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The Russian-born Magomed Ankalaev had a quick climb up the UFC light heavyweight rankings, where he can still currently be found at number-three.
In 2022, Ankalaev won back-to-back fights against former title challengers Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith. At UFC 282, he was scheduled to fight former champion Jan Blachowicz in what was considered a number-one contender fight.
However, champion Jiri Prochazka vacated the title after injury and the Ankalaev vs. Blachowicz fight was announced that it would be for the championship.
After five hard-fought rounds, the fight went to the scoreboards and was deemed a draw. The 2022 year ended without a UFC light heavyweight champion and Ankalaev will have to work his way back to a title shot in 2023. Despite losing his title opportunity, most expect Ankalaev to bounce back and hold the gold by the end of the year.
When the Ankalaev/Blachowicz fight unexpectedly ended as a draw, the UFC were quick to make sure that a light heavyweight champion would be crowned as soon as possible. With Glover Teixeira still the number-one contender but Prochazka unable to rematch him due to injury, who would get the call?
Enter number-seven ranked Jamahal Hill. With only one loss on his record, Hill fought twice in 2022. He had a ‘performance of the night’ first-round knockout win over Johnny Walker and followed that up with a ‘fight of the night’ TKO win over former title challenger Thiago Santos.
Hill is officially set to main event UFC 283 against former champion Glover Teixeira for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title in the company’s highly anticipated return to Brazil. According to DraftKings sportsbook, Hill is listed as the -125 favorite to defeat the former champion.
Jiri Prochazka had only one fight in 2022 - but it was awarded the honor of being the UFC’s Fight of the Year!
Prochazka, undefeated in the UFC, took on Glover Teixeira for the light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 275. After a thrilling back-and-forth battle, Prochazka pulled off a rear-naked choke in the final 30-seconds of the fight, becoming the new champion.
The two were set to rematch at the end of 2022 but sadly Prochazka suffered a shoulder injury so terrible that he opted to vacate the title as to not leave the division in a limbo of interim championships.
His recovery time is uncertain at the time of writing, but given his impressive performance in the octagon, should he return to action in 2023 it is all but guaranteed that he would receive an immediate title shot - and have a strong chance of regaining the belt he never lost.
The second former champion on this list, Jan Blachowicz went 1-0-1 in 2022.
After losing the title to Glover Teixeira in 2021, Blachowicz bounced back with a TKO win over Aleksandar Rakic. As mentioned earlier in this article, he then went on to face Magomed Ankalaev for the recently vacated title at UFC 282 where the two men fought to a five-round draw.
With the next title fight already scheduled for UFC 283 between Hill and Teixeira, it is uncertain who Blachowicz will fight next. It seems likely to attempt a rematch between him and Ankalaev with the winner receiving the next crack at the title.
Regardless of who he faces, you can never count out “Polish power”.
The third and final former champion on this list, Glover Teixeira fought only once last year - losing his title to Jiri Prochazka in the Fight of the Year.
When Prochazka withdrew from their late-2022 rematch due to injury, Teixeira decided to opt out of the opportunity to face a new opponent for the title on such short notice. With the Blachowicz/Ankalaev fight ending in a draw and the UFC needing a champion, Teixeira quickly accepted terms to face Jamahal Hill for the title in his home country of Brazil on January 21.
The 43-year-old is listed as a +105 underdog against Hill but as he has proven time and time again, you can never underestimate Teixeira in a fight.
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