UFC 267 takes place this Saturday, Oct. 30 in beautiful Abu Dhabi, UAE, where the light heavyweight and bantamweight divisions will take centre stage whilst also having one of the most stacked undercards of the year.
There are many angles that you can look at and find intriguing with this card, but these three are the biggest questions to be answered and the three that may be of most interest while tuning in on Saturday morning/afternoon.
#1: Is Glover Teixeira too old?
This question is possibly the most commonly talked about when the topic of the main event comes up, but I think there are multiple ways you can look at this. Is Glover Texeira too old to beat Jan Blachowicz this weekend? Of course not. He just beat 5 guys in a row that are all younger than Jan Blachowicz (2 of those opponents were below 30) and Texeira has built up a reputation for overcoming adversity and beating guys that he wasn’t favoured against. For example his most recent fight against Thiago Santos where he was rocked relatively badly twice and still rallied for a third-round submission. The way to look at it produces an easy answer but another way is, is Texeira winning the belt a negative for the division due to his age? And to that, the answer is yes. Texeira being 42 at the time of the fight means that he can’t be as active as everyone else and fight in a 4 or 5-month span, and that limits the number of times the belt can be defended in a year; realistically twice a year as long as he holds the belt or until he retires.
Another concern is that if he decides to retire with the belt, which is surprisingly likely because Texeira doesn’t seem like the type of fighter to have to lose to retire, he’ll possibly do it if he defends the belt only once or twice. When that happens that would mean that there would be another vacant title and we all know that a vacant title is not in the UFC’s best interests or the fans’ best interests, because that then causes more confusion and the belt becomes a bit of a hot potato. The UFC probably won’t even be thinking about that right now but it’s an interesting narrative going into that fight.
#2: How good, really, is Cory Sandhagen?
Cory Sandhagen is one of the most interesting fighters to come out of this new wave of surging contenders in the bantamweight division, and whilst Petr Yan is also one of those guys, he has already become champion (UFC 251 vs Jose Aldo) so he isn’t being questioned in how good he is. But Cory still has this lingering over him due to recent results. First, in June 2020, he lost in a minute to current champion Aljamain Sterling, which a lot of people called a fluke but it was still a good win for Aljo and it looked to establish him at the elite level.
Sandhagen then rebounded with a statement wheelkick KO against Marlon Moraes that showed his flashy style flourishing once again. His next fight in February 2021 against Frankie Edgar was the one that solidified him in a lot of minds as the next up when he flying knee KO’d Edgar in 20 seconds. He was knocking people out and was doing it with incredible skill and style.
The biggest test of his career was next in July 2021 with the former champ T.J. Dillashaw coming back for the first time in 2-and-a-half years after a suspension for the use of EPO. Everyone knew that if Sandhagen beat Dillashaw, it guaranteed him a title shot. He fought well against Dillashaw but ultimately came up short via split decision in a great fight that some had him winning 3 rounds to 2 but it really could’ve gone either way. It’s still hard to decide on it, and it happened 3 months ago.
That close fight leaves questions of if Sandhagen has what it takes to become a long-reigning champion as many people thought he could be, mainly because Dillashaw revealed that he had torn his ACL early in the fight and had to have surgery to heal it. Sandhagen still came up short with his opponent compromised for most of the contest and whether or not people think he won or lost, the loss is what shows on the record, and Sandhagen will have to prove that he is as good as we think he is after that one. If he beats a warrior like Yan, then there can be no more questions about him at all.
#3: Will Khamzat Chimaev show up on the big stage?
Post-lockdown 2020 had the 6 months of Khamzat Chimaev mania, and since then he’s been plagued with fight cancelations and misfortune (He even nearly retired after getting bad side effects from COVID-19). He steamrolled through entry-level UFC guys in his first 2 fights against John Phillips and Rhys McKee (Both no longer on the UFC roster) and set a record of days between UFC wins in the modern era with 10 days in the first batch of UFC Fight Island events which had the whole MMA community talking about this guy as ‘The next Khabib but with better striking’ after just two fights in two weeks of being a part of the promotion.
There was then talk of him being double-booked, a first in UFC history, against both Gerald Meerschaert in September and then Demian Maia in October. This didn’t end up happening but he did end up fighting Meerschaert, flattening him in 17 seconds. This sent him into being one of the most talked about fighters in the sport after only three fights in the UFC. This was unfortunately the last time we’ve seen him but he was booked three times against Leon Edwards in what would’ve been an absolutely huge step up against one of the very best in the world. Injuries on both sides and COVID-19 ruined those plans, and, so now, he finally returns over a year later against ‘The Leech’, Li Jingliang. This is a serious test for Chimaev as The Leech is a brilliant fighter who recently knocked out the great Santiago Ponzinibbio, who was being talked about as one of the best 170lb fighters in the world when he was coming back after 2 years off.
Chimaev could be the championship material that was being discussed and roll through Jingliang, or he could just be another hype job. This is what makes this fight so interesting. Chimaev may be able to control and dominate Jingliang in the wrestling, but he also needs to, and probably wants to, outclass him on the feet and potentially knock him out if he wants this hype train to become faster and bigger than it’s ever been. Having a year of delays and disease might play a factor too, but if he’s as good as people say he is, that shouldn’t be an issue. This should be a very fun fight with a fun story behind it.
As I previously mentioned, this card has so many storylines and talking points so it was relatively hard to choose three of the biggest and best ones. Hopefully, these all live up to the hype and we can enjoy one of the best cards on paper of 2021. Dan Hooker and Islam Makhachev both have two extremely intriguing narratives behind them going into their fight and those two both could’ve made this list. Other honourable mentions are Magomed Ankalaev‘s biggest test yet, Amanda Ribas‘ chance to prove herself after stumbling earlier in the year and Lerone Murphy trying to make a statement in the featherweight division.
So much to look forward to. Enjoy the fights on Saturday, everyone.
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