UFC 267 is in the books and it lived up to the billing and then some. What an outstanding card from top to bottom from a pure entertainment perspective. And what better way to cap off a great card than with a great story?
Glover Teixeira, two days removed from turning 42 years old, is now the oldest first-time champion in UFC history and second-oldest ever behind Randy Couture. He was the only betting underdog to win on the entire card and he sensationally dethroned Jan Blachowicz with a rear-naked choke in round two to become the king of the light heavyweights. Would you believe it?! Teixeira took Blachowicz down and kept him there throughout round one, but then it looked as if Big Jan was getting better with stopping the takedowns and landing some shots. Then Glover’s trademark left hook cracked Blachowicz and he never really recovered. Teixeira got the takedown, moved to mount, which is a virtual death sentence for anyone dealing with Glover, then he got to the back and locked up the title-winning submission.
Earlier this year when Charles Oliveira won the vacant lightweight title over Michael Chandler, I called it “a level of perseverance and determination that you have to admire.” Well double those sentiments for Teixeira and then some. His story of getting into the United States is remarkable in itself. He had his title shot against Jon Jones in 2014 and lost a wide decision. From 2016-2018 he was a middling 3-3 and two of those defeats were wicked KOs. And now here he is, winner of his last six — five of them by stoppage — and at long last he can call himself a UFC champion. What a moment, what a win, and you cannot help but feel happy watching that all unfold. I can’t wait to see him against Jiri Prochazka next.
The interim bantamweight title between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen was as excellent as expected. A high-pace, a fascinating high-level matchup between two of the best strikers in all of MMA, and a ton of action from the opening seconds. If Sandhagen got off to a bright start with his volume and smart body attack, Yan inevitably found Cory’s timing and dropped him spectacularly with a spinning backfist in the third round. It wasn’t enough to KO him but it really turned the tide in the Russian’s favor. I’m just amazed at the savagery on display. Even when it got to the ground it was mesmerizing watching Yan use a leglock to immediately scramble to his feet, or when Sandhagen was dropped and nearly scrambled on top after Yan followed him to the mat.
Unfortunately for Sandhagen, I think not only did he wane just a bit with his insane pace, Yan has the heavier hands and that straight left couldn’t miss for prolonged stretches of the second half of the contest. Cory had his moments and certainly gave Yan a lot of things to think about, but I believe Petr was the rightful winner. The 49-46s are totally fine but man it felt like the fight was much closer than that. Hats off to both gentleman for an absolute classic, and now we wait for the Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling rematch (hopefully sans illegal strikes). I have a feeling we’ll see Yan and Sandhagen fight again down the line. Sandhagen fought a great fight but Petr Yan is a superb, generational talent.
More thoughts below:
- Islam Makhachev is the truth. Dan Hooker was taken down inside of 30 seconds and never had a chance in hell of dealing with Islam’s grappling. The AKA standout and Khabib Nurmagomedov protege did horrible things to Dan’s right arm. You could hear Hooker screaming in pain right before he tapped. What a performance by Makhachev, who has nine straight wins and much like Khamzat Chimaev, he does it without getting hit. Don’t be shocked if he’s fighting for the title next year... or end up as the champion outright.
- Hey uh... Alexander Volkov ended Marcin Tybura’s five-fight winning run. It ended in a unanimous decision with Volkov looking nowhere near his best form. The fight itself was not good to watch. Such is life watching heavyweights.
- Good lord. Khamzat Chimaev didn’t miss a beat upon his return to the Octagon. The heavily hyped welterweight prospect took #11 ranked Li Jingliang down in seconds, but not before lifting him towards where Dana White was sitting so he could talk to him mid-fight. From there it was a grappling clinic and then smesh time. He capped things off by getting a rear-naked choke that had ‘The Leech’ unconscious. Khamzat literally didn’t get hit once in this fight and has absorbed just two strikes in his four UFC fights. At some point we will see what happens when he gets someone who can better defend his takedowns and grapple with him, but this dude just destroyed Li like nobody else ever has. He is terrifying and even after a horrible bout with COVID, he is back to destroying everyone in the cage. And this was by far his best win to date.
- It wasn’t as exciting as hoped, but light heavyweight contender Magomed Ankalaev made it seven straight victories with a shutout on the scorecards over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. An early knockdown by Ankalaev seemed to completely scare off Oezdemir from leading and trying to be his usual aggressive self, and given Magomed tends to not force the action much, it became a bit of a disappointment over the final two rounds. Still, Ankalaev is a big problem for much of this division and he may be fighting for a title at some point in 2022 with another win or two.
- It wasn’t a great start for strawweight contender Amanda Ribas, but she overcame a flash knockdown in round one and outclassed fellow Brazilian Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision. Ribas just about had Jandiroba out of there in the third round with a head kick, but at least she gets a win to bounce back from her loss to Marina Rodriguez.
- Zubaira Tukhugov and Ricardo Ramos continued the theme of great prelim action with an entertaining 15-minute battle. Tukhugov was teeing off on Ramos early but got rocked and cut by a spinning elbow towards the end of the opening round. Zubaira’s speed really bothered the Brazilian throughout the contest, and despite Ramos’ third round efforts, Tukhugov was the deserved winner.
- Albert Duraev and Roman Kapylov had an awesome fight. Duraev looked like he was going to finish Kapylov in the second round — props to Jason Herzog for punishing Kapylov’s flagrant fence grab by giving Duraev the position back, where an immediate takedown happened upon restart — but Kapylov survived the strikes from mount and the rear-naked choke. Then in the last round Kapylov blew up Duraev’s left eye and likely broke his orbital, but the comeback was too late. Duraev wins in his debut but he had to hold off that rally in the process.
- Words cannot describe my amazement at UFC newcomer Benoit St. Denis’ toughness and ability to absorb insane punishment from Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, such that Zaleski exhausted himself beating the shit out of him. I am thoroughly disgusted and appalled at St. Denis’ corner for letting him see the third round after that unbelievable onslaught of head trauma, and yet I’m not surprised because MMA corners are almost across the board incapable of throwing in the towel. The refereeing job by Vyacheslav Kiselev was the single worst I have ever seen in a UFC fight. He failed St. Denis by letting that fight continue as long as it did. He failed by not bringing in the doctor when St. Denis said he couldn’t see after a third-round eye poke. Then to cap it all off he docked Zaleski a point for a groin strike, which I assume was him punishing for multiple fouls in a round but seems thoroughly farcical given this shouldn’t have seen a third round. St. Denis took quite conceivably a career-altering beating while Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder were SCREAMING at cageside for this to be over with. Shame on St. Denis’ corner for letting that continue but Kiselev should absolutely not be allowed to ref any fight at all, or at least not without retraining. That’s how people get killed or permanently damaged in combat sports.
- Light heavyweights Michal Oleksiejczuk and Shamil Gamzatov went to war for the few minutes that the fight lasted, but Oleksiejczuk got his hand raised after his pressure and more accurate punching felled Gamzatov. A wicked uppercut caused Gamzatov to drop and turtle up, giving the Polish fighter his second win in a row.
- Lerone Murphy had a difficult first round dealing with Makwan Amirkhani’s wrestling, but he fixed that violently just seconds into round two with a devastating knee as ‘Mr. Finland’ was shooting in for his next takedown. Amirkhani was down and out and the British featherweight is still undefeated in his career. For Makwan, he’s now lost three straight.
- We’re running out of weight classes for Hu Yaozong to get a UFC win. He started at heavyweight, then light heavyweight, and today he was a (giant) middlewight vs. Andre Petroski. Loss, loss, loss. Petroski choked him out with an arm-triangle with seconds left in a fight he was going to win anyway.
- Flyweight Tagir Ulanbekov kicked off the card with a split decision over Allan Nascimento. Even though Nascimento spent a ton of time on his back, he generated enough offense where you could’ve argued for him to get the win, but ultimately I think Ulanbekov deserved the nod.