Jan Blachowicz may have found his way back to the UFC light heavyweight title by unexpected means. Blachowicz defeated Aleksandar Rakic in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas after Rakic’s knee buckled and he was unable to continue.
Blachowicz and Rakic both committed to low leg kicks, primarily targeting the lead calf. The light heavyweights each found success with their strikes earlier, but it was Blachowicz that started to land the better boxing combinations. A solid three-two landed for Blachowicz early and the jab-straight was a reliable tool for the former champion.
Rakic leaned into his wrestling in the second stanza, something he failed to implement in the opening round. Rakic snagged Blachowicz’s leg and ratcheted it high, forcing Blachowicz to fall to his back. Rakic found success with short punches and an elbow from inside the guard while managing to deny a triangle choke attempt by Blachowicz.
Blachowicz returned to the lead leg kick early in Round 3, setting the tone for an unexpected and unfortunate finish. Rakic bounced on his back foot and almost immediately crumpled to the ground. The referee immediately waved off the fight and awarded Blachowicz the TKO victory. A replay showed something pop out from under Rakic’s knee as he took the back step.
Despite having a severely compromised leg, Rakic still hobbled across the Octagon for the official ruling and to exchange friendly words with his opponent. Blachowicz and Rakic showed tremendous respect post-fight, congratulating one another and expressing their gratitude for the competition.
“I couldn’t see anything out of my eye,” Blachowicz told Michael Bisping during the post-fight interview about a punch Rakic landed. “I hope the UFC gives me the next title shot… Glover [Teixeira], I keep my fingers [crossed] for you and I hope we can fight again. Thank you.
“This is our secret weapon. We practice [leg kicks] all the time in the gym. Rakic has long legs… I knew that he would take them and slow down.”
Blachowicz improved to 29-9 professionally, bouncing back from his second-round submission loss to Teixeira in October. Blachowicz lost his UFC light heavyweight title to Teixeira as well as a five-fight winning steak over Israel Adesanya, Dominick Reyes, Corey Anderson, Jacare Souza and Luke Rockhold. Rakic (14-3) was coming off unspectacular wins over Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith.
Let’s take a look at what else happened at UFC Fight Night where fans were treated to a bevy of finishes.
Ryan Spann snags submission on Ion Cutelaba
Fans expected Spann and Cutelaba to throw down, but it was Spann’s submission skills that closed out the show. Cutelaba hurled Spann to the ground early in the fight. Spann eventually found separation, got to his feet and slapped on a sneaky palm-to-palm guillotine choke. Spann applied immense pressure as Cutelaba frantically tapped out. Spann def. Cutelaba via first-round submission (guillotine choke)
Davey Grant stops Louis Smolka in wild brawl
Grant and Smolka delivered one heck of a show. Grant dropped Smolka in Round 1 with a jab and it appeared that he would maintain the striking edge for the rest of the fight. Smolka absorbed big blows in Round 2 and took over as Grant started to fatigue. Smolka found a home for brutal elbows and managed to threaten submissions after settling in top control. Grant persevered and found his second wind in Round 3. A low leg kick, something Grant had been utilizing all fight, noticeably damaged Smolka and the latter immediately shot for a takedown. Grant made Smolka pay with nasty ground-and-pound that shut Smolka off. Grant def. Smolka via third-round KO (punch)
Manuel Torres outguns Frank Camacho in firefight
Torres and Camacho had no desire to take things slow. Both fighters immediately pieced each other up with power punches and combinations. It was Torres who landed more frequently on Camacho’s already weathered chin. More than half of Camacho’s losses are by KO including three of his last four. Torres pieced up Camacho with a combination of punches that floored the veteran and stopped himself from following up with ground-and-pound as referee Herb Dean mercifully waved off the fight. Torres def. Camacho via first-round TKO (punches)
Michael Johnson shuts off Alan Patrick, ends losing streak
Johnson and Patrick were desperate to change their fortunes at UFC Vegas 54. They entered Saturday’s event with a combined eight losses stretching back to 2018. Johnson has always had wicked hand speed and boxing power — defeating the likes of Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza — despite a near 50-50 pro record. Johnson rattled off a lightning-quick flurry of punches. A left hand seated Patrick and two followed-up punches separated him from consciousness. Johnson def. Patrick via first-round KO (punches)