Blachowicz wins, halts Adesanya’s bid for 2 belts

LAS VEGAS — Israel Adesanya’s meteoric rise to UFC superstardom hit an obstacle Saturday night — a large, Polish obstacle.

Jan Blachowicz beat the previously undefeated Adesanya by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) to retain his light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 259.

Adesanya, the UFC middleweight champion, was attempting to become just the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two titles concurrently.

The story of the fight leading in was that Blachowicz would have a significant size advantage. Adesanya weighed 200.5 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, 4.5 under the 205-pound limit for a light heavyweight title fight. Blachowicz weighed 205 pounds and said he planned on competing Saturday at 220 pounds. Adesanya, who typically competes in the 185-pound division, likely didn’t gain much weight from weigh-ins, meaning Blachowicz would be about 20 pounds heavier in the Octagon.

That size paid dividends for Blachowicz. He took over the fight late with big takedowns in the fourth and fifth rounds. Adesanya seemed to be building some momentum in the fourth when Blachowicz exploded in for a double-leg takedown. Both times, Adesanya could not get up. While Blachowicz didn’t do a ton of damage on the mat, he held Adesanya there very effectively and sprinkled in some punches.

As the clock was expiring to end the fight, Blachowicz finally landed some hard hammerfists and advanced into full mount. The final flurry all but sealed the bout.

Coming in, ESPN had Adesanya ranked the No. 4 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world. Adesanya is ranked No. 1 at middleweight, while Blachowicz is ranked No. 2 at light heavyweight, behind only all-time great Jon Jones, who is currently moving up to heavyweight.

UFC 259 took place with COVID-19 protocols in place inside the UFC Apex, a facility across the street from the promotion’s corporate campus.

Blachowicz (28-8) has won five in a row. The Poland native won the vacant UFC light heavyweight title by beating Dominick Reyes by second-round TKO at UFC 253 last September. Blachowicz, 38, has won nine of 10 fights overall and has had a pretty incredible late-career surge. He has been a pro since 2007 and was the light heavyweight champion of his home country’s KSW promotion in 2011.

Adesanya (20-1), a former champion kickboxer, won his first nine fights in the UFC before Saturday. The Nigeria-born New Zealand resident is coming off a second-round TKO over Paulo Costa at UFC 253, in the headlining fight of the card in which Blachowicz won the light heavyweight title. The flashy Adesanya, 31, has 15 knockouts in 20 career wins and has been UFC middleweight champion since October 2019.

Blachowicz cashed as a plus-210 underdog and him winning by decision was plus-700, per Caesars William Hill.

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