Originally published at UFC Fight Night: Aleksandar Rakic injures knee in loss to Jan Błachowicz
UFC Fight Night Report: Aleksandar Rakic injures knee in loss to Jan Błachowicz
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night, the UFC held a Fight Night event at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was headlined by a fight in the light heavyweight division, as former champion Jan Błachowicz returned to face the third-ranked Aleksandar Rakic. Błachowicz and Rakic were originally scheduled to headline a Fight Night event in March, but an injury to Błachowicz forced the bout to be delayed, and it was ultimately rescheduled as the main event for this card. Rakic has had an impressive UFC run thus far, with an overall record of 6-1 in the promotion, and he cemented himself as a contender in the division following wins over the likes of Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. A win over Jan Błachowicz would surely guarantee Rakic a title shot in his next bout, but for Błachowicz, this marked an opportunity for him to rebound strongly after losing his title to Glover Teixeira last October and re-establish himself as the top contender at 205lbs. The co-main event featured another bout in the light heavyweight division, as Ion Cutelaba faced Ryan Spann.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping, and Dominick Cruz. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Ryan Spann and Manuel Torres. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas.
*Andre Petroski def. Nick Maximov by anaconda choke at 1:16 of Round 1
*Tatsuro Taira def. Carlos Candelario by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
*Virna Jandiroba def. Angela Hill by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Michael Johnson def. Alan Patrick by KO at 3:22 of Round 2
*Viviane Araujo def. Andrea Lee by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
*Allan Nascimento def. Jake Hadley by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Manuel Torres def. Frank Camacho by TKO at 3:27 of Round 1
*Katlyn Chookagian def. Amanda Ribas by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Davey Grant def. Louis Smolka by KO at 0:49 of Round 3
*Ryan Spann def. Ion Cutelaba by guillotine choke at 2:22 of Round 1
*Jan Błachowicz def. Aleksandar Rakic by TKO at 1:11 of Round 3
NICK MAXIMOV (8-0, 184.5) VS ANDRE PETROSKI (7-1, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Petroski defended a number of early takedown attempts from Maximov, and he quickly locked in an anaconda choke. Maximov was unable to escape the hold and was ultimately choked unconscious.
WINNER: Andre Petroski by anaconda choke at 1:16 of Round 1
Petroski was the biggest underdog on this card but was able to finish Maximov quickly here, showcasing some great takedown defense before securing the submission victory. Following this win, Petroski is now 3-0 in the UFC, and this marked his fourth professional win by way of submission. In his post-fight interview, Petroski called out Gerald Meerschaert, specifically mentioning June 11th as his desired date for that bout.
TATSURO TAIRA (10-0, 125) VS CARLOS CANDELARIO (8-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Candelario partially landed a head kick to begin the fight, as well as a quick straight left hand. Taira changed levels and attempted to take Candelario down with a single leg, but Candelario defended the attempt before shooting for a takedown of his own that was also stopped. Taira cracked Candelario with a right hand, before shooting for another unsuccessful takedown. Late in the round, Candelario succeeded in bringing Taira down to the ground, and he ended the round in top position. Close round. 10-9 Taira.
Taira connected with a right hand that dropped Candelario early in the second round. Taira followed him to the ground and quickly took his back as he looked to end the fight with a rear-naked choke. Candelario looked as though he was on the verge of tapping out, but escaped the submission. Taira abandoned the choke and began to batter Candelario with ground and pound instead. Candelario survived the attack but clearly lost this round despite sweeping his way to top position before time expired. 20-18 Taira.
Candelario was caught low by a kick from Taira just seconds into the final round and was given time to recover. When the fight resumed, Candelario chased after a single leg, before attempting a guillotine choke. The submission appeared to be tight, but Taira was able to roll out of danger, and worked his way into top position, where he began to work from half guard. At one point, Taira attempted a triangle choke, however, Candelario was able to escape the submission. Taira landed a great deal of damaging ground and pound shots before the horn sounded, and I scored the bout 30-27 in favor of Tatsuro Taira.
WINNER: Tatsuro Taira by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Despite this being Taira’s UFC debut, he was a sizeable favorite going into this bout, and it soon became apparent why. His grappling throughout the fight was very impressive, and while the majority of the fight was spent on the ground, Taira’s striking looked solid as well, even dropping Candelario in the second round. This was a very strong UFC debut for Taira, and he improved to 11-0 professional with this win.
VIRNA JANDIROBA (17-3, 115) VS ANGELA HILL (13-11, 115.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Jandiroba attempted a takedown early and quickly rolled for a leg after Hill defended the initial attempt. Hill was clearly in pain from Jandiroba’s kneebar attempt, but Hill was able to escape and returned to the feet with just over two minutes remaining in the round. Jandiroba landed some good knees to the body in the clinch, before Hill connected with a left hand, her best strike of the round. Hill took Jandiroba down right before time expired. 10-9 Jandiroba.
They traded knees to the body and heavy right hands throughout the opening minute of round two, but as the round progressed, Hill began to piece together some solid combinations. Jandiroba took Hill down with half the round remaining, where she began to work from half guard. Jandiroba started hunting for an armbar, but Hill rolled on top and prevented Jandiroba from fully extending her arm. Jandiroba remained committed to the armbar, so the round ultimately ended in this position. 20-18 Jandiroba.
Hill started the third round aggressively on the feet but was quickly taken back to the ground. Jandiroba was able to control Hill from top position for the near entirety of the round, but she was not terribly active in this third round. Still, Hill was unable to escape from under Jandiroba until the final seconds of the round, and in all likelihood, this was another round for Jandiroba. 30-27 Jandiroba.
WINNER: Virna Jandiroba by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Hill had her moments throughout the bout, but by and large, this was a dominant performance from Jandiroba. Hill’s grappling has improved dramatically over the years, and she showcased that improvement here, defending herself from Jandiroba’s submission attempts, while generally doing a good job of keeping Jandiroba from advancing her position. Still, Jandiroba comfortably controlled the action on the ground, and she held her own on the feet as well. Jandiroba improved to 4-3 in the UFC with this win.
MICHAEL JOHNSON (19-17, 155) VS ALAN PATRICK (15-3, 1 NC, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Johnson defended Patrick’s early attempts at bringing the fight to the ground, and cracked him with a number of hard shots on the feet. Patrick landed a hook of his own that wobbled Johnson, and while he was unable to capitalize on the moment, this was a big moment for Patrick after being caught repeatedly earlier in the round. Johnson recovered and tagged Patrick with a left hand down the middle, before Patrick connected with a spinning attack, which resulted in the fighters going to the ground, where Johnson began to work from the guard of Patrick. Johnson landed some decent elbows from this position, and I thought he did enough damage here to steal back the round. 10-9 Johnson.
Patrick was fighting somewhat wildly in the second round; however, Johnson was able to calm him down by circling away from danger and resetting. Johnson was landing the better shots on the feet, and he continued to defend Patrick’s attempts at bringing the fight to the ground. Ultimately, a left hand dropped Patrick hard, and Johnson proceeded to knock him unconscious with a brutal hammerfist.
WINNER: Michael Johnson by KO at 3:22 of Round 2
This was a fairly brutal knockout from Johnson, a man with a number of vicious finishes on his resume. The last few years have been rough for Johnson, but he looked pretty sharp against Patrick here, and this actually marked his first victory since 2018, ending a four-fight streak of losses. After the result was announced, Johnson attempted to leave the cage immediately, but Michael Bisping wouldn’t let him go without an interview, and Johnson stated that he would like to return to action around international fight week.
VIVIANE ARAUJO (10-3, 125) VS ANDREA LEE (13-5, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Lee rocked Araujo badly in the opening minute of the fight with a left hook, and Lee nearly knocked her unconscious with a head kick as Araujo attempted to pick herself up. Lee followed her to the ground as she attempted to finish the fight, but Araujo showcased an insane level of recovery, and she was able to return to her feet, pick Lee up, and slam her down to the ground hard. The fight eventually returned to the feet, and the fighters traded some very heavy shots before Araujo started to hunt for a takedown against the cage. Araujo was successful, and she controlled Lee from top position for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Lee.
The fighters continued to exchange wild shots in the second round, but it was Araujo who appeared to be landing with more power, and Lee dived for a single leg as a result. Araujo easily avoided the takedown and proceeded to take top position herself, where she began to work for an arm triangle. Lee escaped the submission attempt but gave up her back in the process. Araujo landed a number of left hands from the back of Lee, before returning to top position and attempting the arm triangle again. The submission didn’t come, but this was a one-sided round in favor of Araujo. 19-18 Araujo.
According to Michael Bisping, Lee told her corner between rounds that she felt as though she was on the verge of passing out, which was not a good sign going into this final round. Araujo immediately took Lee back down as round three began, and she was able to maintain top position for nearly half the round. Lee eventually escaped to her feet but was quickly taken back down. Lee landed some strong strikes on the ground right before time expired, but it was too little, too late, and I thought this was another round for Araujo. 29-27 Araujo.
WINNER: Viviane Araujo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
The first round of this fight was wild. Araujo looked as though she was knocked unconscious by that head kick from Lee, but she showcased tremendous resiliency, and comfortably won the remainder of this fight. I thought Araujo did enough to earn a 10-8 in the second round, as she controlled the near entirety of the bout on the ground while threatening submissions and doing significant damage, which seemed to leave Lee drained by the start of the final round. Araujo is now 5-2 in the UFC following this win.
JAKE HADLEY (8-0, 125.5) VS ALLAN NASCIMENTO (18-6, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Nascimento caught a kick from Hadley and tripped him to the ground, just about thirty seconds into the fight. Nascimento went after a heel hook, before switching to a straight ankle lock. The position left him in danger, as Hadley was able to attack him with ground and pound shots, and Nascimento quickly abandoned it, sweeping his way back on top. Nascimento remained in top position until time expired. 10-9 Nacimiento.
Nascimento quickly brought the fight back to the ground in round two. Nascimento postured up from half guard, where he landed some strong ground and pound strikes, but Hadley was constantly attempting to escape, so Nascimento smothered him against the canvas for the majority of the round. Hadley returned to his feet in the final seconds of the round, but there was not enough time remaining for him to mount a round-stealing comeback. 20-18 Nascimento.
In the third round, it was Hadley who secured the early takedown, and he began to work from top position with well over four minutes remaining in the bout. Nascimento was able to threaten a D’Arce choke, which allowed him to regain top position with roughly half the round to go. The fight returned to the feet with less than ninety seconds remaining, but Nascimento shot for another takedown and was taken down himself in the process. Still, he managed to sweep his way on top, and ended the round in this position. Close round, but 30-27 Nascimento.
WINNER: Allan Nascimento by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Nascimento was able to take Hadley down early in both of the first two rounds and was clearly ahead on the scorecards going into round three. I thought Hadley did his best work in the third round, but he was in need of a finish, and that desperation resulted in Hadley taking risks on the ground that Nascimento was able to capitalize on, ultimately taking the final round on the scorecards as well. This marked Nascimento’s first win in the UFC, and he is now 1-1 in the promotion.
FRANK CAMACHO (22-9, 155) VS MANUEL TORRES (12-2, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Torres immediately pressured forward, landing a series of heavy hooks. Camacho began to fire back, and this was quickly becoming a brawl. Torres defended a number of takedown attempts from Camacho and he continued to pressure forward with combinations, as Camacho tried to wrap him up against the cage. Camacho was clearly hurt by one of Torres’s wild shots, and eventually, a big right hand from Torres dropped Camacho hard, which prompted referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
WINNER: Manuel Torres by TKO at 3:27 of Round 1
This fight was a brawl from the very start, but Torres was just a bit quicker, a bit sharper, and seemed to hit a bit harder, which was more than enough to give him a significant edge in this type of fight. Some may argue that the stoppage was slightly early here, but Camacho had taken significant damage prior to the knockout, so I can’t say I had any issues with the stoppage. This marked the UFC debut of Manuel Torres, who also stopped his contender series opponent in the first round last year.
KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN (17-4, 125.5) VS AMANDA RIBAS (11-2, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Ribas took Chookagian down with a head and arm throw early, and she began to work from side control. Chookagian did a good job of stopping Ribas from advancing, forcing her back into half guard, before ultimately escaping to her feet with two minutes remaining in the round. Chookagian landed the better shots on the feet throughout the remainder of this round, which I actually thought was enough to steal her back the round, but this was a close one. 10-9 Chookagian.
The fight continued to play out on the feet in the second round, with Chookagian seemingly getting the better of their exchanges. Chookagian attacked the body as well, which was opening up opportunities to attack the head as Ribas lowered her guard. Once again, Ribas was able to take Chookagian down with a head and arm throw, and she began to work from the guard of Chookagian. Chookagian made it back to her feet with a minute remaining in the round and landed a strong right hand before time expired. 20-18 Chookagian.
Ribas began the third round with a spinning kick to the body. Brendan Fitzgerald brought up the fact that control time is not weighed heavily under the judging criteria, which greatly offended Dominick Cruz. Chookagian continued to pull ahead of Ribas on the feet until a late takedown from Ribas. Chookagian immediately made it back to her feet but ate a big right hand from Ribas in the process. Ribas came alive in the final seconds of the fight, marching forward while landing some big shots, which resulted in a very close round. 29-28 Chookagian.
WINNER: Katlyn Chookagian by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
I was not surprised to see this one result in a split decision, as it was a very close fight. Ribas had a great deal of control time but was unable to do much with it, and thus I gave both of the first two rounds to Chookagian, who was clearly landing the more damaging shots. Brendan Fitzgerald attempted to explain the scoring criteria to Dominick Cruz on commentary, but Cruz was having none of it, arguing that Ribas was clearly ahead based on control time alone. Obviously, if you’ve read the actual criteria, that’s not how it works at all, but this has been a constant debate between the various members of the UFC’s commentary team. After the bout, Chookagian called out Valentina Shevchenko, Miesha Tate, and Manon Fiorot.
DAVEY GRANT (13-6, 135.5) VS LOUIS SMOLKA (17-8, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Brendan Fitzgerald began the fight by stating that this will not be a “yawn-a-thon”. Grant attacked the body early, and was landing beautiful counter shots whenever Smolka pressed forward. Grant connected with a heavy left hook that Smolka just ate, but he was stunned by a right hand from Grant moments later. Grant was cracking Smolka with huge shots, but his chin held up, and he began to fire back, catching Grant with a huge knee up the middle. Grant continued to attack the body in combination, before dropping Smolka with a heavy jab to end the round.
Smolka was landing significantly more shots in round two, seemingly hurting Grant on the feet early. Smolka seemed to be the fresher fighter and was consistently landing heavy elbows after closing the distance. Grant was still throwing with a ton of power, but he had certainly slowed down in this second round and was bleeding from the forehead following a sharp shot from Smolka. Grant attempted a spinning head kick in the final minute of the round, but Smolka ducked under it and took him down. Smolka attempted an armbar, but Grant was able to escape, and he made it out of the round.
Grant landed a heavy calf kick in the opening minute of the third round, and Smolka could no longer walk on that leg. Smolka went to the ground, and Grant followed him down, where he proceeded to land a series of ground and pound shots that knocked Smolka unconscious.
WINNER: Davey Grant by KO at 0:49 of Round 3
Going into this card, I would say that this was the bout I was looking forward to the most, and it delivered as expected. Grant has earned a bonus in each of his last four bouts, and I daresay this was another fight worthy of “Fight of the Night” honors. Grant was really putting a beating on Smolka in the first round, but Smolka came back to win the second round, and it felt as though the momentum had swung going into the third. There was so much going on in this fight, that I hadn’t even registered the amount of damage that had accumulated from Grant’s leg kicks until Smolka could barely stand on it in the third. The finishing sequence was brutal, as eventually, Smolka could no longer put weight on the leg, and shot for a desperation takedown that ultimately resulted in him being knocked unconscious, but brutality has been a theme throughout Davey Grant’s recent fights, win or lose. Grant is now 5-5 in the UFC following this win.
RYAN SPANN (19-7, 206) VS ION CUTELABA (16-6-1, 1 NC, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Spann pressured forward after stunning Cutelaba with a jab but was taken down in the process, and Cutelaba began to work from the guard of Spann. Spann was able to scramble to his feet, and locked in a front choke as Cutelaba attempted to pick himself up. The choke was locked in tight, and Cutelaba was forced to tap out.
WINNER: Ryan Spann by guillotine choke at 2:22 of Round 1
Cutelaba was taking Spann down at will, however, Spann was consistently able to escape as well, and eventually, Cutelaba was just a bit careless as he attempted to return to his feet following a Spann scramble, and Spann immediately capitalized on the moment, catching Cutelaba with the fight-ending front choke. Spann has largely been an exciting fighter in the UFC, and this was yet another quick finish, making this the fifth of his eight total UFC fights to end in the opening round. Spann’s UFC record now stands at 6-2.
JAN BLACHOWICZ (28-9, 205.5) VS ALEKSANDAR RAKIC (14-2, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Błachowicz attacked the body of Rakic, as Rakic beat up his lead leg. A right hand from Rakic cut Błachowicz open near his left eye, and it seemed to be impairing his vision. Błachowicz was throwing shots with a lot of power, but the jab of Rakic appeared to be the most impactful weapon early in this bout. Błachowicz pressed forward and tagged Rakic with a left hand that seemed to stun him, but if he was hurt, Rakic recovered quickly. Both men were damaged from the leg kicks, and a left hook from Błachowicz wobbled Rakic slightly after defending a takedown attempt. Close round.
The doctor was brought in between rounds to check on the eye of Błachowicz, but it was determined that he could continue. Rakic took Błachowicz down as Błachowicz attempted to blitz him, and avoided a triangle choke attempt from Błachowicz on the ground. Rakic racked up a solid amount of control time from top position, peppering Błachowicz with short ground and pound shots. Błachowicz could not make it back to his feet, and this was a clear round for Rakic.
Just outside of the opening minute of round three, Rakic took a step backward as Błachowicz pressured forward, and just collapsed, holding the back of his right knee. Rakic was unable to continue fighting, and the bout was stopped.
WINNER: Jan Błachowicz by TKO at 1:11 of Round 3
I thought this was an entertaining fight while it lasted, but obviously, Rakic’s injury will be the story coming out of it. Thankfully, he seemed to be able to walk on it again by the time the result was being announced, but it’s always concerning to see someone go down holding their knee as Rakic did here. Rakic was looking very good prior to the injury, but he had taken a considerable amount of damage to his left leg, and it is very possible that’s what ultimately led to the injury after he was forced to put so much of his weight onto his right leg. I briefly praised Rakic’s performance throughout the fight, but Jan Błachowicz fought a very good fight as well, and I thought he was doing a considerable amount of damage with every shot he landed, despite the fact that he was practically fighting with one eye following the cut in the opening minute. In all likelihood, Błachowicz will fight the winner of the upcoming UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Procházka that’s set to take place in June, but I don’t think a fight against the winner of Magomed Ankalaev versus Anthony Smith is out of the question either.