It's not a big dent in the problem of a stagnant light heavyweight division, but it's certainly a start. The UFC has signed one of the world's top light heavyweight fighters, Jan Blachowicz of Poland. Blachowicz cut his teeth years ago fighting on the KSW circuit where he won three light heavyweight tournaments as well as the promotion's 205 lb title. Most recently he completed a pair of title defenses and each of his last three victories have been against former UFC fighters. Blachowicz announced his signing via twitter.
There has been some noise out there about a trip to Poland for the UFC this year and the head of KSW has already expressed his interest in seeing some of his organizations top fighters in the UFC. Blachowicz may be the tip of an incoming flood of Polish prospects to the UFC ranks. Having racked up a 17-3 record in his 6 years as a professional, Blachowicz is perfectly suited to step in to the UFC and be an exciting addition to light heavyweight. He trains out of the Nastula team with UFC heavyweight Daniel Omielanczuk and under the training of the great Judoka and Pride vet Pawel Nastula. At 30 years old he's pretty much at the do-or-die point of his career. If he can't step in and make an instant impact in the UFC, either at 205 or 185 he probably won't get a second chance.
Watching Blachowicz fight it's clear there are major skills and gaps at play. Hes a fast, accurate striker with a great kicking game and pinpoint punches. He switches stances constantly to try and open angles to land head and body kicks and seems competent from either stance. However, he doesn't possess great footwork, making him something of a statuesque, plodding fighter in the ring. He also doesn't do a lot of combination striking. He'll snap out a head kick, or a powerful straight left, but everything comes in ones and twos. On the ground he's a very aggressive and competent submission grappler. He has seven submission wins in his career and will throw up a mean armbar from his back. But he can get a bit passive, especially against a controlling top grappler. What he really doesn't seem to posses, however, is much wrestling. He's skilled on the ground, and skilled on the feet, but a bit of a mixed bag in between. LHW isn't exactly knee deep in wrestlers, but it will mean that a select few matchups will probably be poison for him.
The second UFC signing is the UFC's second Israeli and second Krav Maga based fighter (after Moti Horenstein). Noad Lahat was rumored to be on the UFC radar way back in 2011, but after a couple of years away from the sport, and a successful return against former Bellator fighter Shad Smith last August it looks like his signing is finally official. The news was announced on the Israeli sports website Sport 5. According to reports the 29 year old had been offered a contract with the WSOF, but for reasons unclear, the negotiations fell apart. Now Zuffa is swooping in on the undefeated featherweight to give him a slot in the UFC. Lahat is training at AKA, so he'll have no lack of top quality instruction and sparring partners for his debut.
Watching Lahat fight, he's a serious top control wunderkid. He does a great job using cradles, foot sweeps, and ankle picks not only to get opponents to the ground, but to keep them there as well. He shows signs of being a competent kickboxer, but I do worry that he overextends himself and leads with his face a bit while throwing in combination. He also doesn't appear to have a lot of finishing tools yet. He had Shad Smith thoroughly dominated but ended up taking him to a decision. He can't afford to give fighters that kind of time in the UFC. Eventually it's hard to say where Lahat is as a prospect. He looks good, but without facing any serious competition and with such a long layoff it's hard to say how well his skills will translate.
To get us better acquainted, check out a couple of videos of their most recent fights.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Goran Reljic at KSW 22:
Noad Lahat vs. Shad Smith at Badbeat 10:
- UFC 169: Frank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem preview and the prognostication
- Sam Sicilia says Julianna Pena was not 'assaulted' as claimed by Dana White
- Journo To Journo: Luke Thomas on TRT, Bellator & Fight Pass
- MMA Beat 32: UFC 169, Pena attacked, NSAC Nelson, Chael vs Wandy, adios Pat Barry, more
- Biggest International Wrestling Tournament in the USA: Dave Schultz Memorial Live Video