In what certainly looks like a title eliminator main event fight at 205 pounds for the right to fight Jon Jones for the belt if he is not rematching Dominick Reyes next, Corey Anderson meets Jan Blachowicz again in a rematch of their 2015 meeting, which Anderson won via dominant unanimous decision displaying his superior wrestling, top control, ground and pound and most importantly his outstanding pace.
Both fighters have come a long way since the first fight. For Blachowicz, the loss was sandwiched in a 1-5 disastrous fight streak. After impressing in the European scene, his UFC initial run was disappointing, after which he moved back home to train at his original gym with his original trainer, doing much better since. Starting with a submission win over Devin Clark, he is now 6-1 streak in his last 7 fights with the only loss coming at the hands of Thiago “Marreta” Santos, during which he sent Luke Rockhold into temporary retirement with a spectacular left hook.
Corey Anderson´s career followed a similar path, having a 1-3 run shortly after dominating the first fight, with never ending questions about his chin, having been knocked out in 3 of his 4 losses. He is 4-0 in his last four fights and he has been as dominant as ever, easily beating veteran Glover Teixeira, Ilir Latifi and the latest hypejob in the UFC Jhonny Walker, who he obliterated inside a round.
When it comes to fighting style, there is no secret what Corey Anderson brings to the table. He is a wrestler at core, although his striking and striking defense, specially his hands, are constantly improving and look better with each passing fight. Anderson outpaces opposition mixing in his takedowns and ground control, adding punishment from top position if allowed to. Most of his wins are dominant decisions after his rivals simply cannot deal with the volume and start breaking down.
Polish born Blachowicz is a kickboxer at core, having won multiple striking tittles early in his martial arts career. If allowed to, he prefers to set a slow pace kickboxing match, using his excellent jab, which was a late addition to his game some years ago that has paid dividends. He will also target oppositions base and body with powerful kicks. Blachowicz has an excellent chin and is a physically imposing light heavyweight, strong as an ox and with more power than his record suggests. Blachowicz is also a very underrated grappler who shows excellent positional awareness specially on top and can finish a fight at any given moment with an array of submissions in his arsenal. He is a legit Jiu Jitsu black belt.
In their first meeting, the first round was close and very competitive, Blachowicz even got his own takedown and threatened Anderson, after which Corey completely took over the fight as Blachowicz appeared to gass quickly. Anderson´s found success with low double legs specially against the fence and Blachowicz simply could not deal with the pace the American set. The third round was a mauling from top position.
In my opinion, Jan Blachowicz seems to have improved a lot specifically in the areas that cost him that first fight. His pace has definitely improved and his takedown defense has shined lately. Luke Rockhold looked like a muscular monster at light heavyweight, and he was not able to take the Polish fighter even once, although he tried like his life depended on it. Jan showed excellent positional awareness and defended every double leg and single leg variation Luke tried with little issue. Corey Anderson, as good as his pace is, is not that good of a takedown artist, and I expect Blachowicz to be able to defend most o his takedowns here if not all of them, specially early in the fight. I also anticipate Anderson having trouble getting takedowns in open space.
On the feet, even though Anderson is a capable boxer, Jan is undoubtedly the better fighter and I would favour him if a striking match was to take place. I can easily see him winning a decision controlling the fight with his low kicks and jab, and he has the ability to hurt Anderson at any moment. I do not think the same could be said about Anderson. There is always the possibility of Anderson setting up a furious pace on the feet to try and outfight Jan if he cannot get his wrestling going, which would only improve the chances of him getting caught. Even if Anderson actually managed to repeat the first fight scenario, Blachowicz is a threat from bottom position. He almost got Corey in the first fight with an armbar and only stopped being dangerous when completely gassed as I already said, after which he turned into survival mode.
I think Jan Blachowicz is the most improved fighter since their first meeting by far. His game all around has improved. He is a better striker, a better grappler and has a better gas tank than he did in 2015, and I see a lot of ways he could win this matchup, be it winning a slow paced striking affair, finishing from top or bottom, or simply catching Anderson and hurting him for a finish. For Anderson on the other hand the path to victory is a maybe too obvious here repeat performance of the first fight, or maybe managing to outpoint Jan in a striking affair via outvoluming him while managing to not get finished along the way. I think it is also important to notice that while Anderson for sure has the best gas tank here, he has never gone past 3 rounds, while Blachowicz has already competed in 5 round fights in the past.
At the moment of this writing, Corey Anderson is the clear favourite at around (-225) while “The Prince of Cieszyn” stands at around (+190). The general public seem to think Anderson can produce a similar performance as he did in the first fight here. I think all the value is on the Polish fighter, and I am actually picking him to win the fight and get a shot at Jon Jones for the belt in the near future.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jan Blachowicz