Prominent MMA reporter Brett Okamoto expects UFC light heavyweight contender Magomed Ankalaev’s next fight to be for the title.
Ankalaev had hoped to enter the new year with the 205-pound gold in his possession. Instead, it will remain vacant until former champion Glover Teixeira and fresh challenger Jamahal Hill fight for the throne later this month at UFC 283 in Brazil.
The latest championship scenario came about when the Dagestani met Jan Błachowicz at UFC 282 in December. While the pair were set to fight for the right to face the champion in the future, they ended up colliding with the strap on the line following an injury to Jiří Procházka.
But across five rounds in the December 10 headliner, the pair couldn’t be separated, with the judges’ scorecards leading to a split draw. The result quickly caused widespread debate, with some branding Ankalaev’s post-fight fury as justified.
In the aftermath, Dana White‘s thoughts on the pay-per-view main event were clear. As well as branding the fight itself “terrible,” the UFC president dismissed Ankalaev’s post-fight anger at the judges’ verdict.
“I heard Ankalaev is upset or whatever,” White said during the post-fight press conference. “What do you want me to do? You got beat up the first two rounds. You took him to the ground. What are you going to do?”
But despite those remarks and the decision to pit two new challengers against each other for the belt this month, one journalist is of the view that Ankalaev will still be granted another opportunity this year.
Okamoto Doesn’t Think Magomed Ankalaev Will Need To Re-Earn Title Shot
During a recent appearance on The Patrick McCorry Sports Show, ESPN MMA reporter Brett Okamoto assessed the light heavyweight title picture entering the new year, as well as the fallout from the failed attempt to crown a new champion last month.
When asked whether it would make sense for Ankalaev and Błachowicz to run it back in order to determine the challenger for whoever exits the cage in Rio de Janeiro with the gold, Okamoto suggested that White and company are unlikely to book a rematch of a fight that left them highly unimpressed.
“I kind of doubt (that the UFC would book Ankalaev vs. Błachowicz 2). I kind of doubt that they’ll do that fight again,” Okamoto said. “For Dana White to go into the press conference and immediately put down another fight, he wasn’t real happy with the way that fight looked. I don’t think there’s gonna be an appetite that Dana’s gonna want to sign up for another five rounds of that fight after he didn’t like it.”
With that, the prominent journalist expects the former champ and the rising Dagestani to face new foes in 2023, with one boasting significantly higher stakes.
“My guess is that those two will fight somebody else. And my guess is that Ankalaev’s next fight will be for the championship,” Okamoto predicted.
Ankalaev will certainly be hoping that Okamoto’s prediction comes to fruition. Late last year, the #3-ranked contender affirmed that he’ll have the gold wrapped around his waist in 2023. He also insisted that he’ll no longer leave results in the hands of the judges.
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