UFC 267 took place on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. During the event, the UFC crowned a new light heavyweight king and an interim bantamweight champion. Along with those belts, several fighters who have been on many “future UFC titleholder” lists moved closer to getting their shots at UFC gold.
In the main event, Glover Teixeira, who is widely recognized as one of the “good guys” of MMA, took the light heavyweight title from Jan Blachowicz. What made Teixeira’s submission win even more noteworthy was that it came two days after his 42nd birthday and in his 40th professional fight.
In the interim bantamweight title scrap, former champion Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen delivered performances that should have their five-round scrap in the running for “Fight of the Year.”
Prior to those title fights, Islam Makhachev, Khamzat Chimaev and Magomed Ankalaev all won their fights. Chimaev and Makhachev scored first round submission wins. Ankalaev won his bout via decision.
Overall, the event, especially the main card was an incredibly strong and entertaining experience, but with like all UFC fight cards, there were winners and losers. Read on to find out who landed in those categories.
Glover Teixeira: Glover Teixeira might not have shocked the world on Saturday, but he surprised a significant number of combat sport fans and at least five members of the Bloody Elbow staff (six if you count me), by pulling off an upset win over Jan Blachowicz to become the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Teixeira, who lost his previous title fight in 2014 to Jon Jones, put together a smart performance. He was wise to get the takedown early in the first round when both fighters were dry and win that round. His takedown that led to the submission in the second round was well timed and came after he hurt Blachowicz with his striking.
Teixeira is now on a six-fight winning streak. He has five finishes during that stretch.
Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen: Will the interim bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen go down as the best fight of 2021? That’s not for me to say, but it was “Fight of the Night,” and it 100 percent deserved those accolades.
This was a complete and technical fight between two of the best bantamweight fighters in the UFC. That both men are under 30 makes me believe we will see them face off again in the future and I am looking forward to seeing that fight or maybe (hopefully) those fights.
Islam Makhachev: Islam Makhachev took Dan Hooker to the mat within the first minute of their lightweight bout. Makhachev then showed patience, poise and skill in earning a kimura submission win before the halfway point of the first stanza.
After the win, Makhachev, who has struggled to get fights against ranked opponents, pointed out that he is now on a nine-fight winning streak and that Hooker was the No. 6 ranked fighter in the lightweight division. With his dominant win, Makhachev deserves a shot at one of the handful of fighters ranked above him.
Dan Hooker: Dan Hooker didn’t need to face Islam Makhachev at UFC 267. Hooker defeated Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 and when Rafael dos Anjos dropped out of the fight because of injury, Hooker raised his hand to step in. Hooker might have lost the fight, but he deserves credit for taking a fight on short notice that many would have refused with a full camp.
Alexander Volkov: Alexander Volkov ended the five-fight winning streak of Marcin Tybura with a unanimous decision at UFC 267. The victory got Volkov back in the win column after a June loss to Ciryl Gane. The win might not move the 33-year-old up the heavyweight rankings, he entered the contest at No. 5, but it should keep him in the mix at the top of the weight class.
Khamzat Chimaev: Khamzat Chimaev opened his fight opposite Li Jingliang with an immediate and impressive takedown (and some chatter for UFC president Dana White). From there, he showed a powerful and heavy top game and used his brutal striking to set up a nasty choke that put Li Jingliang to sleep in the first round.
I was unsure of how fully Chimaev had recovered from his rough bout with COVID-19, but he answered that question at UFC 267. Now the only question left to answer is just how high the upside is of this 27-year-old. An incredibly impressive win and return to action for Chimaev.
Magomed Ankalaev: Magomed Ankalaev has been considered a potential champion since his first fight in the UFC. He lost his promotional debut via submission with one second left in the bout, but he’s now on a seven-fight winning streak after scoring a unanimous decision victory over Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 267.
Ankalaev’s striking had Oezdemir waiting and reluctant to engage, which is something we haven’t seen from Oezdemir in the past. I’m not sure this fight was enough to get Ankalaev a title shot, but it was a dominant win and, at worse, it moves him one step closer to a shot at UFC gold.
Amanda Ribas: Amanda Ribas showed more comfort with her striking in this fight and she is making progress on her feet, but she kept her chin a bit too high at points. However, Virna Jandiroba did not make her pay and as the fight wore on, Ribas got even more comfortable with her striking as she used combinations and volume while moving forward. Ribas also showed some decent fight IQ and patience after she hurt Jandiroba with a head kick late in the final stanza and did not rush in to get a finish that might not have been there.
Ricardo Ramos vs. Zubaira Tukhugov: This was a fun and well-fought matchup. Both fighters had their moments, and both showed impressive speed and countering abilities in their striking skills. A good scrap and a nice return to the win column for Tukhugov, who had not competed since he dropped a split decision to Hakeem Dawodu in September 2020.
Albert Duraev: Albert Duraev had a good UFC debut. His ground striking was especially impressive as he nearly finished his opponent, Roman Kopylov. However, he absorbed some damage as well, which was evidenced by a nearly closed left eye. A good win to build from for Duraev.
Roman Kopylov: Roman Kopylov showed a lot of resilience in this fight. He was nearly finished in the second round of his bout against Albert Duraev and then came out in the third round and fought off takedowns and despite being exhausted, did his best to preserve his energy and attempt to get the stoppage. He didn’t, but he let Duraev know he was in a fight.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos put a beating on Benoit St. Denis that was so one-sided that it became extremly uncomfortable.
Michal Oleksiejczuk: Michal Oleksiejczuk was a small underdog to Shamil Gamzatov in their light heavyweight matchup, but he dominated the fight for as long as it lasted. Oleksiejczuk controlled everything about the contest and his powerful striking ended the bout in the first round. A huge win for the 26-year-old, who is now on a two-fight winning streak, and will have a lot of momentum heading into his next outing.
Lerone Murphy: Lerone Murphy moved his record to 11-0-1 with a perfectly placed and timed knee when Makwan Amirkhani shot in for a takedown. During the early moments of the fight, UFC commentator Jon Anik noted Murphy wanted to test himself against a wrestler. With the way he finished Amirkhani, future opponents of Murphy’s should note they need to set up their takedown attempts much better than Amirkhani. This was a brutal knockout and a big statement win for the 30-year-old Murphy.
Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Allan Nascimento: Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Allan Nascimento put on a spirited performance in the opening bout. Ulanbekov got the win, but it was Nascimento who was the more impressive fighter. I really liked Nascimento’s grappling skills and his ability to strike from the bottom and transition to smooth submission setups. Ulanbekov is strong from the top position, but I wonder about his fight IQ as he probably should not have engaged as much as he did on the mat in this one. His willingness to tangle on the mat with Nascimento nearly cost him the win in this one.
Both fighters show promise, but they both have gaps they need to close.
UFC: Good work removing the ref of the Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoit St. Denis, Vyacheslav Kiselev, from the second fight he was scheduled for at UFC 267. It needs to add him to a “do not use” list.
UFC: I don’t know if part of the UFC’s plan was to offer UFC 267 at a non-PPV price point in order to generate a new batch of subscribers, but if it was, the depth of the main card and the story lines the UFC got to tell about the upcoming UFC 268 fight card was a solid selling point.
Jason Herzog: During the Albert Duraev vs. Roman Kopylov fight, Kopylov prevented a takedown with a blatant fence grab. Instead of delivering an impotent and ineffective warning, referee Jason Herzog paused the action and reset the fighters against the fence. The reset allowed Duraev to get the takedown and put a pummeling on the mat and nearly finish the fight. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Jason Herzog is the best ref in MMA.
Jan Blachowicz: Jan Blachowicz lost his UFC light heavyweight title to Glover Teixeira. Blachowicz handled the loss about as well as he could, saying he felt he left his “legendary Polish power in hotel room,” before declaring he would be back in the hunt for the title.
I’m sure the loss is heartbreaking and painful, but to lose to someone like Teixeira, who is one of the most well respected and admired fighters in the UFC, has to take a little of the sting from the setback.
Also, let’s not forget, Blachowicz, like Teixeira, is someone who has fought through tough times. He started his UFC run with a 2-4 record before going 9-1.
Volkan Oezdemir: Volkan Oezdemir started strong, but faded quickly against Magomed Ankalaev. It’s hard to tell if Ankalaev’s style or power shut down the former title challenger, but he showed no sense of urgency in this bout and he’s now lost two in a row.
Virna Jandiroba: Virna Jandiroba did nice work to get her fight against Amanda Ribas to the mat in the first round. She showed a willingness to eat some punches to get the takedown, and those strikes did not dissuade her. However, Jandiroba could not keep up that pace and she faded and allowed Ribas to dictate the majority of the bout.
Benoit St. Denis: Benoit St. Denis showed a lot of heart and toughness, but he also showed a distinct lack of experience and fight IQ and that allowed him to take a severe beating.
Shamil Gamzatov: Shamil Gamzatov allowed Michal Oleksiejczuk to back him to the cage and keep him there until Oleksiejczuk landed the finishing blow. Gamzatov was 14-0 heading into this bout. The 31-year-old learned a valuable lesson in this loss, he can’t accept being backed into the cage. At 31, Gamzatov has time to bounce back from this setback, but he needs to work on footwork and positioning.
Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder: The commentary team did not do a good job during the first fight of the night. Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder seemed to believe Allan Nascimento, who was finding success from his back, should have tried to stand up despite landing strikes and finding openings for submission attempts. The duo also seemed obsessed with top control and takedowns, neither of which plays a part in the primary scoring.
The fact that the UFC commentators regularly misrepresent the scoring criteria is infuriating.
The two righted the ship as the card progressed, but they had a rough start.
Fans: The beating Benoit St. Denis took was tough to watch.
UFC: In the lead up to the Khamzat Chimaev fight, the UFC had the audacity to refer to Chimaev’s struggles with COVID-19 as “medical setbacks.” The broadcast made it sound as if Chimaev had the sniffles and not that he was coughing up blood and afraid he was going to die.
Look, we all know Dana White wants to pretend that COVID-19 is no big thing, but the UFC needs to do better on this front.
Daniel Cormier: Daniel Cormier owed referee Jason Herzog an apology. He had plenty of opportunities to deliver that message. He didn’t.
UFC and Marc Ratner: The UFC served as its own commission for this event, as such Marc Ratner, who is the UFC VP of Regulatory Affairs should be grilled as to the failings of, well, everyone during the Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoit St. Denis bout. UFC president Dana White who recently spoke about the health and safety program of the UFC should also answer some tough questions.
Andre Petroski: Andre Petroski is a work in progress. Petroski’s striking needs a lot of work. Nearly everything he offered on the feet was thrown with 100 percent power, and he rarely set up his strikes with a jab. Petroski’s wrestling skills are good. He was fast on the mat and transitioned to submission attempts with speed and confidence. Petroski’s ground striking was strong, thanks to his power and that when postured up, he doesn’t need to use defense as much as he does on the feet. Another thing Petroski has to work on is his pacing and cardio. Petroski did not look bad, but his opponent in this contest, Hu Yaozong allowed him to shine more than a more mature fighter would.