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Jan Blachowicz

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Jan Blachowicz is Calling for a Title Shot. Will he get One?

Jan Blachowicz
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Jan Blachowicz is Calling for a Title Shot. Will he get One?

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz returned to the octagon at UFC Vegas 54 last Saturday. This marked his first fight since he lost his belt to Glover Teixeira last year at UFC 267. During his main event bout with Aleksandar Rakic, Blachowicz seemed to be in championship form; however, an unfortunate non-contact injury to Rakic’s right knee stopped the contest in round three. Blachowicz called for the next 205-pound title shot in his post-fight octagon interview but this anticlimactic ending may prevent him from getting a championship fight for his next bout.

The Current State of the Belt

Currently, Glover Teixeira sits at the top of the UFC light heavyweight division and his first title defense is quickly approaching. Teixeira is scheduled to face Jiri Prochazka at UFC 275 on June 11, where he will look to defend his belt for the first time. This fight will be no easy test for the champion as Prochazka has all the tools needed to become a UFC champion. With that being said, the UFC will likely be searching for another title contender regardless of who walks away victorious at UFC 275.

The Case for Jan Blachowicz

Coming into UFC Vegas 54 Blachowicz had a great opportunity to stake his claim for the next title shot. By beating the #3 ranked light heavyweight in an impressive fashion Blachowicz would almost undoubtedly get that opportunity. In round one, Blachowicz seemed to be on pace to do just that. He was getting the better of Rakic on the feet and was landing strong leg kicks that created some swelling on the lead leg of Rakic. In round two, momentum shifted as Rakic got an early takedown and ended the round with over four minutes of ground control time. Heading into round three, Rakic seemed to be the fresher fighter but his knee gave out and he was unable to continue fighting. Ultimately, it is almost impossible to say what was going to happen if the fight would have continued.

In MMA, it is not uncommon to take credit for an injury that prevented your opponent from continuing but Blachowicz did not cause this injury. The leg kicks landed by Blachowicz were all on the lead leg of Rakic while his back leg was where the injury occurred. This leaves Blachowicz in an interesting situation. On one hand, he won the fight. On the other hand, he was in a competitive fight that he could have lost if Rakic’s knee held up. This indefinite ending opens the door for other light heavyweights to jump Blachowicz in line for a title shot.

The Other Contenders

There are a handful of fighters in the light heavyweight division that can make a case for a title shot. The most compelling cases go to #4 ranked Magomed Ankalaev and #5 ranked Anthony Smith. Ankalaev and Smith will fight at UFC 277 on July 30. In this situation, Ankalaev and Smith can benefit from each other. They both have an opportunity to make a statement against an elite member of the light heavyweight division and add one more win to their resume. This may push one of them to the next title shot.

Magomed Ankalaev

Ankalaev’s case for a title shot is headlined by his 17-1 record that includes an eight-fight win streak. This streak includes three ranked opponents in Thiago Santos, Volkan Oezdemir, and Nikita Krylov. Ankalaev’s lone loss came back in 2018 when Paul Craig submitted him with one second left in the fight. Since this loss, Ankalaev has displayed very technical striking that could give Teixeira or Prochazka fits.

Anthony Smith

The case for Smith is not quite as strong as Ankalaev’s but it is still notable. He is a former title contender who was unable to defeat Jon Jones for undisputed gold back in 2019. Now he is in the midst of a career resurgence that includes consecutive finishes against Ryan Spann, Jimmy Crute, and Devin Clark. This work has landed Smith in serious title contention.

Jamahal Hill

There is one Darkhorse that everyone should keep their eye out for, and that’s Jamahal Hill. Hill may not have as impressive of a resume as Blachowicz, Ankalaev, or Smith but he feels like a prime candidate to receive a push from the UFC. In Hill’s last fight he brutally knocked out Johnny Walker at UFC Vegas 48. He will return to the octagon on August 6, to fight #6 ranked Thiago Santos. Another spectacular performance from Hill may entice the UFC into offering him a title fight. In all reality, Hill is likely two wins away from getting a chance at gold. Despite that, he is too interesting of an option to completely ignore.

Who gets the title shot?

In all honesty, I think Jan Blachowicz will end up with the title shot that he is calling for. What separates him from Ankalaev and Smith is timing. If the light heavyweight title fight goes off without any hitches on June 11, then we will likely see the champion return in the fall or winter of 2022. Since Blachowicz fought last weekend he will probably be ready to fight in that time frame. Meanwhile, the other potential options may need more time to prepare. Although, if we do not see another defense of the 205-pound belt until quarter one of 2023 you may see another fighter steal that fight right from under Blachowicz.

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