Under The Radar Fight For UFC 267: Blachowicz VS. Teixeira



The big return to Fight Island on Abu Dhabi is chalk filled with star power as Jan Blachowicz (28-8 MMA, 11-5 UFC) looks to defend his light heavyweight championship for the 2nd time against ageless wonder Glover Teixeira (32-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC). The co-main event sees the return of the best UFC bantamweight that does not understand the rules of a downed opponent Petr Yan, which he was supposed to face the current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in a title rematch, but instead is penciled in for a UFC interim bantamweight title fight against Cory Sandhagen after Sterling was not cleared for his first title defense. The UFC has made this pay-per-view an ESPN+ exclusive and has an early start time of 10:30 am eastern time for the prelims and a 2 pm eastern time start for the main card. With the bigger cards being front-loaded with talent and star power to attract views, the prelims and early prelims bring a lot of amazing fights and loads of prospects to the public's eye. These matchups that end up being fight of the night and have the potential to do so usually go under the radar compared to the more marketed fights on the same card.



Dasmir Ismagulov VS. Magomed Mustafaev




One of the UFC's best-kept secrets has to be Damir Ismagulov; with 23 wins and only one blemish and currently undefeated in the UFC, the lightweight prospect is bound to make waves sooner than later, especially with a win on Sunday. With four straight wins in the promotion and victories over Joel Alvarez and the #15 lightweight in the world, Thiago Moises, he is on the springboard to a ranking with a win over Mustafaev. The former M-1 Global champion has an all-around game and uses his length and fights long with front kicks and straight punches. His ground game and grappling was on full display in his last win against BJJ black belt Rafael Alves, with the majority of the exchanges and scrambles going Ismagulov's way in a very impressive showing. In front of him is Russia's own Magomed "The Sniper" Mustafaev (14-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC), coming back after a tough split decision loss to surging contender Brad Riddell. Being the only man in MMA to beat Tiger Muay Thai's striking coach Rafael Fiziev and knocked him out with a spinning back kick, he has amazing striking and wants to keep the fight standing to use his high-level kicks and space management. With his kicks being high level as well as solid grappling to back his striking, his massive flaw in his past UFC fights has been defensive striking, seen in his most recent performance against the aforementioned Riddell; the lack of defensive striking lead to Mustafaev being dropped with a right hook in the 1st round and lost the exchanges on the feet. Giving up a 3-inch reach advantage to Ismagulov, Mustafaev is looking to take this to the ground and keep him on his back foot to let off his offense first. Ismagulov and Mustafaev are looking for a chance to crack into the glamour division in the UFC, the UFC lightweight rankings.


Makwan Amirkhani VS. Lerone Murphy



Rising featherweight prospect Lerone "The Miracle" Murphy (10-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 UFC) is taking Tristan Connelly's spot on the prelims after he pulled out with an injury and is set to face off against Mr. Finland himself Makwan Amirkhani (16-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC). After earning the current 9th fastest KO in his UFC debut with an 8-second flying knee against Andy Ogle, Mr. Finland has found mixed results and has not gotten over the hump with a higher level of competition. Amirkhani has beaten the likes of Chris Fishgold and Jason Knight but struggled with his cardio against Shane Burgos, outstruck by Edson Barboza and in his most recent performance against Kamuela Kirk, struggled with his cardio heading into the 2nd and 3rd round and keep up the same pace he did in the first. He is looking to bounce back after having his first losing streak in the UFC against Lerone Murphy. Coming out of Manchester Top Team in the UK, Murphy made his UFC debut and fought to a split draw to Zubaira Tukhugov. After his debut, he has rattled off two straight with a 1st round TKO over Dana White's Looking For A Fight contract winner Ricardo Ramos and a unanimous decision over Douglas Silva De Andrade in his most recent outing in January. His strongest weapon against Andrade was the dreaded calf kick, which he threw only 11 leg kicks but controlled the fight with those kicks. Murphy has the cardio to push a hard pace for 15 minutes and brings the fight, but it is up to Amirkhani to match it and hold his own and have his durability and ground game earn a win over the surging brit.


Michal Oleksiejczuk VS. Shamil Gamzatov



Shockingly, there is an undefeated Russian powerhouse in the light heavyweight division that doesn't like to wrestle, known as Shamil Gamzatov (14-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC). After a two-year layoff and coming off a split decision victory in his UFC debut against Klidson Abreu, Gamzatov comes into this bout with ten finishes in his 14 wins and holds the title of a powerful athletic striker with a solid ground game and submissions, but he favors the feet. Gamzatov comes back to a tough matchup to test his ground game and grappling against the Polish grappler Michal Oleksiejczuk (15-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC). Fighting a murderer's row to start out his UFC tenure with names like Gadzhimurad Antigulov, Ovince St. Pruex, and Jimmy Crute under his cap with mixed results so far. His grappling and submission game is his main strength, but he is more than willing to stay on the feet and bang away. In his last fight against former Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion Modestas Bukauskas, the 15 minutes were spent on the feet in its entirety, with Michal winning the exchanges on the feet and winning via split decision. With his game becoming more well-rounded with time, Gamaztov is looking to make a big splash in his sophomore outing in the biggest fighting promotion in the world. Oleksiejczuk's path to victory is to attack the legs and body for the takedown and try to control on the ground, but this is beyond the normal striker versus grappler matchup. Gamzatov has a real chance to make a huge impact on the UFC light heavyweight division with a highlight finish over Oleksiejczuk, or Michal will earn himself a win streak and have his game evolve more than ever.


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