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The Importance of Blachowicz-Santos to the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 145 in Prague, Czech Republic will feature a main event between a pair of new-blood contenders in a light heavyweight division that desperately needs it.

A post shared by Jan Blachowicz (@janblachowicz) on Feb 22, 2019 at 2:44pm PST

Jan Blachowicz, a former KSW champion, has now been in the UFC for four and a half years, and will be headlining his first card in correspondence with a career resurgence with four consecutive wins over the likes of Devin Clark, Jared Cannonier, Jimi Manuwa, and most recently Nikita Krylov back in September. He now sits ranked in the top 5 for the first time in his career.

Thiago Santos has been one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster as of late. His 5 trips to the octagon in 2018 was the most by any fighter and hasn’t had a layoff longer than four and half months between fights since 2016. Santos had been a middleweight staple for some time, but now sits comfortably in the light heavyweight top 10, holding two wins at 205 pounds over Eryk Anders, which was his first main event, and Jimi Manuwa back in December at UFC 231.

A post shared by Thiago "Marreta" Santos (@tmarretamma) on Feb 8, 2019 at 5:22am PST

While seemingly not high profile, this is a fascinating fight simply for the landscape of this division. The light heavyweight belt has been held by only two men over the last nine years, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, who also happen to be two of the most dominant mixed martial artists of this generation. Light heavyweight used to be lauded as the glamour division of the UFC, and while Jones and Cormier have been mainstays on the UFC’s mainstream platform, it certainly doesn’t have the same draw it once did. Much of that has to do with the dominance of Jones and Cormier, but it is also in part due to the lack of fresh contenders to challenge the sustained guard.

A post shared by Daniel "DC" Cormier (@dc_mma) on Nov 5, 2018 at 9:30am PST

In February 2017, Volkan Oezdemir fought Ovince Saint Preux on short notice, and won a very close split decision. Two quick knockouts later in 2017, and by the beginning of 2018, Oezdemir was challenging Daniel Cormier for the title. The result? Oezdemir lost. Badly. Terribly. Oezdemir hasn’t won a fight since, albeit he has had only one, against Anthony Smith, who Oezdemir battered for two rounds before Smith was able to catch him in a rear naked choke in the third round. Now, here we sit in 2019, and Anthony Smith, a guy who couldn’t sniff the top 10 at 185, is about to fight Jon Jones for the title after winning all of three fights at light heavyweight in 2018, over the aging former champions Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua, and Oezdemir. Prior to his move to the division, Smith lost his last fight at 185 to who? Thiago Santos.

A post shared by Thiago "Marreta" Santos (@tmarretamma) on Jan 8, 2019 at 7:40am PST

Where I’m leading with this is, light heavyweight is shallow, and it has been for many years, and for once, we have a light heavyweight main event that doesn’t feature Jones, Cormier, any of the guys they’ve beaten down, or any washed out former champions like Rua. Relish this moment and this fight. There’s finally a main event in this division that can actually draw a picture for the future. Neither Blachowicz nor Santos has fought Jon Jones yet, and a stunning performance in Prague could put either one right in front of the cafeteria line for a light heavyweight title shot.

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