UFC 253: Jan Błachowicz knocks out Dominick Reyes to win vacant light heavyweight title
Poland’s Jan Błachowicz stopped Dominick Reyes late in the second round at UFC 253 on Sunday to claim the light heavyweight title vacated by Jon Jones.
The 37-year-old Błachowicz (27-8) capped his late-career surge by winning his first UFC title on Fight Island, the mixed martial arts promotion’s bubble performance venue in the Middle East.
After controlling most of the action in a slow first round, Błachowicz abruptly ended it when he landed a high left hook to the side of Reyes’ head. Reyes wobbled, stumbled and fell, and Błachowicz promptly finished him on the ground with 24 seconds left in the round.
Błachowicz is the first fighter other than Jones or Daniel Cormier to hold the UFC light heavyweight title since 2011, when Jones began his rocky reign.
Jones vacated his belt three times during the ensuing nine years for doping offenses and criminal misbehaviors, but always reclaimed it. But he voluntarily relinquished the title earlier this year after lengthy negotiations over the future of his career with the UFC, apparently receiving the financial incentive to move to heavyweight.
But Jones doesn’t have a fight booked at heavyweight, and Błachowicz isn’t buying the move.
“Only one man is in my mind,” Błachowicz said. “Jon Jones, where are you? Don’t be a quitter. This is how we do it in Poland. I’m waiting for you.”
Błachowicz is a six-year UFC veteran from Poland who earned this title shot with three straight wins, including stoppages of former champion Luke Rockhold and Corey Anderson.
Reyes is a former college football player from Southern California who worked in construction and in computer tech support at a high school before picking up MMA. He only recently devoted himself to the sport full-time, but his 12-0 start to his career landed him a title shot at Jones in February.
Jones won their matchup by decision, but most observers thought Reyes had nearly pulled off the monumental upset.