight-changing damage is there.
Besides that, Blachowicz is a couple months from his 40th birthday, and he’s fatigued from getting wrestled previously. If Ankalaev can get him down early and do some damage, the rest of the fight is likely to be much easier.
The Light Heavyweight title is up for grabs.
Blachowicz’s first title reign was unexpected and considered unlikely, so imagine that odds on Blachowicz becoming two-time champion? Really, Blachowicz’s later career run has already resulted in an incredible resume, but capturing a second title really elevates his status among historic 205-pound champs. Turning away the likely future of the division in the process is also a major statement about just how great Blachowicz has become!
Alternatively, Ankalaev is setting himself up for a great reign, seeing as he’s already beaten many of the division’s top-ranked contenders. He doesn’t have many elite peers in his age group, and the two that immediately come to mind (Prochazka and Rakic) are currently rehabbing very serious injuries. If Ankalaev takes out Blachowicz, we may see another long term and dominant Dagestani kingpin.
At UFC 282, Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev will go to war in the main event. Which man leaves the cage strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 282 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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