UFC President Dana White said middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will move up a weight class to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title. It was a surprise announcement late Saturday night that diverted focus from a lackluster main event with Anderson Silva’s likely UFC exit and sparked several possible scenarios across three weight classes.
If Adesanya wins a division that has long been ruled by his archenemy Jon Jones, would that tempt Jones to pause his heavyweight pursuit and relapse in an attempt to regain the title he held for nearly a decade? Jones, who hasn’t fought since February, is set to fight for the heavyweight title but champion Stipe Miocic may not be ready to defend against Francis Ngannou until March. So is Jones ready to wait until next fall to fight again, or would an Adesanya fight be too tempting?
Incidentally, White said Adesanya doesn’t need to clear the middleweight title to advance. White said he felt the No. 1 middleweight competitor Robert Whittaker didn’t want a rematch with Adesanya, so the promoter switched to Blachowicz. Whittaker told ESPN he wanted the rematch, but not until March or April because a newborn baby arrives in January.
White also said Saturday night that Khabib Nurmagomedov will remain the easy champion despite announcing his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. White has spoken to Nurmagomedov, and while White said he didn’t know for sure, he feels like Nurmagomedov is going to fight one more time and try to retreat 30-0. Is it wishful thinking or is white into something?
Keeping Nurmagomedov as champion means that the planned fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier on January 23rd will not be for the title, but if McGregor beats Poirier it seems certain that his next fight will be for the belt. Will 2021 be the year McGregor gets a title back?
ESPN MMA experts Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim discuss what is real and what is not.
Real or not, Adesanya’s skills will be too versatile for Blachowicz and his strength will carry over to the light heavyweight division
Wagenheim: Adesanya’s skills are a handful at middleweight and won’t be any less at light heavyweight as his skills start and end with speed. Speed drives his evasiveness as well as his attacks. He’s too quick for 185 pounders to catch up with, and at 205 he will be able to kill quickly. When Blachowicz touches Adesanya, of course, it feels like nothing he has felt before. But that takes a lot from Blachowicz, who is a thoroughly strong stand-up fighter but will have a hard time finding his range against an opponent who will be right in front of him one moment and six inches the next will be away from his punching area. Until Adesanya appears again and shoots back.
Rt Izzy, who rises to LHW and immediately gets a title shot, is bs. I love Izzy, but giving him a title shot for his first 205 is disrespectful to our division !! Jon can’t step up and get a title shot right away. Silva never got one, but does he? Vs the weakest champion in a decade!
– Jamahal Sweet Dreams Hill (@JamahalH) November 1, 2020
Is Adesanya’s power being translated? I think it will because he never relied on a one-punch differentiator. He’s not a classic volume puncher who takes offense every second. His genius is to be one of the best when it comes to not getting hit. And that’s the kind of middleweight that is most likely to succeed. Especially This Medium weight.
If Adesanya and Blachowicz fight from a distance, it’s an Adesanya fight. But what if they get their hands on each other? It will be interesting to watch Adesanya compete with Blachowicz in clinches and grappling. Will the Pole be in control in clinches or when the fight hits the silver screen? I suspect Adesanya will have an answer. He has been with many strong men in many situations and his skills have developed well. He has shown the ability to stay on his feet where he is doing his best job.
Real or not, if Adesanya beats Blachowicz, expect a title defense against Jones, who is trying to regain the light heavyweight belt
Ariel Helwani and Daniel Cormier discuss why it is now time for the UFC to book a mega-fight between Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya.
Helwani: The answer should be real, but I don’t know what to make of Jones right now. I thought the UFC should have booked Jones against Francis Ngannou this summer, and I thought they should have booked Jones against Adesanya next as well. If Adesanya wins, holding Jones’ title in a Jones fight would make for a juicy story, but isn’t Jones getting ready to fight heavyweight? When would this Adesanya-Jones fight actually take place? Also, the timing of this “announcement” is a little funny considering the match between Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira this coming weekend was a # 1 fight, right? Well not anymore.
Obviously, there is no denying that Adesanya vs Blachowicz is the biggest fight they could have for the £ 205 belt right now if it can’t be Adesanya vs Jones. I just wish Adesanya-Jones happened next because Lord knows this is bigger than any title fight, but we’ll have to wait a little longer for it.
Real or not, Knows’ presumption that Khabib will return will prove prophetic
Khabib Nurmagomedov dominates Justin Gaethje during their fight and later gets emotional after finishing Gaethje in the second.
Raimondi: I actually believe that Nurmagomedov will fight again. There are too many affirmative factors. I’m not saying what Nurmagomedov said after UFC 254 was a lie. I really believe the UFC lightweight champion believed he was going to step down and that he couldn’t go on as a fighter without his father. On the other hand, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov dreamed that his son should go 30-0. Khabib is now 29-0. The idea of just playing one more fight has to be tempting, right? Nurmagomedov is only 32 years old. He hasn’t taken much damage at all in his career. It’s fresh. It makes too much sense.
As White said on Saturday night, Nurmagomedov was emotional after defeating Gaethje. He was injured and ill during the camp. Weight loss was clearly very difficult. Nurmagomedov certainly didn’t even want to think about jumping back to training camp and doing it all over again. Finishing Gaethje was release from a burden and now he absolutely deserves some time to rest and think about his future. Nobody should stick to what Nurmagomedov was saying at the moment: adrenaline when it comes to walking a mile per minute.
After all this, it must be right that Nurmagomedov returns. The right opponent, the right attitude, the right environment, the right timing. I’m not sure I’ll see Nurmagomedov come back without the crowds. I don’t think he’s coming back because of an old enemy. I think there are only two opponents who would really motivate Nurmagomedov again: Georges St-Pierre and Tony Ferguson. St-Pierre was an idol, the man Abdulmanap dreamed his son would one day fight. The story of Nurmagomedov, who takes on GSP, one of the greatest of all time, 30-0, would be incredibly rich. Then there is Ferguson, who was Nurmagomedov’s best peer – and greatest potential challenge – for years, whom he never fought. The fight was put together five times and each time fell apart. Either way, it would be a fitting end to one of the greatest careers we’ve ever seen in MMA.
Real or not, McGregor will be the lightweight champion in 2021
Ariel Helwani reports that Conor McGregor accepted a fight against Dustin Poirier on January 23rd, but McGregor has a condition that the fight should take place at the AT&T Stadium.
Okamoto: This is difficult to answer at the moment as we have an undefeated UFC lightweight champion in Khabib who is currently definitely stated he won’t fight again. The UFC’s decision not to vacate the title and continue in this situation surprised me. But let’s keep one thing in mind: The UFC really wants to book a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor. This is the fight the UFC wants and has wanted for a long time. Maybe this is about keeping Nurmagomedov in the game as much as possible, the topic of conversation, and hoping McGregor beats Poirier on Jan 23 and then persuades Nurmagomedov to come back one more time.
I don’t think Nurmagomedov thinks there is an ongoing deal with McGregor, at least when it comes to taking part in the Octagon, but when McGregor looks great against a legitimate opponent in Poirier and then a fantastic promo for a title shot against Nurmagomedov would make him … is it possible that Nurmagomedov will come back? I’ll be honest, I hope so. And the UFC hopes so too. It is now worthwhile for the UFC to keep Nurmagomedov as a champion and at least keep the door open so he can fight again. To answer the question, I’m not saying real, too many variables in the game. But it is certainly possible, and yet lightweight will be very, very fun in 2021.