Jan Blachowicz has been doubted at every turn on his rise to becoming the light heavyweight champion, and it continued ahead of his first title defense on Saturday. But once again, Blachowicz defied the odds and retained his championship in the main event of UFC 259 with a win over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in the Kiwi’s bid to become a two-division champion.
Blachowicz and Adesanya fought a tense first three rounds, with both men looking to minimize mistakes and make the other pay. While Adesanya was the better technical striker, as expected, Blachowicz continued to throw punches and kicks with the former high-level kickboxing standout.
The feints of Adesanya seemed to trouble Blachowicz as much as any landed strikes. In fact, Blachowicz outlanded Adesanya in total strikes in every round of the fight according to the UFC’s official stats.
While Blachowicz teased some grappling in the first three rounds, he was unable to take Adesanya down for any meaningful amount of time. It was in the championship rounds that Blachowicz showed off his bona fides, finally using his size and strength advantage to take down Adesanya and grind away with ground and pound.
Piling away the points in those big closing rounds allowed Blachowicz to pull away on the scorecards, earning the victory by scores of 49-46, 49-45 and 49-45. Two of the three judges gave Blachowicz a 10-8 round in Round 5, rewarding him for dominant ground work, including closing the fight in mount and dropping heavy punches to the face of the middleweight champ.
“I thought that he would be a little bit faster, but he don’t hit so hard,” Blachowicz said following his victory. “He was slower, but he hit harder, this was something I don’t expect. I should do my left hand a little bit more, I should do more jabs, put more pressure on him. But game plan is one, and fight is second, a different thing.”
As for what’s next for the champion? Blachowicz believes the next man up should be veteran light heavyweight Glover Teixeira.
“I think [Teixeira] deserves it,” Blachowicz said. “He’ll have to wait a little bit, so I can rest and be with my family. But he will wait, he will be next.”
In defeat, Adesanya was respectful of Blachowicz, acknowledging the night was “like a bad day at the gym.”
“It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but dare to be great,” Adesanya said. “The critics are the ones on the sidelines, but I’m the one putting it on the line.”
Adesanya said he would eventually return to the light heavyweight division. First, however, will come a return to the middleweight division to defend his belt.
“I rule them with an iron black fist,” Adesanya said. “I’m going to go back down and handle business. If you want to get off the hype train, get the f— off the hype train. We’re just stopping for gas. If you want to stay on, I promise I’ll make you proud.”
Blachowicz is now 9-4 in his UFC career when competing as an underdog, and he entered the Octagon as an underdog in his three most recent fights, including winning the vacant championship against Dominick Reyes.
“Now I think I deserve full respect,” Blachowicz said of any doubters of his place in the sport. “I was the true champion before and I am the true champion now.”
CBS Sports was with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from the UFC 259 below.