Alex Pereira, the former middleweight champion, made a successful debut in the light heavyweight division by edging out Jan Blachowicz, the former light heavyweight champion, in a split decision at UFC 291. The fight was a back-and-forth affair, with Blachowicz dominating the ground game and Pereira landing more strikes on the feet. The judges scored the fight 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in favor of Pereira, who may have earned himself a title shot with this win.
The first round was clearly in Blachowicz’s favor, as he took down Pereira early and controlled him on the mat for most of the round. He threatened with a rear-naked choke and landed some punches from the back mount. Pereira showed good defense and patience, but he was unable to get back to his feet until the final seconds of the round.
The second round was more competitive, as Pereira started to find his range with his jab and kicks. He also defended Blachowicz’s takedown attempts better and managed to get back up quickly when he was taken down. Pereira increased his output and pressure as the round went on, and landed some hard shots that rocked Blachowicz. He also cut Blachowicz’s eye with an elbow. Blachowicz tried to fire back, but he looked tired and hurt.
The third round was the decisive one, as both fighters knew they needed to win it to secure the victory. Pereira continued to be more aggressive and active on the feet, while Blachowicz looked for openings to counter or clinch. Pereira landed some crisp left hands that snapped Blachowicz’s head back, while Blachowicz landed some leg kicks that slowed down Pereira’s movement. With less than a minute left, Blachowicz finally got a takedown and ended the fight on top of Pereira, landing some elbows and punches.
The fight was close and could have gone either way, but two of the judges gave it to Pereira, who improved his record to 8-2 in MMA and 5-1 in the UFC. He also extended his winning streak to four fights in the light heavyweight division, after losing his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in a rematch at UFC 287. Pereira is now one of the top contenders for the vacant light heavyweight title, which will be decided between Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka at UFC 293.
Blachowicz suffered his second loss in his last four fights, dropping his record to 29-10-1 in MMA and 12-7-1 in the UFC. He lost his light heavyweight title to Glover Teixeira at UFC 267 in 2021, but bounced back with a TKO win over Aleksandar Rakic and a draw against Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 282. Blachowicz is still one of the best fighters in the division, but he will need to work his way back up to get another title shot.
The co-main event of UFC 291 was an exciting and close fight that showcased the skills and heart of both fighters. Alex Pereira proved that he can hang with the best in the light heavyweight division, while Jan Blachowicz showed that he is still a tough and dangerous opponent for anyone. The fans were treated to a high-level and competitive fight that could have gone either way.