The UFC 291 co-main event features former light heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz looking to spoil former middleweight champion, Alex Pereira's move to the 205-pound division. A win edges either man closer to the recently vacated light heavyweight championship.
Blachowicz has a history of fighting middleweights moving up to light heavyweight. So far, he has beaten all of them including, Ronaldo Souza, Luke Rockhold, as well as Pereira's longtime rival, Israel Adesanya. Blachowicz has won seven of his last nine fights, capturing and losing UFC light heavyweight gold in this run. He doesn't only rely on his "legendary Polish knockout power" but can wrestle, as evidenced in his championship defense over Adesanya.
Blachowicz last fought Magomed Ankalaev to a draw for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 282 in December. Beating Pereira leaves Blachowicz in prime position for another opportunity at the championship.
Former kickboxing champion, Pereira continues his rapid rise through MMA in a new weight class. Pereira won three of his first four UFC fights via knockout en route to a UFC middleweight title. His understanding of range, diversity of striking technique, as well as power have been on display throughout his career.
Pereira looks to rebound after getting knocked out in his last fight with Israel Adesanya and losing his middlewight crown. Given his size, a move to light heavyweight seemed inevitable. Without having to lose as many pounds before weigh-ins, it'll be interesting to see how his size and strength translate. As a former two-division Glory champion, switching weight classes and finding success is nothing new for him.
Blachowicz will likely lean on his ability to seamlessly weave striking and grappling. He'll look to frustrate and stifle Pereira. However, Pereira can look to implement his power shots and any intel gained from close friend and coach Glover Teixeira, the last man to beat Blachowicz.
UFC 291: Jan Blachowicz vs. Alex Pereira prediction
Blachowicz will use his wrestling early and eventually submit Pereira. Blachowicz's fight IQ is too high and he's a more seasoned grappler than Pereira. This is a deficiency in Pereira's game Blachowicz is likely to exploit. Blachowicz's experience will also likely make him less willing to take his chances standing than Pereira's past opponents. Blachowicz will wear on Pereira until he takes him down, secures dominant position, and chokes him.
Prediction: Jan Blachowicz via submission