Jan Blachowicz may have been the most overlooked of the four men entering the two championship bouts at UFC 253 on Saturday, being largely overshadowed by opponent Dominick Reyes. It's now unlikely anyone will overlook Blachowicz after the Polish powerhouse won the vacant light heavyweight championship with a brutal knockout in the co-main event from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Reyes, who entered the night as a sizable favorite after a controversial decision loss to former longtime champion Jon Jones in February, never got any offense going as Blachowicz showed his power early. In Round 1, Blachowicz landed a powerful left kick to the body of Reyes, leaving a dark red and purple bruise on Reyes' side. It was the most significant strike in a cautious opening round by both men.
Reyes tried to force the action in Round 2, starting to come forward with more punches and kicks, but Blachowicz showed little fear of engaging in flurries with his taller opponent. He soon added a damaged nose to Reyes' growing list of concerns, and it seemed like every exchange left Reyes with a new injury.
Then, slightly more than four minutes into the second round, Blachowicz unloaded an overhand left that immediately took Reyes' legs. Reyes stumbled before falling to the canvas and Blachowicz pounced. A series of punches later, the referee called off the fight and Blachowicz kicked off a new era in the 205-pound division.
The finish officially came at the 4:36 mark of Round 2.
Speaking after his victory, the new champion said he only had one thing on his mind.
"I don't know, only one that is on my mind," Blachowicz said. "Jon Jones, where are you? Don't be a quitter."
Jones recently vacated the light heavyweight title after dominating the division for nearly a decade, deciding it was time for a long-awaited move to the heavyweight division after nearly losing the belt to Reyes.
Blachowicz is now riding a four-fight winning streak and is 8-1 in his nine most recent fights. The lone loss in that run came against Thiago Santos in February 2019. Santos could now be the next man up for Blachowicz, though he has not fought since a July 2019 split decision loss to Jones.
"It's been a long journey for me, sometimes I was on the top, then I lose a couple fights, but I never stop believing in my skills, in my power. Here I am, the champion," Blachowicz said after the fight. "Like I said before, even a pandemic can't stop me right now. I feel really great in the fight. I saw that my left kick to his body, that he slowed down a little bit. I saw almost everything he did. In the second round when I broke his nose, I knew that the finish will be soon. This is something that we prepared in our gym with coaches. On paper, we knew everything, and now in real life also. We do a great job in the gym, I am the champion."