Blachowicz (22-7) vs. Nikita
Odds: Blachowicz (-110), Krylov (-110)
Finally, the prodigal son has returned. Ukraine's Krylov hit meme status among the MMA hardcores as soon as the UFC picked him up; a then-21 year old with an inflated record and a regrettable "Al Capone" nickname, Krylov's UFC debut against Soa Palelei was the stuff of legend, a bout where both men ran out of gas instantly and spent two and a half rounds fighting at half-speed. And from there, things only got weirder. Krylov actually looked like a prospect in his next bout, knocking out Walt Harris in under half a minute, but after cutting down to light heavyweight and becoming the first victim of Ovince St. Preux's now-legendary Von Flue choke, Krylov was back to being a curiosity. But after all the jokes subsided, Krylov actually turned into a solid light heavyweight. With all the flab cut out from his heavyweight days, Krylov proved to be a powerful athlete with knockout power and an aggressive submission game. Just as Krylov was turning into someone to watch -- even if a loss to Misha Cirkunov was a temporary setback -- he and the UFC agreed to part ways; Krylov had one fight left on his contract and made it clear that he was going to pursue richer pastures in Russia, so neither side felt much of a need to let him have another fight. Krylov spent the ensuing year and a half picking up where he left off, scoring four finishes in four fights, but with home promotion Fight Nights Global slowing down, Krylov's found his way back to the UFC. Not only that, but he has a big opportunity to become a top light heavyweight contender with a win here.
It's been quite the up-and-down UFC tenure for Blachowicz, to say the least. Every once in a while, a fighter debuts with a win that's complete false advertising, and that was the case with Blachowicz. Blachowicz was mostly a decision machine and a solid submission artist working his way up the ranks in his native Poland, so when he debuted with a sub-two minute knockout of Ilir Latifi, that set expectations a bit too high. And indeed, he wound up losing four out of his next five fights. Admittedly, they were against a tough slate of competition, but Blachowicz also kept losing in disappointing fashion, showing some well-rounded skills and even improving fight to fight, but constantly being dogged by gas tank issues that would leave him exhausted by the latter stretches of the bout. Blachowicz has fixed those elements a bit, but it's unclear if his current three-fight winning streak is more a result of his own improvements or weaker competition: Devin Clark was over-aggressive, Jared Cannonier was too passive and a rematch with Jimi Manuwa was somewhere in between, with Blachowicz having just enough power and wrestling to get the nod. At any rate, Blachowicz now finds himself as a legit light heavyweight contender, which would've been a surprise even a year ago, and a win over Krylov would be another feather in his cap.
Light heavyweight's a weird division, so it's no surprise that this is a bit of a weird fight to break down. Krylov's the harder hitter and the better athlete, but Blachowicz is well-rounded enough to take advantage of Krylov's over-aggressive mistakes, as well as being shockingly durable; his only career losses by stoppage are one via submission and one via injury. So I assume both men will be there for 15 minutes, and it's also unclear who's going to have the better gas tank. Blachowicz has his well-documented issues, but Krylov's cardio is also unproven, as his loss to Palelei was the lone time he's seen the third round, let alone the scorecards. It's a toss-up, but I suppose I'll favor Krylov to win rounds as the better athlete who's also likelier to hit the harder blows. Given Krylov's propensity to get the finish, maybe he'll be the first man to hit Blachowicz hard enough to score a clean knockout. But as it is, I'll call for this to be an ugly but fun war and for Krylov to get the first decision win of his career.
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