If we’re all being honest, Blachowicz’s UFC career has been largely disappointing. His debut was great — a gnarly first-round body kick stoppage of Ilir Latifi — but it’s still his only victory worth much of anything as a UFC fighter. He’s lost four of his last five bouts, which is certainly an ugly turn for a man who entered UFC with a record of 17-3. As for Clark, it’s still early. He lost his Octagon debut violently, but he has since switched weight classes and found solid success in implementing his wrestling and top control game.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Ilir Latifi (UFC Fight Night 53), Igor Pokrajac (UFC Fight Night 86), Houston Alexander (KSW 20), Goran Reljic (KSW 22)
Key Losses: Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 93), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 64), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: Blachowicz isn’t a bad fighter — he definitely has the skills to compete and succeed in UFC. On paper, Blachowicz can kickboxer quite well, has submission skills, and is a very difficult man to finish.
Unfortunately, a couple things have kept him from consistent success. At first, it appeared a simple issue of European wrestling, as Blachowicz just couldn’t stop the takedown. Over time, Blachowicz has proven that’s not entirely the case.
He can wrestle well enough … just only in the first round.
Simply put, Blachowicz’s conditioning is his biggest issue. He likes to fight at a leisurely pace, and he has about two minutes of sprint in him before everything falls apart if pushed beyond that. That’s a major problem, and it’s costing him badly. In this fight, Blachowicz faces a strong wrestler without a ton of experience. If he can maintain a good pace, Blachowicz has the advantages necessary to pull out the victory.
Otherwise, he’s banking on an early stoppage that likely won’t come.
Key Wins: Jake Collier (UFC on FOX 24), Josh Stansbury (TUF 24 Finale)
Key Losses: Alex Nicholson (UFC Fight Night 91)
Keys to Victory: Clark is still something of a newcomer to the sport. He’s in just his fourth year as a professional fighter, but the junior college wrestling champion was noticed by Dana White during his “Looking for a Fight” television show. It seemed a bit too soon at first, but he has since proven his worth.
This is a great match up for Clark. Despite his loss streak, Blachowicz was ranked in the Top 15 not long ago. Plus, his struggles with conditioning and wrestling match up pretty poorly with Clark, who’s the superior wrestler and excels at wrangling foes to the mat.
Assuming that Blachowicz has not suddenly revolutionized his conditioning, Clark’s strategy should be to force him to use energy early. Blachowicz is dangerous in the first few minutes, so if he’s forced to spend that time defending a takedown — even if it never succeeds — that’s pretty ideal.
It’s certainly better than giving him a chance to punt Clark’s liver.
Bottom Line: It’s a veteran vs. prospect match up.
Blachowicz really needs to win this fight. He’s been scraping by without an impressive performance since the aforementioned knockout of Latifi … and that can’t last forever. Clark is tough, but he’s also a raw prospect, the type a gatekeeper like Blachowicz needs to be able to handle.
If Blachowicz gasses early and sloppily loses another decision, it’s probably the end of his UFC career. If not, Blachowicz has bought himself a good deal of time.
This is a big opportunity for Clark even though it’s not a huge step up in competition. Light Heavyweight is empty, so the opening for him to rise quickly is there. A victory over Blachowicz caps off a three-fight win streak, one that could potentially earn him a number next to his name. Worst-case scenario is that Clark comes up short, and he’ll probably have another chance to burst into those ranks in two more fights.
At UFC Fight Night 118, Jan Blachowicz and Devin Clark will square off. Which fighter will have his hand raised?