Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev are set to clash in this weekend’s UFC 282 main event and will compete for the newly vacated UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
The belt is now without an owner after former champion Jiri Prochazka vacated the title after suffering a should injury that will require surgery and at least six months of recovery time. Prochazka was scheduled to fight Glover Teixeira in this weekend’s UFC main event but the injury and subsequent withdrawal from the fight left the PPV without a main event and also without a title fight.
It’s a fortunate outcome for both the former champion Blachowicz and Ankalaev, who were scheduled to compete in the co-main event. They’ve now been bumped up to a spot with much more significance and an opportunity to take home the title following the UFC 282 event at the T-Mobile Arena.
Read on for the latest betting odds for Blachowicz vs. Prochazka, as well as our staff predictions, best bets, and tips before the event.
The latest betting odds for the UFC 282 main event fight between Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev show that Ankalaev is a heavy favorite to win the five-round light heavyweight bout.
- Jan Blachowicz: +240
- Magomed Ankalaev: -285
When Jan Blachowicz entered the UFC, it was actually his jiu-jitsu prowess that had fans excited to see him. In more recent years and the surge of “Polish Power,” we are quick to now consider him a powerful striker but in reality that grappling ability is always in the back pocket. His wins by finish are equally spread with 9 submissions and nine knockouts so expect Blachowic’s well-roundedness and championship experience to carry well into Ankalaev’s first shot in a championship fight. This is especially important considering Ankalaev, although having gone five rounds once, does not have near the experience of Blachowicz, and their fight at UFC 282 was only recently promoted to five rounds after both men started training camp for a co-main event instead.
This is one reason I believe Blachowicz should try to keep a pace that can wear down Ankalaev and drag him into later rounds where Blachowicz can be confident in the territory. The other reason is that distance is a main factor when these two match up striking. Blachowicz carries some elements of traditional Muay Thai with his light lead leg, upright posture and switch kick game but he also moves in a fashion that is unique to him. He is more rigid than Ankalaev but he tends to find his left hook from almost anywhere, especially in scrambles or breaking away from the clinch. He fights best at a mid-range, where he primarily does his best work with his punches, but he will fire forward, miss punches and then land his left kick behind it if he is stuck on the outside. Ankalaev, by comparison, is much smoother and adept at fighting from kicking range on the outside. He tends to bounce a bit more, lead with long punches, follow with his kicks and then swing big afterwards, but he won’t ever over commit or rush unless his opponents are definitely hurt. Compared to Blachowicz, he is also more liberal with his kicking targets, and he just as easily catches the head as he does the body or legs without any added effort or fat on his techniques.
In terms of grappling, the submission threat is definitely on the side of the former champ, but the Dagestani’s wrestling will make it difficult for Blachowicz to find the takedown if he does want to grapple. I do believe that Ankalaev can win moments with his grappling skills but it also feels like an unnecessary risk, so unless he is trying to edge a round or recover from being rocked it should be in his interest to avoid a jiu-jitsu match. Even if Blachowicz can’t finish the takedown, taking the charge and ending up in the clinch isn’t necessarily a bad thing as mentioned before his ability to land cleanly off of clinch breaks is one of his best attributes.
However, at the end of the day, finding that submission or the chin is paramount for Blachowicz because if Ankalaev can control the range he is going to be able to pick apart Blachowicz with long weapons and avoid risky exchanges. From the outside as well, forcing Blachowicz to shoot from afar makes that gameplan, which is already difficult, even moreso. I see Ankalaev playing a patient, efficient game to bring him five rounds without gassing and fighting his fight as he has done in pretty much all of his past UFC outings.
Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev to win
After a series of unfortunate events, we still get to enjoy a high-level light heavyweight bout for the, now vacant, belt. Magomed Ankalaev has been expected by many to be the inevitable title holder in an increasingly popular division. Yet, because of his surprise loss in his debut to Paul Craig in 2018 and his less-than-exciting fight style, Ankalaev has been forced to take the long road to the belt. Since that debut loss, Ankalaev is a perfect 9-0 and has beaten some of the most respected names in the division. Unbelievably, though, I don’t feel he’s fought at his full potential yet. At his best, Ankalaev has heavy hands and a deceptively athletic kicking game coupled with paramount wrestling, a top-tier top game, and vicious ground and pound. He has also improved his range knowledge, striking defense, and has proven he has a reliable chin. All of those skills combine in a large body with 5 round cardio sound like a champion. Yet, he still seems to be missing that second gear. Typically, Ankalaev fights with an intelligence that boarders on over-caution which can leave fans, and apparently, the UFC brass, wanting more. On the feet, Ankalaev stands orthodox and plots forward slowly behind a stiff jab. He moves predatorily as he looks for heavy combinations against the cage or to secure a takedown. His movements, between striking and grappling, are disguised well; opponents seem to struggle to predict which path he’ll take. When he strikes, he appears slow and unathletic because of his plodding movement, then, suddenly, he’ll explode with a head kick that reminds everyone how dangerous he can be. Make no mistake, though, Ankalaev’s best skillset is his wrestling. Like many of his Dagestan countrymen, Ankalaev is a smothering, unrelenting, and highly skilled wrestler who is adept at getting his opponent down, holding them down, and unloading destructive ground and pound. The real issue, a small one considering he is on a 9-fight winning streak, is that Ankalaev seems content allowing fights to progress into later rounds. Maybe he’s being cautious, maybe he’s being intelligent; but, to outsiders, it often appears that he is being passive. That passivity hurts his following; but, more importantly, allowing fighters, at this level, to survive for multiple rounds creates opportunities for Ankalaev to get caught. If he reaches his full potential by combining his elite skillset with a killer instinct, watch out because he could grab ahold of the belt and not let it go.
Former champion Jan Blachowicz has a similarly dominant record as Ankalaev: 8-2 in his last 10 fights. Blachowicz was dubbed as “Polish Power” following back-to-back knockout wins in 2020; but, interestingly, he does not fight like a power puncher. Blachowicz is a fleet of foot technical striker with cracking kicks, high fight IQ, and reliable takedown defense with an underappreciated submission game. Blachowicz tends to stand tall in the cage with a narrower stance which aids in his linear and lateral movement. By standing with a narrow stance, Blachowicz is able to remain fluid with his movement and keep his hips flexible in a prime pivoting position. His hips are extremely important to his game plan. Blachowicz kicks often and kicks hard, both leg kicks and thudding body kicks. He is able to generate so much speed and power in these kicks because of his hips. Further, Blachowicz relies on being able to quickly drop his hips when an opponent shoots for a takedown. Beyond his hips, Blachowicz also has technical and deceptively quick footwork. He is a highly skilled striker who is practiced at getting into range to land a combination and then exiting before an opponent can counter cleanly. To put his striking into perspective, Blachowicz was able to hang on the feet with Israel Adesanya when Izzy moved up for a chance at being a double champion.
If this fight stays on the feet, Blachowicz has a real chance to pull another upset and win an entertaining and technical war. But, if Ankalaev decides to wrestle, it’s only a matter of time before the fight hits the mat. Once down, it will be up to Ankalaev if the fight ends there or if he allows Blachowicz to survive. Said simply, if Ankalaev fights with an intelligent aggression and looks for the finish on the mat, he should find it. But, if he fights with passivity and allows the fight to enter the later rounds, there is always the chance that Blachowicz steals rounds on the feet and edges out a decision. I like Ankalaev to put it all together here, get the fight down early, and get Blachowicz out of there before the final bell.
Pick: Magomed Ankalaev inside the distance
Jan Blachowicz, former Light Heavyweight Champion and formerly the lone man to beat Israel Adesanya in MMA, is a talented fighter who has made a living defying odds both figuratively and quite literally — over his last seven fights, he has been priced as a dog in five times. While many of these underdog prices were quite short, the overarching sentiment that he is undervalued and routinely underrated as a fighter can be made, as he is 6-1 in these last seven fights. The anticipatory defeat of Jan Blachowicz is once again seen in this fight based on him coming in as a dog once more, but the track record illustrates this negative perception will not negatively impact him at all, thus showcasing strong mental fortitude and trust in himself, a very important attribute to have as a fighter.
Beyond having a strong and clear headspace, Jan Blachowicz is a talented fighter from a physical standpoint. His most dangerous trait is his “Polish Power”, but with his hands and devasting kicks. Whether it is him timing a beautiful uppercut to land an arena-awakening KO of Corey Anderson or turning the ribcage of Dominick Reyes black and purple through jaw-dropping body kicks, Jan understands how to make his power known in a fight.
I reference the fights against Anderson and Reyes as the blend of the two is what Jan will face come Saturday night. In particular, he will face a southpaw striker who, on paper, will use wrestling as the primary tactic to win. The benefit for Jan facing this style is that he will be able to land his elite body kicks against the opposing striker, and, will have the opportunity to time an uppercut the same way Derrick Lewis did against Curtis Blaydes. The negative is that while Jan has solid-enough takedown defense, he can be taken to the mat by good wrestlers. If taken to the mat, he has less than stellar defense from his back, which will be the likely demise of him in this fight if he allows it to be taken there.
Taking the fight to the mat would be the wise plan of attack for Ankalaev in this fight, as he not only has the skills to get it there but also, the combination of ground control with strikes from the top position to make this fight a mauling affair. While anticipatory-wise, Ankalaev has routinely shown the desire to not take the path of least resistance to win fights, as he often foregoes his wrestling to stand toe-to-toe against his opponent in a striking affair. This desire showcases the largest flaw of his fight game, that is, his fight intelligence in the octagon. Luckily, for him, is that his striking is in fact impressive, particularly with throwing a fast and powerful straight left hand against his opponent. Moreover, Ankalaev can wear a punch quite well and understands how to quickly clinch if he wears a shot that dazes him. The problem in this fight is that if he decides to stand against Jan instead of taking the “easy path to victory” by way of wrestling, the “Polish Power” may be too much to handle and clinching his way back into a fight may not be a viable option.
As much as I want to back Jan Blachowicz in this fight, I, like many others, cannot go against Magomed Ankalaev. I say cannot go against him instead of deliberately backing him given he routinely shows he has flaws in his fight game, particularly from a decision standpoint, but, the underlying elite talent gets him out of trouble and allows him to secure the victory. From an evaluation standpoint, I believe Ankalaev, if he fights to his potential, can get the fight to the mat whenever he desires and the ground and pound he inflicts will enable him to win somewhat comfortably. If, however, he fights to the level he seemingly does time after time, the fight will be much closer than what it needs to be, and the power of Jan gives him a viable chance. But, even in this hypothetical of Ankalaev failing to fight to his best level, I still believe he will win given he shows time in and time out that he can do so. Because of this, I am taking Ankalaev, and, because I believe he will in fact wrestle, I am taking him ITD in this fight due to the mauling he will be able to implement in top position.
Bet: Ankalaev to win inside the distance