UFC on ESPN 36: Blachowicz Wins Main Event After Rakic Suffers Knee Injury

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 14: (R-L) Jan Blachowicz of Poland battles Aleksandar Rakic of Austria in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Jan Blachowicz found himself back in the win column with a third-round TKO win over Aleksandar Rakic, who suffered an apparent knee injury that brought the fight to an unfortunate end.  

The former champion got off to a strong start in the first round. He established leg kicks that forced Rakic to switch stances and likely gave him the nod in a close first round that saw both athletes have their moments. 

At one point Blachowicz charged in and was caught by a Rakic right hand opening a cut that had to be examined between rounds. 

Kevin Iole @KevinI

FWIW, commission says cut in first round was caused by a punch

The second round saw Rakic go to his ground game with great success. He was able to take down Blachowicz and spent most of the round in top control. 

Unfortunately, the third round is where things went south for Rakic. While stepping back away from Blachowicz, he suffered an apparent knee injury that brought the fight to an unsatisfying conclusion. 

UFC @ufc

Before the stoppage, the fight was as close as it gets! ✍️#UFCVegas54 https://t.co/E6QLGi3RLN

The unfortunate ending gives Rakic his second career loss. The first was a controversial split decision, so the rising light heavyweight continues to have some bad luck working against him. 

As for Blachowicz, this could clear the way for another title shot for him down the line. He's still the top-ranked contender in the division. 

Main Card (ESPN 2, ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET)

  • Jan Blachowicz def. Aleksandar Rakic via TKO (injury) in Round 3
  • Ryan Spann def. Ion Cutelaba via submission (guillotine choke) at 2:22 of Round 1
  • Davey Grant def. Louis Smolka via knockout at 0:49 of Round 3
  • Katlyn Chookagian def. Amanda Ribas via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Manuel Torres def. Frank Camacho via TKO at 3:27 of Round 1
  • Allan Nascimento def. Jake Hadley via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Preliminary Card (ESPN, ESPN+ at 7:30 p.m. ET)

  • Viviane Araujo def. Andrea Lee via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
  • Michael Johnson def. Alan Patrick via knockout at 3:22 of Round 2
  • Virna Jandiroba def. Angela Hill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Tatsuro Taira def. Carlos Candelario via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Andre Petroski def. Nick Maximov via submission (anaconda choke) at 1:16 of Round 1

Ryan Spann def. Ion Cutelaba

Ion Cutelaba has a penchant for getting a little reckless, especially early in fights. Ryan Spann has an opportunistic submission game. 

Those two truths converged to create a first-round submission win for Spann in the night's co-main event. Cutelaba was a little too aggressive in going for the big opening round and opened the opportunity for Spann to latch on to a guillotine choke. 

The 30-year-old was sure to crank the hold until he drew the tap. 

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Superman defeats The Hulk 🦸‍♂️ #UFCVegas54 https://t.co/uwYhmTCa6n

The win has to be a big relief for Spann. He suffered a first-round loss of his own to Anthony Smith last time out. 

Getting past Cutelaba in the co-main gets Spann back on track to continue his ascent up the light heavyweight rankings. 

Davey Grant def. Louis Smolka

It was an up-and-down ride, but Davey Grant earned a third-round knockout victory over Louis Smolka in an excellent bantamweight fight. 

Grant appeared to be a lock to win the fight after the first round. Grant easily won the round and appeared to have Smolka on the ropes or at least on his way to cruising to an easy decision. 

Smolka didn't get the memo though and put forth a great effort to turn the fight back in his favor. He won the second round and had the fight even heading into a crucial third round. 

Grant didn't want to wait on the judges to pick a winner, though. His work with calf kicks paid off in a big way. He kicked out Smolka's leg from underneath him and began working on finishing the fight with ground strikes to secure the third-round victory. 

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Davey Grant woke up feeling DANGEROUS 💪 #UFCVegas54 https://t.co/ijNFyXRanr

The win is a big one for the 36-year-old. He snapped a two-fight skid. 

Katlyn Chookagian def. Amanda Ribas

Katlyn Chookagian receives her fair share of criticism for less-than-entertaining fights, but her three-round spat with Amanda Ribas was not one of them. 

Chookagian still won by decision, as she so often does, but this fight had a much different feel. Amanda Ribas was aggressive in taking the fight to Blond Fighter. She was able to secure and early takedown and forced Chookagian out of her comfort zone. 

The winner proved she is more than just someone who can fight at distance, though. She engaged with Ribas in more than one exciting exchange and landed her share of power punches. 

ESPN MMA @espnmma

WHAT A FIGHT 👏 #UFCVegas54 https://t.co/OpbAMMf3IG

The final moments of the fight were among the most exciting in the 33-year-old's career. She's going to need to generate more of those if she wants bigger profile fights. Chookagian has had no problems in earning the No. 1 rankings, but UFC brass is going to want to see more excitement before she gets a high-profile fight again. 

Manuel Torres def. Frank Camacho

Frank Camacho has always loved to brawl. Unfortunately for him, Manuel Torres isn't the kind of guy that you want to brawl. 

Camacho came into his bout with Torres on a two-fight losing streak but certainly didn't fight safely against Torres. He unleashed some serious punches that found homes, but Manuel Torres was more than happy to return fire. 

The 32-year-old found out the hard way that Torres has generated some buzz for himself with his power. He notched his fourth-consecutive first-round victory with a vicious knockdown that may have been called a little early but was in the best interest of the veteran. 

UFC Europe @UFCEurope

🇲🇽 Manuel Torres with the BIG impression in his Octagon debut! El Loco adds his name as a prospect to watch! ✅ #UFCVegas54 https://t.co/9LMZgMSMsV

Torres showed his knack for finishing fights early can translate to at least the lower levels of UFC competition. He has two finishes by submission and two by TKO in his last four fights. 

That's a good way to get fast-tracked in your promotion in the UFC.  

Allan Nascimento def. Jake Hadley

If Charles Oliveira's recent run has taught us anything, it's not to underestimate the bleach-blond Brazilian with a slick grappling game. With Do Bronx in his corner as a coach, Allan Nascimento doubled down on that maxim in a unanimous decision win over Jake Hadley. 

Nascimento was a considerable underdog against the previously unbeaten British prospect in Hadley. 

He quickly showed that didn't matter to him in the first round. He scored an early takedown and established his ability to control the fight early. In the second round, he nearly finished the fight with a submission but Hadley was able to survive. 

Hadley came into the bout looking to make a statement in his UFC debut. He had an 8-0 record and was coming off a submission win in Dana White's Contender Series. 

Instead, he was on the bad end of way too many grappling exchanges to get the nod from the judges and never really threatened to get the finish.