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UFC: UFC 267 preview

Jan Blachowicz puts his light heavyweight title on the line against fellow veteran Glover Teixeira when UFC 267 rolls into the Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

After weeks of largely forgettable and somewhat underwhelming 'Fight Night' cards, the UFC returns to 'Fight Island' this week with no fewer than two title fights on a stacked card in the United Arab Emirates.

The card is topped and tailed by light heavyweight contests, with Magomed Ankalaev and Volkan Oezdemir kicking proceedings off 19:00 BST.

Blachowicz and Teixeira top the bill but there's plenty of intrigue in the co-main event as Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen square off for the interim bantamweight belt.

There's a pivotal battle set to play out in the lightweight division when rising star Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker, while heavyweight duo Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura also throw down after Li Jingliang and Khamzat Chimaev meet at welterweight.

Life in the old dogs

Blachowicz and Teixeira have both enjoyed a second wind in their MMA careers and it's remarkable that, with a combined age of 79, they are fighting for a world title and headling such a mouthwatering card.

Let's start with Blachowicz. The Pole was almost cut from the UFC after going 2-4 between 2015 and 2017 but he turned things around after a submission win over Devin Clark in his homeland.

That victory got the ball firmly rolling and, including the victory over Clark, he has won nine of his following 10 trips to the octagon.

He became the first male from Poland to win UFC gold when defeating Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 in September 2020 and successfully defended the belt last time out against Israel Adesanya.

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Teixeira, meanwhile, looked a spent force when losing three of his five fights between 2016 and 2018, however, he heads into Saturday's contest on a five-fight winning streak.

The 41-year-old has seen off three top-10 ranked fighters during that winning sequence and rightly gets his second, and probably last, shot at a UFC title.

Blachowicz is 1/3 to successfully defend his belt with Teixeira available at 12/5 but it looks a much closer contest than those odds suggest.

On paper, they look really well-matched, which can sometimes lead to a bit of a dull affair, with the duo both relying heavily on their boxing skills.

#1 ranked Teixeira has sealed the lion's share of his victories (18 of 32) by knockout, while Blachowicz boasts eight wins via that route and has three KO victories in his last five fights.

It's likely to come down to speed over power, leading to the feeling that Blachowicz should have the edge and he looks much better priced at 20/21 to win by KO, TKO, DQ or submission.

Sandman to put Yan to sleep

The co-main event offers up the interim bantamweight title with current champion Aljamain Sterling still unable to fight after undergoing neck surgery.

Sterling won the title in controversial circumstances, beating champion Yan, who can be backed at 2/5, after the Russian was disqualified for landing an illegal knee to the head when his opponent was grounded.

With the rematch shelved until Sterling is cleared to fight, Yan and Sandhagen go head-to-head for the interim belt and a future shot at the champion.

That loss against Sterling was Yan's first since 2016, ending a run of 10 successive victories but it's worth noting he hasn't faced many ranked opponents during that sequence.

Sandhagen, priced at 13/8, is coming off the back of a defeat to TJ Dillashaw but his recent record is impressive with just two losses in his last 10 fights.

In contrast to Yan, The Sandman has seen off some strong competition during that run, beating #8 Frankie Edgar, #10 Marlon Moraes and #12 Raphael Assuncao.

There's little to pick between the pair when it comes to strikes landed per minute but Sandhagen has a three-inch reach advantage and should be able to use that range to control proceedings.

His recent showreel knockout wins over Moraes and Edgar have to be taken into consideration and he's at 4/1 to win by KO, TKO, DQ or Submission.

Russian trio to extend runs

It's been hard to ignore the vast amount of talent coming out of Russia, Dagestan in particular, over the past decade with retired former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov the trailblazer.

There are three highly talented Russian fighters all worth considering on Saturday with Makhachev, Chimaev and Ankalaev all back in action.

Dagestan duo Makhachev, priced at 1/6, and Ankalaev look set to further enhance their reputations against the 9/2 Hooker and 13/5 Oezdemir respectively.

Makhachev, who looks to be a future title contender, is 21-1, riding an eight-fight winning streak - with six of those victories coming inside the distance - and is currently ranked #5 in the lightweight division.

Ankalaev has won his last six fights to climb to #7 in the light heavyweight rankings and he's regarded as the best prospect in the division.

Oezdemir has only lost five times during his 22-fight career but four of those have come in his last six trips to the octagon and another loss looks almost certain as the odds suggest.

Backing Ankalaev at 21/10 to win by KO, TKO, Submission or DQ is another way to squeeze some value out of this contest with four of Oezdemir's five losses coming inside the distance.

Chimaev, who hails from Chechnya but moved to Sweden as a 19-year-old, is 9-0 in his MMA career and looks a solid option 8/15 to beat Jingliang by KO, TKO, DQ or Submission.

Borz hasn't fought since September 2020 but he's far too well-rounded for his Chinese opponent, who is 18-6, as he looks to get back into the groove.

Backing Chimaev at 7/4 to win in round one looks the way to go when considering he's ended six of his nine fights in the first five minutes.

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