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UFC 267 takeaways: Glover Teixeira’s inspirational journey reminds us why MMA is so special

UFC 267: Blachowicz v Teixeira Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

He actually did it. Glover Teixeira defied the odds and defied history on Saturday by upsetting Jan Blachowicz to capture the UFC light heavyweight title at age 42 in the main event of UFC 267. Whether it was Teixeira’s remarkable win, Petr Yan’s title reclamation over Cory Sandhagen, or the latest insanity from Khamzat Chimaev, what mattered most from an action-packed night at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena? Let’s hit our five biggest takeaways.


1. Occasionally, our little corner of the sports world experiences a moment.

You know it when you see it. The kind of moment that feels like a movie script come to life. When the implausible happens in such a profound way that it’s impossible to do anything but gawk in dumbstruck disbelief and realize we all just witnessed something we’ll collectively be talking about for the rest of our lives. Those are the nights that remind us why this sport is so special. Michael Bisping rewriting his story at the eleventh hour will forever be the gold standard, but after what we saw on Saturday, it’ll be hard for anyone other than him to top the feel-good finale Glover Teixeira just pulled off at UFC 267.

At age 42, the 20-year MMA veteran became the oldest first-time UFC champion in history. He did so not with a lucky punch, not with a Hail Mary comeback, but with a one-sided mauling of a respected titleholder. The result was never in doubt — Teixeira dominated the opening round with his grappling, rocked Jan Blachowicz in the second round on the feet, then ripped the belt right off the king with a rear-near-choke.

It’s 2021 and Glover Freakin’ Teixeira is a legitimate UFC champion.

How surreal are those words?

Roads are rarely straightforward in MMA, but this is a different level of loopy. Less than three years ago, Teixeira was an over-the-hill contender who’d lost three of his last five fights. He was brutally KO’d in two of those losses, one of which lasted all of 13 seconds. His window was thought to have long slammed shut. Even at the start of what’s now become Teixeira’s career-defining run, no one actually saw this coming. His first rebound after his 2018 loss to Corey Anderson came against Karl Roberson, and Teixeira was nearly knocked unconscious in the opening minute before pulling off a hellacious comeback. Two fights later, he landed a scorecard away from losing a decision to Nikita Krylov. Anthony Smith seemingly had him dead to rights just last year. So did Thiago Santos. And that’s only the recent examples. If you haven’t done so already, take a few minutes to read this harrowing piece from Guilherme Cruz about the origin story to Teixeira’s journey. He was supposed to be on The Ultimate Fighter 2, for God’s sake. That was more than 16 years ago.

Yet here we are.

Glover Teixeira is the UFC light heavyweight champion, for now and forever. And no man can ever say he didn’t pay the iron price for that immortality. What an inspiration.

“Never give up on your dreams,” an emotional Teixeira said Saturday as gold shimmered around his waist. “No matter what people say, don’t listen to them. They’re going to put you down. Don’t listen to those negative people. Believe in yourself. Keep going forward.”

Preach, Champ. Preach.


1b. Not to spoil the good vibes, but if I’m Corey Anderson or Scott Coker right now, I’m staking my claim to that No. 1 light heavyweight ranking and shouting it from the rooftops.

Anderson was 2-1 in three fights against the two men in UFC 267’s main event. The last 205-pounder to defeat Teixeira? You already know — it was Anderson, and frankly, the fight wasn’t very close. That was just three years ago. Anderson was a top-5 light heavyweight when he left the UFC and has been nothing but a destroyer since arriving in Bellator. It’s rare that MMA’s bridesmaid promotions stumble upon a better claim to having the best fighter in a division under their roof than Coker and his crew have right now with Anderson.

If I’m in the Bellator offices on Monday, I’m grabbing hold of this narrative and not letting go for as long as Anderson’s torrid run continues.


2. The bantamweight division may not have the clarity yet it desires, but it feels pretty dang clear to me: Petr Yan is the 135-pound fighter alive.

The Russian’s five-round interim title win over Cory Sandhagen was a delectable Halloween treat, the type of high-level chess match between two skilled, intelligent, and ferociously aggressive technicians that takes your breath away in the moment. This stat from Fightmetric’s Richard Mann says it all: Sandhagen averaged 17.80 significant strike attempts per minute and threw 445 significant strikes overall — a hefty amount by any metric and nearly 200 more than Yan threw — yet the Russian still almost matched Sandhagen in the final offensive tallies. That’s how accurate Yan was in there on Saturday and how often he made Sandhagen miss.

No fighter at 135 pounds is more adept at the mid-fight adjustment than the UFC’s newest interim champion, and no fighter at 135 pounds is better suited for the five-round reality that comes with being a titleholder. We’ve seen it time and time again — it takes Yan a round or so to figure things out, but once he does, he’s the old snowball rolling down a hill. That gradual creep of momentum within his fights can be a scary sight.

Yan was the best bantamweight in the world heading into 2021. He was the best bantamweight in the cage at UFC 259 when he was lapping Aljamain Sterling in the clutch. And he’s still the best bantamweight in the world now that he’s trounced another of the division’s toughest tests. And you know what? This is one take I suspect I’m not alone on.


3. In the afterglow of Saturday’s card, Khabib Nurmagomedov told cageside commentator Daniel Cormier that UFC 267 was Islam Makhachev’s “MSG moment,” obviously referencing the night Nurmagomedov buried Michael Johnson alive inside the world’s most famous arena and we all collectively looked at each other and realized that Dagestan was indeed going to have a UFC lightweight champion, probably sooner rather than later.

And hey, it’s hard to say Nurmagomedov is wrong.

Makhachev’s two-minute rout of Dan Hooker wasn’t the type of rankings play that’ll vault him into a top-3 spot on Monday, but it was the type of effortless win over a tough foe that’ll put the division on a Defcon 1 alert. Yes folks, Makhachev may already be the best lightweight on the planet. He’s no longer the superstar’s understudy grinding out random decisions over random names. After his third straight finish of a legitimate contender — and his division-best ninth win in a row — he’s fully embraced the baton Nurmagomedov passed to him as Dagestan’s most terrifying export. Hooker was a few seconds away from getting his shoulder torn off his body. Who’d willingly volunteer right now to fight this man?

I wrote in July that the time to slow play Makhachev’s career had to be over following his demolition of Thiago Moises. At a certain point, we were wasting everyone’s time running a top-tier talent like Makhachev out there against the periphery contenders of the world. But now there’s no excuses left — Makhachev’s next fight has to either be for a belt or for No. 1 contention. I suspect the latter is more likely than the former — perhaps against Beneil Dariush or the Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler winner — but the path is there for a quicker route. If Chandler beats Gaethje and Charles Oliveira beats Dustin Poirier, an Oliveira-Makhachev pairing would be the most logical option at the UFC’s disposal.

Who knows? Dagestan may indeed be celebrating its second UFC lightweight title soon.


4. I tried so hard last year, y’all. I tried to keep some perspective. When Khamzat Chimaev exploded into the MMA consciousness with his two-blowouts-in-10-days debut on Fight Island, I was as intrigued as anyone but held back on the hyperbole as best I could. When he shot up to middleweight two months later and stonewalled Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds, it became even harder to do so. Chimaev had put together one of the most dominant statistical starts to an octagon career ever; the temptation to declare the Chechen wolf as the next prodigious UFC champion was hitting a fever pitch, yet still I tried to resist.

But now? I’m at a loss for words.

Genuinely ... how is this even possible? Prior to UFC 267, the fastest anyone in the world had been able to dispatch Li Jingliang in a fight was at 2:17 of the third round. No one runs through Jingliang. Or at least, no one ran through Jingliang until Saturday. (Though I guess no one had ever tried the approach of, ‘Hey, I’m just going to pick you up, carry you over to Dana White while talking trash, then choke you unconscious.’ Simple yet effective. Yeesh.)

Here’s where we now sit with Chimaev, and honestly, it doesn’t make sense: Through four UFC fights, the unbeaten 27-year-old has outstruck his opposition 254-2 in total strikes and 112-1 in significant strikes. He’s outwrestled his opposition 4-0 in takedowns and 11:56 to zero in control time. He’s done this all in two different divisions, barely been touched in either of them, and certainly embodies every vibe of the what the next evolution of Khabib Nurmagomedov would look like if he had one-hitter quitter power to boot.

Chimaev owns more wins in the UFC than he does sustained strikes. Think about that.

There were real questions floating around him heading into UFC 267 considering the intensity of his battle with COVID-19, but now it’s clear beyond a shadow of a doubt: Khamzat Chimaev is special. He’s a top-10 welterweight in the world right now. Hell, he might be a top-5 welterweight. He’s treating his UFC career like a video game and racking up numbers like he’s playing EA Sports UFC 4 on Rookie difficulty.

In over a decade in this business, I can count the number of times I’ve called for a prospect to be fast-tracked to instant title contention on one hand. It’s just not my style. But after Saturday? I think I’m there with Chimaev. The UFC needs to capitalize on what it has here.

Give this man a top-5 opponent next.

And if he wins? Give him a title shot and let’s see how real this remarkable story really is.


5. When you have a no-nonsense character like “Big” John McCarthy out here making grandiose proclamations that he “just watched the worst job of officiating at a UFC event ever” — with three exclamation points, no less — that’s when you know you really messed up.

I never want to see Vyacheslav Kiselev referee a UFC fight again. Hell, I never want to see Kiselev referee a fight again, period. How that man stood by and watched a UFC newcomer stagger around the octagon eating nuclear missile after nuclear missile from Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in a near 10-7 round and didn’t even once think to stop the fight, I’ll never understand. Especially after Benoit Saint Denis literally told Kiselev in Round 3 that he couldn’t see — and Kiselev didn’t even call in a doctor! What are we doing here??

Cageside commentators Cormier and Paul Felder were right to be outraged. Neither Kiselev nor Saint Denis’ corner did the rookie any favors on Saturday. One just hopes the Frenchman isn’t dealing with the ramifications of that decision-making for years to come.

Poll

Whose UFC 267 performance stood out most to you?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Teixeira def. Blachowicz
    (391 votes)
  • 11%
    Yan def. Sandhagen
    (114 votes)
  • 9%
    Makhachev def. Hooker
    (89 votes)
  • 0%
    Volkov def. Tybura
    (1 vote)
  • 37%
    Chimaev def. Jingliang
    (366 votes)
  • 0%
    Ankalaev def. Oezdemir
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (explain in comments)
    (7 votes)
971 votes total Vote Now