Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight talents Aleksandar Rakic and Jan Blachowicz will clash TONIGHT (Sat., May 14, 2022) at UFC Vegas 54 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Were it not for the judges going against him in a 2019 split-decision loss, Rakic could easily be riding a seven-fight win streak and undefeated in the Octagon overall. As it stands, the 30-year-old contender is one of the division’s best long term prospects, a recent addition to the ranks of the elite who looks primed to be a problem for the established guard. Blachowicz’s title loss wasn’t quite as shocking as his title run, but the former champion’s upset loss to Glover Teixeira shook up the division quite a bit. With his 40s fast approaching, Blachowicz has to prove tonight that “Polish Power” remains a threat at Light Heavyweight.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Thiago Santos (UFC 259), Anthony Smith (UFC Vegas 8), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 153), Devin Clark (UFC 231)
Key Losses: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 165)
Keys to Victory: Rakic is one of the most physically gifted fighters at 205-pounds. Tall, strong, and well-conditioned, Rakic is a difficult man to deal with at Light Heavyweight, and his attributes are matched by solid Muay Thai and top control skills.
This is a really interesting fight, because on paper, Rakic doesn’t have any real technical advantage over Blachowicz. If he tries to play it like a point sparring match — like in the Santos victory — Rakic will probably get touched up, and I don’t know that Rakic has the wrestling to easily drag Blachowicz down along the fence.
Rakic’s advantages are in his youth and conditioning. Blachowicz has been outhustled in the past, and he’s nearly a decade older. Rakic will have to forego his recent risk averse strategy, but pursuing a war of attrition will likely benefit him in the long run. Force Blachowicz to defend hard kicks, takedown attempts, and clinch elbows constantly, and Rakic may start to take over in the latter half of the fight.
In other words, make it ugly!
Generally, Rakic will want this fight to mostly take place outside the pocket, meaning at kicking range or in the clinch. We’ll talk about that from Jan’s perspective in just a second ...
Key Wins: Israel Adesanya (UFC 259), Dominick Reyes (UFC 253), Corey Anderson (UFC Fight Night 167), Luke Rockhold (UFC 239), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 127), Nikita Krylov (UFC Fight Night 136), Jared Cannonier (UFC on FOX 26), Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 164)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 267), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 145), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 93), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: Blachowicz is a fighter who gained tons of experience and skill throughout a long career vs. tough opponents, then he suddenly found his knockout power and a subsequent burst of confidence. A tricky veteran who hasn’t yet fallen off physically, Blachowicz has built up one hell of a resume.
This is really a battle of European Muay Thai guys. Both Blachowicz and Rakic use many of the same tactics, the same setups for kicks and counters. There is, however, one key difference between the two that could absolutely dictate every exchange: the jab.
Blachowicz jabs, and he jabs well, building his kickboxing attack off that weapon. Rakic, on the flip side, uses his jab like any other punch. It’s a weapon that can do damage, but Rakic relies on his kicks to find range and setup the rest of his striking arsenal.
Rakic’s relative lack of jab does not mean Blachowicz can just throw jabs and win easily. No, he has to be extraordinarily wary of Rakic’s calf kick counters, which immediately destroyed Smith and Justin Ledet’s attempts to establish the lead hand. For Blachowicz, the key will be establishing the jab without getting his leg destroyed, and the path to doing that involves feinting and punishing low kick attempts.
If Blachowicz can establish the pace and rhythm of this fight with the jab, he’s likely to win clearly.
One man leaves tonight’s main event as a title contender.
Depending on how the division shakes out, Rakic might just earn a title shot with a win. He’s already in the Top Five, so defeating a recent champion to cap off a three-fight win streak would be hard to ignore ... if it’s a good fight. Worst case, Rakic could find himself in a title eliminator vs. Magomed Ankalaev next.
The stakes are real high here for Blachowicz, who cannot afford a second consecutive defeat. Victory also likely puts him across from Ankalaev, meaning he’s two wins away from a shot at regaining the belt. If he loses before then, the odds of Blachowicz getting a second chance at gold really drop off.
That’s the reality of being the older contender.
At UFC Vegas 54, Aleksandar Rakic and Jan Blachowicz will go to war in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 54 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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