UFC 253 Preview & Prediction: Reyes vs Blachowicz
By Cathal Geeney
The light heavyweight title is on the line and for the first time in almost ten years, it will be not be Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones who will be going home as Champion.
Instead, it will be either the Polish veteran, Jan Blachowicz, or the rising star, Dominick Reyes, who strap on the gold belt.
Reyes makes his return to the octagon following a decision loss to Jon Jones back in February, in which many believed he deserved to win.
Reyes is a striker. From a southpaw stance, he has a well-rounded array of attacks. He will look to the jab and the straight left while also mixing in a lot of kicks to his offence. The former IT worker is light on his feet and constantly moving and striking. He has an athletic pedigree, having played Division 1 American Football, and will lean on this to keep a high output and outwork his opponent.
It is unlikely that Reyes will look for a takedown, considering he has not landed a takedown in his last five outings. However, he has solid takedown defence and will work to get back to his feet immediately even if he is forced to the canvas. So, while Blachowicz, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, may have the edge on the canvas, I don’t foresee much of this fight taking place there.
Jan is a powerful striker, coming from a kickboxing background. The Polish fighter will look to come forward and follow up his jab with big hooks as well as looking to powerful body kicks. Jan likes to switch stances which keeps his opponent guessing.
Defensively, Blachowicz will evade any oncoming danger by backing up whilst also possessing the ability to land effective counters. Reyes will have to be very careful of this as he comes forward.
Jan has more UFC fights than Reyes has professional MMA fights and so experience may play a part here. At age thirty-seven, this could very well be his last shot at becoming a UFC champion and he will look to draw on every bit of experience from his thirty-four-fight professional career to get the win.
In terms of energy, output and speed, Reyes should have the edge. So, it will be up to Jan to make Reyes feel that power early on. Jan can look to Reyes’s fight against Volkan Oezdemir from March 2019 for a potential blueprint to victory.
Volkan kept the pressure and landed some big shots and made it a very tight split decision.
I also think kicks will play a big role in the outcome here. Leg kicks will be a good strategy for Reyes as it will keep some range between the two as well as slow down the Polish fighter. Jan will have to find a read on the leg kick and land big counters.
I expect this to be an exciting fight and from a technical striking perspective, it should be quite interesting to see how each fighter looks to establish a game plan. And although I would never rule out a Blachowicz knock out, I will take Reyes to have his hand raised on Saturday night, most likely by decision.
Pick: Dominick Reyes