The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for Saturday’s UFC 267 card in Abu Dhabi, and it’s a clean sweep for Jan Blachowicz to defend his light heavyweight title over Glover Teixeira. As for the co-main event, only Anton Tabuena is picking Cory Sandhagen to take the interim bantamweight title over Petr Yan. To see the latest betting lines for these fights, head over to DraftKings SportsBook.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira
Anton Tabuena: I’m glad Teixeira got to fight his way to the top and earn another well deserved title shot at 42-years-old. It’s actually inspiring that someone can defy the odds and show that getting up in age doesn’t always matter. That being said, I’m not very confident in his chances. Blachowicz is more technical and more potent on the feet. On the ground, maybe Glover has a chance if he gets on top? I don’t know if he can get — and keep — him there though. Blachowicz is such a talented and dangerous fighter, and this is his fight to lose. Jan Blachowicz by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Hard to imagine that this is a light heavyweight title fight in 2021. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just crazy to think this is legitimately for a UFC belt given Jan’s UFC start and Teixeira being 42 years old. I’d love for Glover to win but if he can’t get past Blachowicz’s jab and he can’t get him on his back where he can grapple, then he’ll have very few options to win this fight. Blachowicz can crack and Teixeira’s habit of getting hurt early in fights may have serious consequences against Big Jan. Jan Blachowicz by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: There’s a path for Glover to make this a very boring fight, something like the Jacare/Blachowicz bout, if he wants to just lean on trying to wrestle exclusively with the champ. But, that’s never really been Glover’s way, even when he’s won by out-wrestling people. He always likes to box his way into range and set up his takedowns. And in recent years, that’s been a riskier and riskier proposition. Teixeira’s recent win streak is remarkable, considering his already long tenure in the cage—but it’s also involved him getting hurt, badly, at least once in almost every bout. And of all his recent opponents, Blachowicz is by far the most composed and consistent. Can Teixeira find more surprising success after getting rocked against a man with a jab like Jan’s? I’m not banking on it. Jan Blachowicz via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Blachowicz: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Teixeira:
Cory Sandhagen vs. Petr Yan
Anton Tabuena: This is such a great fight, and will be a very intriguing clash on the feet. Yan’s more traditional pressure and clinch game is so good and tight, while Sandhagen will try to move and land creative shots from the outside. I honestly am not confident in my pick as they both have legitimate avenues to win. I believe it’s mainly about each imposing their will and forcing the other to play their game, but this is probably a toss up. I’m just glad we get to see this playout in five rounds. I’m worried about Sandhagen giving up rounds again and having a style that’s not good for most judges, but I’m still going with Cory Sandhagen by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: This fight is incredible and I don’t care about the circumstances surrounding how this fight got made. Sandhagen’s body shots, cardio, and ability to create fight-finishing offense at any range make him Yan’s most dangerous opponent yet. That said, Yan can also trouble his opponents wherever the fight takes place and he has underrated strength — I’m amazed how well he ragdolled Aljamain Sterling — and might be able to have more success getting the fight to the mat than Dillashaw did. I think this fight has serious Fight of the Year potential but Yan’s got the power advantage and we can see how well he fights from the backfoot or the front foot. There will be risks he’ll have to take to get inside on Cory but I believe he has what it takes to see this through. Petr Yan by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This fight is going to be a surefire thriller. Sandhagen is so amazingly dynamic and unpredictable from distance, and Yan is a fighter who, through several different paths and processes, is always looking to fight his way into the pocket to land power punches. Can he work his way inside without getting KO’d in the process? I think he can. Dillashaw managed to do it (even if it’s questionable that Dillashaw won that fight). And Yan is a much more adaptable and powerful striker than Dillashaw. There will very likely be some rough moments early for Yan as he tries to figure out the best approach for Sandhagen’s unpredictability. But if he can make it through that, I think he’s too good at finding ways to break opponents to stay on the back foot for long. Petr Yan via decision.
Staff picking Sandhagen: Anton
Staff picking Yan: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Islam Makhachev vs. Dan Hooker
Anton Tabuena: Hooker already explained it himself why taking a very short notice fight against Mahachev is a bad idea, and I fully agree. If Makhachev follows “father’s plan,” especially early on, and doesn’t play around too much on the feet against a really good striker, it’s his fight to lose. Not that he can’t win on the feet, it’s just that he has clear advantages with his grappling. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Mookie Alexander: Just because this is a unanimous pick doesn’t mean it’s an easy pick. Hooker is a live dog here given the dangers he presents as a counterstriker and how hard it’s been to outwrestle him. But if Islam is anything like Khabib, he just finds ways to get you down and wear you out. And he’s prodigious at being one step ahead of you on the mat. Makhachev is going to have to live with the risk of striking with Hooker for prolonged stretches, but I see Islam getting the fight he wants and winning on the scorecards. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Zane Simon: Honestly, this is a much more dangerous fight for Makhachev than I think people are willing to credit. Hooker has certainly been taken down in his career, but he’s a terribly dangerous fighter to try and wrestle. One with massive counter striking ability, especially while reacting to shots. And a fighter with the kind of length to make fighting for underhooks a difficult proposition. And while Makhachev is the heir apparent to Khabib, he’s not nearly the athlete his training partner was in the cage. He has to take fights through a slow, careful series of steps. Otherwise there’s a chance he could be KO’d again. Probably the biggest problem for Hooker here, however, is that he’s a fighter who likes to build his way into the fight. If he can probe and pick at an opponent until he uncovers a weak spot, he’ll charge into it and blow them up. If Makhachev doesn’t go out and try to kickbox him, he may just not give Hooker time to figure out his options. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Staff picking Makhachev: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Hooker:
Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura
Mookie Alexander: I keep picking against Tybura and that’s backfired on me. Why stop now? Volkov is too measured a striker and has more than four minutes of cardio, so he can methodically pick apart Tybura at range and stop him. Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: Tybura tends to have to be able to easily out-wrestle people to pick up wins at a high level. Volkov has had his takedown defense troubles, but he’s a very very difficult fighter to hold down. Even Blaydes struggled keeping him on the mat, and Marcin Tybura is not Curtis Blaydes. Volkov seems too calm, too consistent, and too technical from range for Tybura to set up his entries into takedowns. Alexander Volkov via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Volkov: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Tybura:
Li Jingliang vs. Khamzat Chimaev
Anton Tabuena: We already don’t know enough about Chimaev, especially against top opposition, but there’s even more questions about him now. He had several months in a long and rough battle with COVID-19, and now he also struggled making weight. Stylistically, we don’t really know much about his striking, except that he has power, and on the ground, he could have a chance to out-wrestle Jingliang and eventually go for those d’arce chokes. I don’t know. Despite the hype, there’s just way too many unknowns for me to pick him, and Li is a very dangerous opponent and a tough out even if Chimaev can somehow come in on peak condition. Li Jingliang by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: A little worried about this pick knowing Khamzat’s battle with COVID and his struggle to make weight. Li hits hard and for all we’ve seen out of Chimaev, he’s essentially had no resistance against any opposition in his UFC career. The unknowns make this a risk but to a degree, I believe he is good enough to be a top-10 or top-15 welterweight, and if he’s as strong as we’ve seen him in previous appearances then Jingliang may just get physically bullied. Khamzat Chimaev by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Chimaev doesn’t put Li Jingliang away early, then he could be in real trouble. The ‘Leech’ loves nothing more than coming back from the brink of a hellacious beating to start putting together his combination boxing attack. But that whole ‘coming back from a hellacious beating’ part sounds like it could be a real problem. Especially considering fights like he had with Jake Matthews and Neil Magny, who were able to out-punch him from long distance and to out-wrestle him consistently enough to stop him from creating anything late. In fact, strong, positionally solid grapplers have been a bane for the China Top Team fighter for a few years now. Get the feeling Chimaev will blitz him early and create a problem Jingliang just won’t be able to solve. Khamzat Chimaev via Submission, Round 1.
Staff picking Jingliang: Anton, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Chimaev: Zane, Mookie
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Mookie Alexander: Oezdemir has been undersold a bit as a light heavyweight contender. He was unlucky to lose a split to Dominick Reyes and he had Jiri Prochazka in some early trouble before getting KO’d cold. There are no real bad losses on his record so he’s a serious test for Ankalaev, who’s potent but usually has to be pushed into that sort of fight where he can be more aggressive. Unfortunately Oezdemir tends not to be a patient type, and if he doesn’t catch Ankalaev early I can see him fading and Ankalaev taking over with takedowns and ground-and-pound. Magomed Ankalaev by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: If Oezdemir can keep this fight standing he’ll get chances to make things happen. Ankalaev may be a rugged, 5-tools kind of fighter, but he’s also a guy who has let dangerous opposition hang around well past the point he should, just for a lack of urgency on offense. And Volkan Oezdemir is always a fighter willing to finish things in a hurry. That said, Oezdemir is also still a fighter who can be sent into a tailspin by a few bad moments in a fight. And once that starts, he often gets very tired. The fight likely starts as a very 50/50 contest, but if Ankalaev can change up the rhythm at all - either with wrestling, or upping the tempo - I have to assume he can push Oezdemir into mistakes. Magomed Ankalaev via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Oezdemir: Anton, Stephie
Staff picking Ankalaev: Mookie, Dayne, Zane
Amanda Ribas vs. Virna Jandiroba
Zane Simon: The real question of this fight may just be who’s the better grappler. Ribas is the more fluid, dynamic fighter with a better transition game. But, Jandiroba seems more like the fighter working hard to make real strides and improve her game as she goes. If Ribas ducks in and hits one of her upper body takedowns that she always seems to hit, will Jandiroba be able to out-grapple her from guard the way she did Murata. Was the improved striking Jandiroba showed against Murata something she can replicate against an opponent she doesn’t have a big reach advantage over? I’ll take Ribas just because I know exactly what kind of fight she’s going to try and have, and I don’t think Jandiroba can knock her out. But it should be a great test of both women's’ A games. Amanda Ribas by decision.
Staff picking Ribas: Zane
Staff picking Jandiroba: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Ricardo Ramos
Zane Simon: This fight will almost definitely be a razor thin split decision. Both men are adept, dynamic fighters in every area of the game, but they also both tend to only fight in short bursts of activity. Between them, Ramos is the much more consistent producer, but Tukhugov seems like the much tougher, more rugged fighter. If Ramos doesn’t finish Tukhugov with one of his bodylock to back-take takedowns, I think Tukhugov is much more likely to hurt him and make Ramos freeze in the cage. Still, this is the kind of fight where each man is likely to have one or two big moments a round and it’ll be up to judges to decide which moments were better. Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision.
Staff picking Tukhugov: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Ramos:
Albert Duraev vs. Roman Kopylov
Zane Simon: Duraev seems like an incredibly stiff and unnatural striker, but he’s an incredibly determined wrestler. And unfortunately for Kopylov, while he’s a capable enough fighter everywhere, he’s not any kind of dynamic finishing threat. If Duraev can get the momentum early, I’m not convinced Kopylov can steal it back quickly enough to win. Albert Duraev via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Duraev: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Kopylov:
Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Shamil Gamzatov
Zane Simon: Every fight Oleksiejczuk has at 205 in the UFC is going to come with questions about his size and ability to compete with huge athletes. But Gamzatov seems very much like a fighter still trying to figure out who he really wants to be in the cage. A decorated wrestler and grappler, he put together an absolutely abysmal kickboxing performance in his UFC debut (even if it was enough to get him the win). He also, to date, hasn’t been a good finisher in the cage. I have no doubt he’ll get Oleksiejczuk down, but if he can’t finish him, ‘Lord’ is a much more capable puncher than Klidson Abreu. Michal Oleksiejczuk via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Oleksiejczuk: Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Gamzatov: Anton, Stephie, Mookie
Makwan Amirkhani vs. Lerone Murphy
Zane Simon: SBG Ireland seems to have kept Amirkhani in a long term holding pattern. He’s spent years working on his boxing, but still seems more or less like the guy he first showed up in the UFC as—if maybe a hair less dynamic and confident in getting to his A-game. Murphy, on the flip side, is a powerful, confident, and shockingly capable fighter who has only had the toughest tests in his UFC career to date. This feels very much like a fight he can handle. Lerone Murphy via decision.
Staff picking Amirkhani:
Staff picking Murphy: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Mookie
Andre Petroski vs. Hu Yaozong
Zane Simon: Yeah I need to see Hu Yaozong win even one reasonably high level fight before I pick him to beat anyone. Especially not a physical, power-wrestler like Petroski. Andre Petroski via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Petroski: Stephie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Hu: Anton, Mookie
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoît St. Denis
Zane Simon: St. Denis certainly could cause Zaleski some problems if the Brazilian isn’t fighting with confidence and a clear idea of just how dogged the Frenchman’s takedown attack can be. But guys who were the best wrestlers in regional MMA orgs where nobody really wrestles are always going to get a lot of skepticism from me. Is St. Denis really ready to win a fight where he can’t get super easy takedowns? Nothing I’ve seen of his tape to date would suggest that. And while Zaleski may not be known for his grappling first and foremost, he’s a very capable fighter on the mat. Elizeu Zaleski via KO, round 3.
Staff picking Zaleski: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking St. Denis:
Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Allan Nascimento
Zane Simon: I really am interested to see what happens in this fight when it hits the floor. Ulanbekov is an obviously well schooled talent, but he makes some mistakes with his distance management and grappling game just because he’s so used to being the much faster, more physical force in the cage. I’m not sure he’s ever faced someone like Nascimento, with truly world class grappling credentials before. That said, whenever Nascimento has met someone that can hang with him on the mat, he’s tended to lose. Flyweight is an athlete’s division and Nascimento just doesn’t seem all that strong or fast. Assuming Ulanbekov can stay safe in top control when he needs to, Tagir Ulanbekov via decision.
Staff picking Ulanbekov: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Nascimento:
This poll is closed
Blachowicz and Yan
Blachowicz and Sandhagen
Teixeira and Yan
Teixeira and Sandhagen