Magomed Ankalaev was dominant in the final three rounds, but a split draw meant the UFC light heavyweight title is still vacant after his main event of UFC 282 against Jan Blachowicz from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ankalaev opened up the first round showing off his speed, precision, and counter strikes. While he looked for openings from Blachowicz, the former champion chipped away with leg kicks early, and then went up top for big shots of his own.
In the second, Ankalaev focused on staying up top, attacking Blachowicz’s head and body, while Blachowicz peppered the top contender with devastating leg kicks. Late in the second, a leg kick appeared to hurt Ankalaev, and a second caused him to lose his balance.
The third forced Ankalaev to remain in orthodox stance as Blachowicz chipped away at big shots to his leg. Ankalaev found a bit of aggression early in the round, moving forward and finding his range with overhand rights and stinging jabs. Ankalaev was determined not to allow Blachowicz to land leg kicks, moving forward so fast that his opponent couldn’t set his feet and it paid off. Toward the end of the round, Ankalaev earned a takedown and was able to wait out the round.
Early in round four, Ankalaev earned the takedown and controlled basically the entire round with a dominant ground game. In the fifth, a shot to the midsection sent Blachowicz falling backwards, allowing Ankalaev to jump on top and control the ground yet again. With about a minute and a half remaining, Ankalaev poured it on in half guard, ground and pounding Blachowicz in his attempt to earn the referee stoppage.
The Blachowicz-Ankalaev main event came following a slew of changes to the UFC 282 card, which included Jiri Prochazka vacating the belt due to a shoulder injury that required surgery and would keep him out of action for six months. Former champion Glover Teixeira, who was slated to face off in a rematch against Prochazka following his submission loss, reportedly declined a title opportunity and last-minute switch to fight Ankalaev.
The new main event offered an opportunity for Blachowicz to avenge his submission loss to Teixeira in October last year, needing just one win this year against Aleksandar Rakić to find himself in title contention yet again. Blachowicz previously won the belt via knockout against Dominick Reyes, and proceeded to prove his worth with statement wins over Corey Anderson and later Israel Adesanya.
Ankalaev entered Saturday night’s showdown with Blachowicz with his lone professional loss coming in his UFC debut four years ago. Within the last year he’s earned significant wins over former title contenders Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith.