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UFC 267: Six unanswered questions from the Blachowicz vs. Teixeira fight card

What can be done about fighter safety and five more questions from UFC 267.

UFC 267 delivered a new light heavyweight champion in Glover Teixeira and an interim bantamweight champ in former 135-pound titleholder Petr Yan. The card showed that the hype behind Khamzat Chimaev – who returned to action after a nasty bout with COVID-19 – was justified, as were the expectations surrounding Islam Makhachev and Magomed Ankalaev. However, the event did leave us with some new questions to ponder. Here are teh six most pressing points to ponder coming out of Saturday night.

UFC 267 took place at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The fight card streamed on ESPN+.

What was the deal with that towel?

Khamzat Chimaev missed weight on his first attempt at UFC 267. When he stepped back on the scale to see if he had cut enough weight it seemed as if he had overdone it, as his announced weight was a slim 166. Which brought someone off camera during the process to question, “What did you say?” and “He lost five pounds?”

Chimaev was brought back to the scale and instead of having his hands on the towel – which he did when he weighed in at 166 – the fighter was asked to raise his hands over his head. With that, Chimaev checked in at 171, making the welterweight limit for his fight.

I’m of the mind that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, but Chimaev got caught here and the athletic commissions have to be more mindful of the “towel trick.” Also, the commissions need to stipulate – clearly in the rules for weigh-ins – that if the towel is needed, the fighter’s hands need to be raised or at least not in contact with anything that can allow them to cheat. Chimaev made weight, and that’s well and good, but the man was clearly touching the towel when he checked in at 166. But hey, nice try.

Will the free card add subscriptions and PPV buys?

I have to believe one reason UFC 267 was “free” was to add subscriptions to ESPN+ and then convert those subscriptions to buys for this week’s UFC 268 pay-per-view. And you know what? That’s not a bad plan. UFC 267 had a stacked main card and UFC 268 does as well. If the UFC and ESPN got people to subscribe to ESPN+ by offering UFC 267 at no additional cost and then pique their interest with a quality card and promotional material hoping to pick up pay-per-view buys, that’s good business. If it works, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one free PPV event in 2022.

What about fighter safety?

Referee Vyacheslav Kiselev did a horrible job at UFC 267. The ref handled the Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoit Saint-Denis bout and allowed Saint-Denis to take an enormous amount of unnecessary damage. He then not only allowed Saint-Denis to continue after Dos Santos poked him in the eye and Saint-Denis said he couldn’t see, but didn’t even call the cageside doctor to examine the fighter before restarting the bout.

With no commission for the event, the UFC self-regulated UFC 267 alongside a UAE MMA federation, according to Yahoo’s Kevin Iole. The UFC, led by Marc Ratner, who is the vice president for regulatory affairs for the promotion, removed Kiselev from further duties on the card—he had been scheduled to ref the main card opener.

The referee failed in this fight, but so did the corner of Saint-Denis. Another layer (or more) of safety needs to be built into MMA events. Perhaps an outside referee or the cageside physician can help to decide when a fighter has had enough.

MMA is an inherently dangerous sport, there is no reason negligence should make it more dangerous. We need to make the sport as safe as possible. The referee, Saint-Denis’ corner and the commission all failed to do that at UFC 267. A change needs to take place.

Future champs?

Three fighters who competed at UFC 267 have been pegged as future champs. One other fighter seems poised to regain his title. All four fighters are Russian.

Petr Yan captured the interim bantamweight title with an excellent decision win over Cory Sandhagen. The former 135-pound champ is expected to face current champ Aljamain Sterling in a title unification bout. It won’t be a shock to see him regain that title when the rematch takes place.

Islam Makhachev ran over Dan Hooker in 2:25 and extended his winning streak to nine-straight. The 30-year-old looks and sounds as if he is ready to fight for the lightweight crown as soon as the UFC can get him a contract.

Khamzat Chimaev submitted Li Jingliang in 3:16 to move his UFC winning streak to four straight. Chimaev is one of the most hyped fighters to come along since Conor McGregor made his UFC debut. The way Chimaev has been winning, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear him get called out at UFC 268 by the winner of the Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington fight.

Magomed Ankalaev defeated former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir by decision. The victory extended Ankalaev’s winning streak to seven straight. The 29-year-old might be one or two fights away from a UFC title shot.

I’ll be blunt, I won’t be surprised to see one or all these men wearing UFC gold by the end of 2022.

Did you miss Joe Rogan?

I know Joe Rogan doesn’t commentate international events these days. I also know he hasn’t worked a UFC card for a while and that it would be easy to phase him out and replace him with Paul Felder or Michael Bisping permanently. Rogan had his time in the UFC, that time has passed.

Was that a tear?

When 42-year-old Glover Teixeira realized a dream nearly 20 years in the making — he made his MMA debut in 2002 — and won the UFC title with a submission win over Jan Blachowicz, did you get a little choked up? It’s okay if you did, it seems like a lot of folks felt that way. And if you didn’t feel even the slightest tug of your heartstrings, well, what’s wrong with you?