UFC Rio Rancho breakdown: Tracking the evolution of Corey Anderson, Jan Blachowicz

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN+ 25.

UFC on ESPN+ 25 takes place Saturday at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M. The event streams on ESPN+.

Corey Anderson (13-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Corey Anderson

Staple info:

Height: 6’3″ Age: 30 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 79″ Last fight: TKO win over Johnny Walker (Nov. 2, 2019) Camp: Nick Catone MMA (New Jersey) Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ “The Ultimate Fighter” season 19 winner
+ Regional MMA title
+ 2x All-American wrestler
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt
+ 5 KO victories
+ 4 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
^ High-volume approach
+ Improved boxing ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Strong inside the clinch
+ Solid strike-to-takedown transitions
^ Favors level-changing doubles
+ Excellent top game
^ Improved pressure and controls
+ Active ground striker

Jan Blachowicz (25-8 MMA, 8-5 UFC)

Staple info:

Height: 6’2″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 78″ Last fight: Decision win over Ronaldo Souza (Nov. 16, 2019) Camp: WCA Fight Team (Poland) Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ KSW light heavyweight title
+ Muay Thai accolades
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 6 knockout victories
+ 9 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Excellent jab
+ Dangerous uppercuts and hooks
+ Will switch stances
^ Favors liver kicks from southpaw
+ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Solid transitional grappler
^ Submission savvy from top or bottom
+ 2-0 in rematches

Point of interest: Striking the second time around

The main event in New Mexico features a light heavyweight rematch with quiet stakes attached.

In the first meeting between Corey Anderson and Jan Blachowicz, we were privy to some brief but spirited striking exchanges before grappling and endurance became the theme of the fight.

Since then, both men have grown as strikers by sharpening similar tools; that said, they play off of the theme of pressure in different ways.

Stepping onto the UFC scene as a persistent, pressuring stalker who can come forward in combination from either stance, Blachowicz has steadily developed into a deceptively effective counter striker who shows that he doesn’t mind sitting back and being patient when posed with a come-forward threat.

In the heat of combat, the Pole packs a mean uppercut-hook return that he keeps on a hair-trigger, something he was able to show against both Jared Cannonier and Jimi Manuwa. Blachowicz also employs a stiff and serviceable jab that he quietly uses to string together his offense, as well as help support his defense.

As far as kicking goes, Blachowicz loves to sprinkle in crushing liver kicks off of shifts to the southpaw stance and doesn’t have any problems letting head kicks fly off the break. Still, I suspect that the 36-year-old fighter may shelf a large part of his patented body or leg kicks if he means to stay upright against Anderson.

A fighter who is steadily figuring out how to stoke his own fire, Anderson brings a suffocating pressure that is palpable through many facets of his game.

Finding a balance between sticking and moving, Anderson achieves his desired cooking temperatures through a high-output approach of striking volume and transitional takedown threats. Using this rinse-wash-and-repeat method, Anderson will steadily tenderize his opposition without letting off the gas.

Even though Anderson’s striking volume has won him many rounds in the octagon, his transition game is what ultimately glues everything together. Similarly to his stablemate, Frankie Edgar, Anderson mixes in volume and variety to keep his opposition behind the 8-ball.

However, despite Anderson displaying much meaner offensive wherewithal to go along with better head movement and overall boxing technique, he still opens himself up to undesirable traffic due to the nature of the numbers he puts up. For this reason, striking stanzas between the two should stay potent for as long as they last.

Next point of interest: Return to the mat?

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