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Six Questions Answered Ahead of UFC 267

Can Glover Teixeira upset Jan Blachowicz? Who will win the interim bantamweight title? That and more ahead of Saturday's slate.

All eyes in the fight world are on next week’s UFC 268, which takes place at Madison Square Garden. But before arriving at that destination, there is a Saturday afternoon special from Abu Dhabi with UFC 267.

The card is free for ESPN+ subscribers. Though the card will have some solid fights, there is not a lot of star-power here, plus it starts at an odd time (2 p.m. ET). So, turning what would have been the lowest selling pay-per-view into a free offering is a wise marketing move.

The main event sees Glover Teixeira get one more shot at the gold, taking on light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. There is also a bout for the interim bantamweight belt, pitting former champ Petr Yan against Cory Sandhagen. And after fighting at 266, Dan Hooker returns to the Octagon again at 267. If Hooker defeats Islam Makhachev, he instantly puts himself back in title contention for the lightweight belt.

Can Glover Teixeira upset Jan Blachowicz?

If Glover Teixeira can pull off the upset, it would be an amazing story.

Teixeira (32–7) is on a five-fight win streak. He is well-known among fight fans, holding records for most finishes and most submissions in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Winning the belt at 42 years old would be a remarkable accomplishment, and it could really make the 267 card stand out.

The caveat, of course, is that he facing a much better opponent in Blachowicz (28–8). Teixeira’s win streak is also not that impressive beyond Anthony Smith. His opponents were either never in the conversation for the title or on a backslide, which is not the case for Blachowicz, who is on an absolute tear winning nine of his last ten.

Blachowicz is coming off a signature victory against Israel Adesanya. He has practically run through everyone else standing across from him, including Corey Anderson, who is now cruising in Bellator. The key to this fight for Teixeira, who is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, is using his striking to set up the submission. That is his route to victory, though the prevailing wisdom is that Blachowicz will win by knockout.

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Who is next if Blachowicz wins?

Blachowicz wants a fight against Jon Jones, which would be a huge draw for him. And that is out of the ordinary in terms of upcoming opponents for Blachowicz, as the light heavyweight division is thin on top draws. Title fights against Jiri Prochazka or Aleksandar Rakić are unlikely to draw, putting Blachowicz in a difficult spot as champ.

A easy solution would be if Magomed Ankalaev wins at 267, where he needs to defeat eighth-ranked Volkan Oezdemir. Winner of six in a row and ranked seventh in the light heavyweight division, Ankalaev (15–1) is an exciting fighter with a desire to knockout his opponents early. He is also from Russia, and a title bout against Blachowicz, who lives and trains in Warsaw, Poland would be a heavily marketed bout by UFC.

Ankalaev has looked especially impressive in his last six fights, yet he has yet to defeat a significant opponent (and he lost to Paul Craig). But with no other clear-cut opponent, and Jones unlikely to return for Blachowicz, this is an opportunity for Ankalaev to jump into prime position with a win against Oezdemir (17-5).

Who will win the interim bantamweight title? 

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After a shameful illegal knee kick that disqualified him from a fight he was winning and cost him the belt, Yan seeks to regain the bantamweight belt with a win against Sandhagen.

And this is a fight Yan (15–2) should win. Sandhagen (14–3) is coming off a loss to TJ Dillashaw, and he would not be in this spot if Aljamain Sterling or Dillashaw were healthy. This bout feels forced without Sterling involved, but it is a chance for Sandhagen to reach a new level by winning gold—even though that task will be extraordinarily difficult.

Another frustrating part about this bout was Yan’s choice to end his open workouts with a reenactment of the illegal kick that cost him the bout against Sterling. What could possibly motivate him to do that? So while Yan likely wins here, there is a chance he becomes a greater villain in the process.

What is going to be the most exciting fight at 267?

The overwhelming favorite for most captivating fight is the quick return of Dan Hooker, who just fought at UFC 266, against Islam Makhachev.

On paper, Hooker (21–10) does not match up well with Makhachev (20–1). But the one Makhachev loss could be telling. That happened six years ago at UFC 192 when he lost by KO to Adriano Martins, who caught Makhachev with a shot. While it could be argued that their fight should not have been stopped when it was, that was the way it ended. And it is exactly how Hooker would win this fight. He hits shots that his opponents never see coming, and that is his path to victory against Makhachev.

Makhachev should win here, setting up a title shot. But this is Hooker’s chance to seize another fight he is not expected to win, instantly putting him back in title contention.

Why isn’t the Amanda Ribas-Virna Jandiroba fight on the main card?

Personally, I would have had the meeting of strawweights Amanda Ribas and Virna Jandiroba on the main card, and placed heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura on the prelims.

Both Volkov (33–9) and Tybura (22–6) are ranked (respectively, fifth and ninth), but that speaks to the lack of depth in the heavyweight division. Neither is on the cusp of a title fight. Volkov is a really dynamic boxer, and that should carry him to a victory here, but the Ribas-Jandiroba bout is far more compelling. Ribas (10–2) is not a traditional mixed martial artist, and she has the chance to rebound here from a difficult loss to Marina Rodriguez by defeating Jandiroba (17–2).

Will we see a breakout performance from Li Jingliang or Khamzat Chimaev?

Khamzat Chimaev both have a chance to grab the fight world’s attention with an impressive showing in Abu Dhabi.

Jingliang (18–6) is ranked eleventh. On paper, this should be a convincing win for Chimaev, but Jingliang is a warrior in the cage. If he can pull off the win, it would be a massive upset, adding some much-needed electricity to 267.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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