UFC 267 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks
The UFC is headed back to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, and it will do so with a ridiculously stacked pay-per-view: UFC 267.
The card will be topped by a light heavyweight title fight between 38-year-old champion Jan Blachowicz, who is in the midst of an epic late-career resurgence, and 41-year-old challenger Glover Teixeira, who is enjoying an even more impressive twilight surge.
Co-headlining honors go to an interim bantamweight title fight between former champion Petr Yan—who infamously lost the title after being disqualified for an illegal knee—and dangerous contender Cory Sandhagen.
The main card is rounded out by a lightweight showdown between Islam Makhachev and short-notice replacement opponent Dan Hooker, a heavyweight fight between Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura, a welterweight fight between Li Jingliang and Khamzat Chimaev and a light heavyweight battle between Magomed Ankalaev and Volkan Oezdemir. To reiterate, the card is absolutely stacked.
And it wouldn't be a UFC fight week without another round of B/R staff predictions. Keep scrolling to see whom the B/R combat sports team is picking to come out on top on this dynamite pay-per-view main card.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira
Scott Harris: Glover Teixeira deserves every bit of respect available for hovering at the top of the light heavyweight division for as long as he has, even if it hasn't been the most electrifying of career arcs. No matter how you view Teixeira, though, the guy is out of his depth here. The 41-year-old's meat-and-potatoes wrestle-boxing is slower than dirt, but even more alarming is his chin, or lack thereof. He's been able to avoid a lot of big knockouts, but Blachowicz has the power and the cage smarts to put him away before he can find his groove and start racking up the control time.
Blachowicz by TKO, Rd. 1.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: I've read a lot of analysis suggesting these guys are mirror images of one another, or at least comparable, but I don't see it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Blachowicz will be a touchstone for future UFC watchers, but he's far closer to vintage these days than Teixeira. He lands hard and often and gets a stop within the first 10 minutes.
Blachowicz by TKO, Rd. 2.
Tom Taylor: Like my talented colleagues, I've got Jan Blachowicz retaining the light heavyweight title, but I see this one running a little on the long side. I'm expecting a tentative first few rounds, throughout which the two light heavyweights show plenty of respect for each other's fight-ending power—maybe too much. Eventually, however, Blachowicz will realize how much faster he is than Teixeira. From there, it's all over. My money's on a head kick or an uppercut. Both should be available.
Blachowicz by KO, Rd. 4.
Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen
Scott Harris: Heart says Sandhagen. Head says Yan. Sandhagen is an outstanding striker, but Yan is a little better. Yan will stay within himself and dictate how and where the fight takes place. Sandhagen will likely try to use his rangy limbs to keep Yan on the outside, but it won't work this time, as Yan closes the distance and gorges himself on body attacks. This one won't hit the ground until Sandhagen succumbs in the championship rounds.
Yan by TKO, Rd. 4.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: Make no mistake: I'd like to see Yan get some comeuppance for the whole Aljamain Sterling foul thing. It loked like it was intentional, or at least preventable, to these eyes, so it's been sort of tasteless to see the former champ rag on the incumbent for his unwillingness to make a quick return. Still, though I hope Sandhagen takes care of business, Yan is a beast and that won't change here.
Yan by TKO, Rd. 3.
Tom Taylor: Man, this is such a great fight. Yan and Sandhagen are both electrifying strikers, though they tend to favor different approaches. Yan is one of the best boxers in MMA today, while Sandhagen prefers to use his lanky limbs to light up people at range. In this matchup, I see Yan's style prevailing. He lands harder and more often en route to an impressive decision win.
Yan by unanimous decision.
Islam Makhachev vs. Dan Hooker
Scott Harris: Dan Hooker is a popular action fighter from the world's hottest MMA gym (City Kickboxing in New Zealand, home to Israel Adesanya, among plenty of others). He has a lot of notable wins, including over Nasrat Haqparast at the end of September. And now for the "but." He doesn't look to have much chance against the Next Nurmagomedov in Islam Makhachev. He will make it fun, but Makhachev will stifle Hooker's boxing with extended clinch and ground sequences. He won't be able to finish Hooker, but Makhachev won't leave much doubt over who was in control.
Makhachev by unanimous decision.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: Sometimes, your ego—or your competitive drive—writes a check that your talent can't cash. And with all due respect to Hooker, who's as tough and willing and as rugged as they come, that seems to be the case here. If the new Dagestani dynamo is what people suggest that he is, this one will be a grinding, punishing and painful exhibition. Sorry, Dan, but next time you might want to let the call go to voicemail.
Makhachev by submission, Rd. 2.
Tom Taylor: Hooker deserves a ton of respect for accepting a fight with a juggernaut like Makhachev on short notice. Unfortunately for the New Zealander and his fans, victory looks like a long shot. In fact, I'd say Hooker's only path to triumph is hitting Makhachev with a knee or an uppercut as he shoots in for a takedown. It's possible but unlikely. A much more probable outcome is that he becomes the latest man to be ground into mulch by the Second Coming of Khabib.
Makhachev by submission, Rd. 3.
Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura
Scott Harris: Tybura is a plodding heavyweight straight out of central casting. Meanwhile, Volkov has one of the more polished standup games in the division. His takedown defense isn't great, but Tybura doesn't have the wrestling to capitalize. Volkov wins going away on volume.
Volkov by unanimous decision.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: These guys are top-10 heavyweights. But they're not to be confused with the top tier in the division. Volkov is tall, long and mechanical. Tybura is shorter, slower and probably more powerful. One guy is going to have to impose himself on the other, and the guess here is that Volkov finds a way to get it done. But no one at the Cyril Gane or Francis Ngannou households needs to lie awake at night.
Volkov by unanimous decision.
Tom Taylor: Just when it was starting to feel like my colleagues and I would agree on every fight scheduled for UFC 267, I find myself forced to diverge. Volkov is really good, but Tybura has been giving me the impression of a fighter who is finally putting it all together. Provided he can get through his Russian rival's ridiculous range, I see him landing the heavier shots and completing several takedowns on his way to a decision win that is justified, if not riveting.
Tybura by unanimous decision.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Li Jingliang
Scott Harris: Chimaev has something to prove after all that COVID-19-related retirement drama, and that's bad news for Jingliang, a brawler with a 59 percent takedown defense rate. Lock this one in stone.
Chimaev by unanimous decision.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: I'm all-in on Borz. I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing in the summer of 2020, when he emerged from anonymity to phenom over the course of two months, but I loved it. The skill, the power, the attitude, the menace. I want to see him fight Leon Edwards or Conor McGregor or Kamaru Usman, and it all starts here. So I say it's over before the end of the first round and that the post-fight chat is a classic.
Chimaev by TKO, Rd. 1.
Tom Taylor: Unlike my man Lyle, I am not ready to board the Khamzat Chimaev hype train. I'm still waiting for my ride to the railway station. I thought it was preposterous when he was booked to fight Leon Edwards in his fourth UFC fight, and I'm glad that plan fell through. That being said, I do think he is better than China's ultra-tough, ever-entertaining Li Jingliang in every department. He wins however he wants, but I still won't be ready to hail him as the next dominant UFC champion.
Chimaev via submission, Rd. 2.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Scott Harris: There are a lot of squash matches on the docket in Abu Dhabi, and many involve fighters from the North Caucasus region. Add Ankalaev to the mix, who's facing a potent but fading Oezdemir. This would be the Dagestani's biggest win to date, and he should get it with wrestling and head-turning power.
Ankalaev by TKO, Rd. 2.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: If you want a card to open with a memorable and dominant performance, this ought to be the fight for you. Oezdemir is a perfectly respectable veteran who's accomplished some good things in his career, but he's on the downward slope these days and ought to be name cache fodder for yet another surging Dagestani. Consider it a moral victory if the older man gets through five minutes.
Ankalaev by TKO, Rd. 1.
Tom Taylor: Magomed Ankalaev has been in my "Future Champs" folder for quite a while. Granted, his chances of winning the light heavyweight title look a little slimmer since Jiri Prochazka burst on to the scene, but he should take another step toward that end against Oezdemir. At his peak, Oezdemir possessed the striking and deceptive touch-them-and-they-fall power to challenge anybody in the division. Today, though, he seems to have settled into gatekeeper status. Ankalaev comes crashing through the gates like an out-of-control bus.
Ankalaev by KO, Rd. 1.