Even after knocking out Dominick Reyes late in the second round in their bout in the co-main event of UFC 253 Saturday in Abu Dhabi, Jan Blachowicz tried to act as if it were just business as usual.
But this was most definitely not business as usual in the light heavyweight division.
Blachowicz finished Reyes with a blistering combination late in the second round to become the first fighter other than Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier to hold the light heavyweight title since 2011.
Blachowicz cracked Reyes with a right hand, but finished him with a crushing left. Reyes stumbled backward, and as Blachowicz went for the kill on the ground, referee Kevin Sataki stopped it.
“It’s nothing new for me,” Blachowicz said. “I’m 37 years old. I’ve had a lot of fights. It’s just fun.”
But this was different, even if Blachowicz didn’t want to admit it. He was an underdog, but fought with the poise and confidence of a long-time champion. He controlled the first with his activity and particularly with his kicks.
He blasted Reyes with a kick to the ribs in the first, leaving Reyes with a gnarly welt on the right side of his body.
In the second round, Blachowicz opened up more as the round wore on. The beginning of the end came when he landed a 1-2 that wobbled Reyes. The jab landed on the nose and the right hand came behind it. But it was a big left to the side of the head that sent Reyes down.
Reyes, who nearly upset Jon Jones in Houston in February, never was able to get untracked. He didn’t let his hands go and his edge in quickness never really materialized.
In the moment of his glory, Blachowicz looked to the past.
“Jon Jones, where are you?” he said. “Don’t be a quitter. I’m here. I’m waiting for you.”
Jones plans to compete at heavyweight, so it doesn’t seem that’s a possibility, but there will be plenty of challenges for Blachowicz.
His first defense will be just another fight, just the way he likes it.
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