In a hard-fought battle over five rounds, the Russian appeared to do enough edge former champion Jan Blachowicz but the judges disagreed. When the final scores were tallied, judge Mike Bell gave the fight 48-47 to Blachowicz, judge Derek Cleary had it 48-46 for Ankalaev and judge Sal D’Amato ultimately scored it 47-47, which means the fight was declared a split draw.
A closer look at the scorecard showed that D’Amato had actually scored the first three rounds for Blachowicz but he gave Ankalaev a 10-8 in round five, which led to his 47-47 card.
A disgruntled Ankalaev expressed his frustration afterwards while hinting that he may not return to the UFC again after such a disappointing decision.
“I don’t know what to say, I won that fight,” Ankalaev said. “Why didn’t I get my belt. I don’t know what to say. I can’t choose the judges for the fight but I won this fight. Where is my belt?
“I don’t know if I’m going to fight for this organization again because I don’t know what just happened. I don’t know what you want me to say. Honestly I don’t know what to say. Maybe we’ll come back and take what’s ours.”
For his part, Blachowicz seemed resigned in defeat despite the decision and he even said Ankalaev should leave with the title regardless of the judges’ scorecards.
“I have to watch the fight but for sure I’m not the winner,” Blachowicz said. “I don’t feel I’m the one who is the winner. I’m not the judge.”
The title fight largely played out in two halves with Blachowicz setting the tone early with a blistering series of leg kicks and then Ankalaev using his grappling to turn the tables late.
At the start of the 25-minute battle, it was a contest of speed against power with Ankalaev rattling off rapid-fire combinations as well as a slick front kick that was constantly landing in his opponent’s belly. In return, Blachowicz was firing back with a knockout on his mind that left some bruising and swelling forming over Ankalaev’s right eye.
The methodical approach from Ankalaev where he was looking for counters, Blachowicz was still finding an opening for straight punches and a well-timed uppercut.
Blachowicz was also targeting the lead leg with a brutal series of kicks that really started to do damage as Ankalaev was noticeably hurt from the repeated shots landed. At one point, Ankalaev stumbled from the heavy kicks, which forced him to actually switch stances in an attempt to stave off further damage.
With his leg compromised, Ankalaev was forced to get more aggressive and the strategy started paying off, although he still had to be wary about the power coming back at him from Blachowicz.
Despite his best efforts, Ankalaev still couldn’t stop the kicks as Blachowicz was hammering away at either lead leg that was open in orthodox or the southpaw stance. That led to Ankalaev really putting forward pressure on Blachowicz, closing the distance and then setting up the clinch or a takedown attempt.
With the fight fading into the championship rounds, Ankalaev planted Blachowicz on the canvas as he looked to shift the momentum in his favor. Ankalaev worked to take the back but mostly stayed in control as Blachowicz looked stuck without much hope for an escape.
A slip during a scramble put Blachowicz back on the ground again with Ankalaev maintaining control on top as the seconds started to tick away to crown a new light heavyweight champion. Blachowicz appeared trapped with Ankalaev blasting away with punches in an attempt to get a late finish, although the ex-champion refused to go away until the fight came to a close to reach the scorecards.
While all signs pointed towards Ankalaev getting the nod, the judges disagreed and now the UFC light heavyweight title remains vacant with no clear path towards what exactly might happen next.
This could also potentially throw a massive roadblock in Glover Teixeira’s path as he was expected to face the winner in the UFC 282 main event but now Ankalaev and Blachowicz might be headed towards an immediate rematch.