After Jan Blachowicz’s impressive first title defense over Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, the movement in the Light Heavyweight division has been extremely slow, as it’s been for years now. There have only been about two legitimate ranked fights since the title was on the line, and only one ended in a way that actually creates a rift within the division. But with the title tentatively on the line for UFC 267 in October, more questions will be answered about what’s next for a lot of names currently waiting around.
The fight between Blachowicz and Glover Texeria couldn’t be more wholesome, especially where they both stand in their careers. Not only will this count as a loss for either of them, but it could mean the end of their careers considering their age and how long each has been fighting for. The two will combine for 78 pro MMA fights and a combined age of 79. For reference, the lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler had a combined 68 career fights and a combined age of 66. Experience is about as close as it can get for these two gentlemen. The two men also showed great respect for each other after Blachowicz’s last win, creating a great atmosphere for when the fight eventually comes around.
But regardless of whoever comes out on top after this title fight, dangerous men are knocking on the door of conquering the belt. The biggest name is Jiri Prochazka from the Czech Republic and the current number two ranked fighter in the division. Despite having only two fights in the UFC, Prochazka has pushed the pedal and drowns his opponents with consistent pressure before earning finishes in both of his fights. His recent fight against Dominick Reyes, a former title challenger, is a perfect example. But his biggest competitive edge is his experience even with just two fights. Similar to Israel Adesanya’s late arrival to the promotion, both of them already had tons of MMA experience with other promotions and forms of fighting. If he chooses to wait it out, Prochazka could be in line for the next title fight after UFC 267.
Another major piece in the Light Heavyweight division is Aleksander Rakic, the number three ranked contender. Rakic has earned huge wins against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. He is likely one win away from a title shot, depending on how the dominos fall in or not in his favor. His technicality mixed with power in his striking makes him a problem for everyone in this weight class. He could be lined with the winner of Anthony Smith vs. Ryan Spann or Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir. Both of those fights are coming up in the next few weeks. Paul Craig vs. Alexander Gustafsson is also an intriguing matchup for the division worth pointing out. The return of Gustafsson against a rising Craig could create another top contender. Jimmy Crute is a long-term prospect with a contender-type ceiling as well that could make a serious impact in the future.
But the spotlight needs to fall on Jiri Prochazka. He is capable of beating every man in this division, and likely finishing most of them. He came into the promotion at the right and has everything going in his favor thus far. The only weakness for him is his recklessness. Especially in the Reyes fight, Prochazka would sometimes dangerously throw a random combination without much protection afterward, leaving his head open for counter striking. But outside of that, this is a man who would reign the throne in this weight class for a very long time to come. While there are plenty of fights lined up in the division, it is still very slow-moving in the rankings. But the promotion has done a phenomenal job of planning fun and enjoyable fights that hold a lot of value for the rankings. For now, Jan Blachowicz continues his reign after a long career of ups and downs, a story many fans will remember for years to come. His fight against Glover Teixeira will be an underrated one for many casual UFC fans.