All eyes in the fighting world are on next week’s UFC 268, which will take place at Madison Square Garden. But before reaching that destination, there is a special on Saturday afternoon from Abu Dhabi with UFC 267.
The card is free for ESPN + subscribers. Although the card will have some solid fights, there’s not a lot of star power here, plus it starts at an odd time (2pm ET). So turning what would have been the lowest-selling pay-per-view into a free offer is a smart marketing move.
The main event sees Glover Teixeira get one more shot at the gold, facing light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. There is also a fight for the interim bantamweight belt, pitting former champion Petr Yan against Cory Sandhagen. And after fighting at 266, Dan Hooker returns to the Octagon again at 267. If Hooker defeats Islam Makhachev, he is instantly placed back in contention for the lightweight title.
Can GRAMlover Teixeira annoying Jan Blachowicz?
If Glover Teixeira can pull off the surprise, it would be an amazing story.
Teixeira (32-7) is on a five-game winning streak. He is well known among fight fans, with record breaking most results and most performances in the UFC light heavyweight division. Winning the belt at age 42 would be a remarkable achievement and could really make the 267 card stand out.
The caveat, of course, is that he faces a much better opponent in Blachowicz (28-8). Teixeira’s winning streak isn’t all that impressive beyond Anthony Smith, either. His opponents were never in the conversation for the title or in a throwback, which is not the case for Blachowicz, who is in absolute tears winning nine of his last ten.
Blachowicz is coming off a characteristic victory against Israel Adesanya. He’s practically gotten through everyone else in front of him, including Corey Anderson, who is now surfing Bellator. The key to this fight for Teixeira, who is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, is using his punch to set up submission. That is his path to victory, although the prevailing wisdom is that Blachowicz will win by knockout.
Who’s next if Blachowicz wins?
Blachowicz wants a fight against Jon Jones, which would be a huge draw for him. And that’s out of the ordinary in terms of the next opponents for Blachowicz, as the light heavyweight division is scarce in the top boxes. Title fights against Jiri Prochazka or Aleksandar Rakić are unlikely to draw, putting Blachowicz in a difficult position as champion.
An easy solution would be if Magomed Ankalaev wins with 267, where he needs to defeat eighth-ranked Volkan Oezdemir. Winner of six in a row and seventh in the light heavyweight division, Ankalaev (15-1) is an exciting fighter with a desire to knock out his opponents early. He’s also from Russia, and a title fight against Blachowicz, who lives and trains in Warsaw, Poland, would be a highly commercialized fight by the UFC.
Ankalaev has looked especially impressive in his last six fights, but he has yet to defeat a major opponent (and lost to Paul Craig). But with no other clear opponent, and with little chance of Jones coming back for Blachowicz, this is a chance for Ankalaev to jump into prime position with a win against Oezdemir (17-5).
Who will win the interim bantamweight title?
After an embarrassing illegal kick to the knee that disqualified him from a fight he was winning and cost him his belt, Yan is looking to regain the bantamweight belt with a win over Sandhagen.
And this is a fight that Yan (15-2) should win. Sandhagen (14-3) is coming off a loss to TJ Dillashaw, and he wouldn’t be here if Aljamain Sterling or Dillashaw were healthy. This fight feels forced without Sterling involved, but it is an opportunity for Sandhagen to reach a new level by winning gold, although that task will be extraordinarily difficult.
Another frustrating part of this fight was Yan’s decision to end his open workouts with a re-enactment of the illegal kick that the Sterling fight cost him. What could motivate you to do that? So even though Yan will likely win here, there is a chance that he will become a bigger villain in the process.
What will be the most exciting fight in 267?
The big favorite for the most captivating fight is the quick comeback of Dan Hooker, who just fought at UFC 266, against Islam Makhachev.
On paper, Hooker (21-10) does not fit in well with Makhachev (20-1). But Makhachev’s only loss could be telling. That happened six years ago at UFC 192 when he lost by KO to Adriano Martins, who caught Makhachev with a shot. While it could be argued that their fight shouldn’t have stopped when it was, this is how it ended. And that’s exactly how Hooker would win this fight. He takes shots his opponents never see coming, and that’s his path to victory against Makhachev.
Makhachev should win here, preparing a title shot. But this is Hooker’s opportunity to seize another fight he is not expected to win, instantly putting him back in contention for the title.
Why is the Amanda Ribas-Virna Jandiroba fight not on the main card??
Personally, he would have had strawweights Amanda Ribas and Virna Jandiroba meet on the main card, and would have placed heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura in the preliminaries.
Both Volkov (33-9) and Tybura (22-6) are ranked (fifth and ninth, respectively), but that speaks to the lack of depth in the heavyweight division. Neither is on the cusp of a title fight. Volkov is a really dynamic fighter, and that should lead him to victory here, but the Ribas-Jandiroba fight is much more compelling. Ribas (10-2) is not a traditional mixed martial artist, and she has a chance to bounce back here from a difficult loss to Marina Rodríguez by defeating Jandiroba (17-2).
Will we see an outstanding performance from Li Jingliang or Khamzat Chimaev?
Khamzat Chimaev both have a chance to capture the attention of the fighting world with an impressive performance in Abu Dhabi.
Jingliang (18-6) ranks eleventh. On paper, this should be a convincing victory for Chimaev, but Jingliang is a warrior in the cage. If he can pull off victory, it would be a huge surprise, adding some much-needed electricity to 267.
More MMA coverage:
• Jorge Masvidal wants to teach Leon Edwards a lesson
• Dan Hooker wastes no time before his next fight
• The multiple implications of Paulo Costa’s lack of weight
• Cory Sandhagen doesn’t risk running lightly
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.