After Glover Teixeira dethroned Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 for the light heavyweight championship, the division has a different twist on it now. Blachowicz will have to get back in line and fight contenders, which has some interesting matchups for him, while Teixeira will likely be matched up with Jiri Prochazka for his first title defense.
Also right before the title changed hands, Magomed Ankalaev defeated Volkan Oezdemir by unanimous decision to give him his seventh victory in a row. Ankalaev will be a name in which Aleksandar Rakic could possibly have to fight for a title eliminator while Teixeira and Prochazka meet up.
Anthony Smith is also a player in this division. He is on a tear at the moment and he certainly has his name in the title mix at light heavyweight. He has finished three straight opponents after being defeated by Rakic via unanimous decision on Aug. 29, 2020. He has been vocal about wanting the rematch, and Rakic has publicly obliged, but I believe he would much rather take on Ankalaev, who in my opinion is looking like he is next up for a title shot at the moment.
If that’s the case, that leaves Smith open to needing an opponent to get him closer to a title shot. What better opponent than the former champion? Blachowicz will need some time to recover, and Smith shouldn’t mind waiting for another fight, given he just fought Sept. 18, 2021. This would be an amazing fight that I can see many fight fans getting behind.
Paul Craig is another name in this division that can’t be forgotten about. He’s on a five-fight unbeaten streak and was recently supposed to compete against the un-retiring Alexander Gustafsson on Sept. 4, 2021, however Gustafsson pulled out of the fight. It’s uncertain whether or not the UFC will keep these two paired up, or if Craig gets a different opponent. He has the wins, but he needs a big name under his name before he can launch himself into title contention. If he finds a way to match with a guy like Thiago Santos, that would be excellent.
All of the prospects coming up on win streaks matching up with bigger-name veterans is something that is great to see. In the sport of MMA, the changing of the guard is upon us. The new-age athletes are attempting to overtake the older generation, insert the new champion. Teixeira will likely fight Prochazka for his first title defense as I stated before, which ruins the plans of a lot of fans going into this fight.
Blachowicz seemed to have looked a bit too far in the future, as he tweeted this out in May and was making plans for his next title defense before he even stepped in the cage with Teixeira. This built up a frenzy on social media, and fans were immediately calling for the new fan favorite to go up against him, which is why he was the alternate for UFC 267. If any of the fighters could not make the walk, Prochazka was stepping in for a title shot. Now, he will have his grappling tested against Teixeira instead of the stand and bang war we expected going up against “Legendary Polish Power.”
All things being equal, these are my dream scenarios in how the division plays out over the next few months. I feel most of these fights are all but booked and we are allowing the fighters some time to themselves before jumping right back into another training camp.
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