Sports Strength

3 Fighters To Watch at UFC 267

UFC 267 is set to bring chaos to your screen on a Saturday morning/afternoon on Oct. 30th, with the prelims kicking off at 10:30 AM EST and the main event following at 2:00 PM EST. 

This card is headlined by two resurgent warriors, with current Light Heavyweight Champion, Jan Blachowicz (28-8 MMA, 11-5 UFC) taking on Glover Teixeira (32-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC). Although neither Blachowicz nor Teixeira offer the mainstream appeal of a Conor McGregor or Israel Adesanya, both men have won their previous five fights and have the talent to cap off a talent-packed card featuring veterans and newcomers alike. 

There are many fighters to be excited about, but these are three fighters you need to watch this weekend:

1) Islam Makhachev (20-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC)
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Islam Makhachev has had no problem finding praise or hype when it comes to his fighting career; in fact, he’s often dubbed “Little Khabib” because of his resemblance to newly retired, former undefeated UFC Champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Beyond the superficial reasons for the comparison (Makhachev and Nurmagomedov are both Dagestani), Makhachev displays a discipline and willingness to expand his skill set outside of fight camp that’s similar to that of his more famous compatriot.  In a recent interview, legendary coach Javier Mendez, the founder of the MMA gym AKA (American Kickboxing Academy), offered some insight into Makhachev’s work ethic. “[Makhachev goes] home and [finds] other guys to teach him how to strike,” Mendez said. “I’d tell him to train with this guy, train with that guy and find somebody that’s a good striking guy and learn from them.”

Even if Makhachev has already proven his bona fides as a fighter, a victory in his upcoming matchup with Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (the sixth-ranked light heavyweight who boasts eye-catching wins over Paul Felder, Gilbert Burns, and Jim Miller) would cement Makhachev’s place amongst the elite. Keep an eye on Islam Makhachev this weekend and moving forward, lest you miss moments like this:

2) Khamzat Chimaev (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
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For our second fighter to watch, we’re keeping it in Dagestan with the king of “smeshing”, Khamzat Chimaev. This man is a FORCE. Khamzat burst onto the scene in 2020, making waves for taking two fights in 10 days for the UFC and winning them both in dominant fashion, finishing both John Phillips and Rhys McKee with ease. One more time – two fights, TEN DAYS. Observe the carnage:

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I know what you’re thinking, “Who could doubt this man after that!?” But despite this, Chimaev received criticism from many who claimed that his profile had been propped up by victories against underwhelming fighters. During the run-up to Chimaev’s fight against UFC vet Gerald Meerschaert in September 2020, Meerschaert crowed about Chimaev’s weak quality of competition—and then got silenced by Chimaev a mere 17 seconds into their bout the next day. I don’t know what most people can do in only 17 seconds, but here’s what he can:

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Since that victory, though, it’s been a tough 13 months for Chimaev as he struggled against a case of COVID-19 that was so severe it forced him to contemplate retirement. In an article by Brett Okamoto at ESPN, Khamzat stated, “I was never scared about my life. I’m scared about what my mom is going to do after I die. My mom, my brothers— was thinking, ‘What are they gonna do after I die?’ I start with this MMA shit because of my family. I want to make some good life with them.”

Thankfully, Chimaev recovered and UFC 267 represents his much-anticipated return to the sport. Making Chimaev’s return even more exciting, though, is that he’s matched up against Li Jinliang (18-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC), a very dangerous and stylistically interesting opponent for Chimaev; Jinliang (also known as “The Leech”) looks to move forward and impose his will on his opponents, which may cause Chimaev trouble. Still, if Chimaev can rediscover his pre-Covid form and control the center of the octagon, this could be an exciting affair that re-establishes Chimaev as one of the most dangerous prospects tearing through the welterweight division.

3) Lerone Murphy (10-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 in UFC)
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What better way to end this than with a red-hot prospect boasting an undefeated record with 60% of his wins coming by first-round KO/TKO!? This weekend, the world will formally meet Lerone “The Miracle” Murphy. 

On his way to the UFC, “The Miracle” chose violence, finishing 5 of 7 fights spectacularly. What’s even more spectacular is what led him to the sport in the first place.

As reported by Joe Coleman at talkSPORT, at the age of 21 Murphy was shot twice in the face. After being shot, he reportedly spit out the bullets that had hit him in the chin and neck, and was rushed to the hospital. It was at this point he decided to begin training MMA, and in 6-months he had his first amateur fight. In just 5 years he was able to make his way through the ranks and to the UFC, where he fought arguably his toughest fight in a split decision draw against mainstay Zubaira Tukhugov. While Murphy was dropped early in the first round, he demonstrated incredible resilience by battling back and showing the judges nearly enough to win the fight.  

Murphy went on to win his next two fights to remain undefeated, including this one against Ricardo Ramos via merciless ground-and-pound:

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His opponent at UFC 267 is “Mr. Finland” Makwan Amirkhani (16-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) who began his UFC career by scoring an 8-second TKO via flying knee.

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Amirkhani is certainly a quality opponent that provides a true test to Mr. Murphy’s “0,” but one that he’s one that Murphy can handle breezily, nonetheless. 

Be sure to tune in to UFC 267 on Saturday, Oct. 30th, and remember, the prelims begin at 10:30AM EST with the main card following at 2PM EST.

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