Alex Pereira celebrates his UFC victory (Zuffa LLC)

Ex-middleweight champion, Alex “Potan” Pereira, 36, is making his light heavyweight debut against former champion Jan Blachowicz, 40, at UFC 291 this weekend.

Pereira, who is best known for his rivalry with Israel Adesanya, is 7-2 as a professional mixed martial artist and 4-1 in the UFC. His UFC and MMA records are so thin because he has an extensive and high-level kickboxing resume.

Inversely, Blachowicz has been in the UFC for nearly a decade and has amassed a 12-6-1 record. Recently, Blachowicz is 3-1-1 beating the aforementioned Adesanya but losing to Pereira’s coach Glover Teixeira.

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Betting Odds

The odds for this one have stayed relatively steady throughout the week, with the light heavyweight veteran as a slight favorite.

  • Alex Pereira: +105 (BetUS)
  • Jan Blachowicz: -125 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Pereira is possibly the most credentialed and dangerous kickboxer to transition to the UFC. His size, speed, power, and timing are unlike anything we’ve seen in a fighter so green in the MMA world. Like many fighters who come from a striking specific background, though, Pereira’s primary obstacle in MMA has been his defensive grappling.

Because of his size, natural strength, and the fighters he’s faced, Pereira has shown solid takedown defense and get-up game. However, he has never faced a wrestler of Blachowicz’s size or caliber; so, even though Pereira has a 73% takedown defense, it isn’t realistic to attribute that success blindly to this fight.

Instead, if we look more deeply into his skillset and coaching, we’ll see that Pereira has made significant improvements in his grappling and has, on paper, the necessary tools to keep the fight standing early on. Tall fighters are more challenging to takedown because they can use their legs to spread a wide base with a low center of gravity and use their arms to post creating a more stable base.

Pereira has shown an ability to do exactly this when an opponent tries to take him down against the cage. If someone does get him down, Pereira intelligently closes guard to limit his opponent’s ability to pass or mount and then slowly use his natural strength to inch his way up. Again, intelligent and skilled. Lastly, each time Pereira has been forced to grapple, he’s shown an increase in ability which logically is attributed to his head coach- Glover Teixeira, one of the best grapplers from the 205 division.

If Pereira can keep the fight standing long enough, there are questions around his defensive grappling when he starts to fatigue because his strength starts to dwindle, he is as dangerous as anyone when kickboxing. His path to victory is to stuff takedowns and look to clip Blachowicz early because the later the fight goes, the less successful Pereira will likely be while grappling.

Blachowicz is a complete and well-rounded mixed martial artist. He has his famous “Polish Power” which is more of a moniker than an accurate description of his striking. Rather, Blachowicz tends to be a volume striker who lands a variety of boxing combinations and sneaky kicks. Given his plodding footwork, Blachowicz’s athletic kicking game sometimes comes as a surprise; but, make no mistake about it, he can land a telegraphed head kick with real heat. Typically, Blachowicz will look to chop the lead leg of his opponent early.

While his leg kicks are snappy and effective, he has some of the better calf kicks in the division, Blachowicz has been caught with counters when his calf kick is thrown naked- nothing coming before or after it- and anticipated. More than once Blachowicz has thrown his calf kick but has eaten a clean shot, typically a hook, in return. At 40, he likely can’t eat many more of those heavy counters. Blachowicz, being a complete fighter, also has a strong wrestling and grappling game.

He typically fights intelligently, mixing in all facets of MMA depending on his opponent’s weaknesses. If an opponent has a grappling gap in their game, Blachowicz has no issue shooting takedowns or clinching against the cage early and often. Just like his boxing, Jan is fully capable of executing a variety of attacks against the cage or on the mat and rarely puts himself in a dangerous position.

However, just like his calf kick, Blachowicz can become a little predictable in the cage with his wrestling and opponents have been able to anticipate and time his entries, then counter with uppercuts and knees. Given Pereira’s elite power and timing on the feet, Blachowicz would be wise to fight with variety and caution.


A bet on Pereira is a bet on the unknown potential of the fighter. He has a limited mixed martial arts resume, even more limited experience against wrestlers and high level fighters, and absolutely zero experience at this weight in the UFC. All of those signs point to picking Blachowicz because he is the known commodity.

Maybe it’s the gambler in me, but I like rolling the dice with “Potan.” Blachowicz was able to manhandle Adesanya when he moved up to 205; and, while Pereira has less proven grappling and takedown defense abilities, I anticipate him being more challenging to get and hold down.

The primary reason is size, Pereira was cutting an enormous amount of weight to make 185 and was the or one of the biggest fighters in the division. His frame and physique make him a natural 205’er and he will likely be the bigger man in the cage. Secondly, Pereira’s head coach and very close friend is ex-light heavyweight champion and all time great grappler- Glover Teixeira.

Not only is he the ideal training partner to simulate the grappling of Blachowicz, Teixeira has fought and beat Jan only a few years ago. Pereira’s size and coaching lead me to believe he’ll be able to stuff enough takedowns to keep the fight standing long enough to land a clean shot.

Given Blachowicz’s age, tendency to throw naked and lazy leg kicks later in the fight, and Pereira’s other-worldly power and timing, I like backing Pereira by knockout. His left hook is no joke; it found the button on one of the fastest and most elusive strikers ever (Adesanya). I think he’ll be able to find a similar shot against the much slower and less elusive Blachowicz.

Best Bet: Pereira by knockout (+170)

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One Comment

  1. The author, Michael Pounders, probably needs to brush up on his high school English. He writes: “Given his ‘plotting’ footwork, Blachowicz’ …” Unless Pounders is implying that Blachowicz has sneaky, calculating feet, the word he’s looking for is “plodding” (to walk or move forward at a slow, heavy-footed pace). The guy is obviously getting paid for this … just sayin’.