Last night (Sat., May 14, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 54. Exit a pay-per-view event, enter an unremarkable night inside the UFC Apex. Such is the post-COVID formula for UFC, and it’s a hard one to argue! Last night was yet another fun mix of action fighters and prospects, as well as a main event that carried true title implications.
Let’s take a look at the best performances and techniques:
An Unfortunate End
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic was shaping up to be a really fun fight. Both men were taking chances, and both men were finding success. They duo were ripping into each other’s calves with a vengeance, and the first two rounds were split on the strength of Blachowicz’s combinations and Rakic’s wrestling.
Unfortunately, the Austrian’s knee exploded at the start of the third. We cannot credit this knee injury to the low kicks either — it was his back leg! Sometimes, these things happen in MMA, and well, that’s all there is to it.
Superman Strangles The Hulk
Ryan Spann looked really damn good last night.
Ion Cutelaba came out aggressive, moving his head and working to close distance. Despite the increased focus on head movement, Spann was absolutely sniping him with straight shots, showing improved boxing to send jabs and crosses direct to the jawline. Those clean lands prompted some wrestling from Cutelaba, and to the Moldovan’s credit, he’s a difficult man to wrestle with in the first five minutes.
Spann did not panic, fortunately. He patiently worked his way back to guard then repeatedly kicked Cutelaba off him, demonstrating that the best escapes are often the simplest. Cutelaba jumped back into takedown attempts two or three times in a row, only for Spann to kick free each time.
Finally, Spann knew his opponent’s pattern, and he set a trap. As Cutelaba drove forward into a takedown attempt, Spann wrapped up an ultra deep guillotine, and no one amount of frantic “Hulk” movement could free the wrestler. It was slick, composed work — exactly what Spann needed to rebound from his loss to Anthony Smith.
Dangerous Davey Grant
I don’t know what changed for Davey Grant. For years, he was on the undercard, fighting every so often and chasing submission finishes. He wasn’t a boring or bad fighter, but Grant was fairly unremarkable.
All that’s changed in the last couple years. Grant returned hungry for the knockout, willing to fight often and swing big every time. He may not be winning at an elite level, but Grant has developed into a must-watch fighter. He’s now a main card mainstay, a fighter who guarantees a performance bonus in victory or defeat.
Last night’s brawl with Louis Smolka was awesome. Grant absolutely hammered his opponent for the entire first round, ripping calf kicks, slamming home heavy body shots, and dropping Smolka with a jab. The Hawaiian stormed back to land some good strikes of his own in the second, but Grant wasn’t about to let a comeback happen under his watch.
In a truly violent sequence, Grant destroyed his opponent’s lead leg with a series of kicks, then pounded him into unconsciousness when Smolka crumbled to the mat. Back in the win column, Grant may not be a title contender, but he’s carving out a nice niche for himself as a Bantamweight Joe Lauzon.
Michael Johnson Wins Big
Few fighters are more live-or-die by the sword than Michael Johnson.
He’s become famous for his ability to defeat or lose to just about anyone at 155 lbs. This is a man who has elite wins over Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier alongside a 2021 loss to Clay Guida. He entered this fight in dire need of a rebound win at 35 years of age.
Fortunately, Johnson performed well vs. Alan Patrick. He still got clipped at one point, but for a majority of the contest, “The Menace” was in control. He managed range well, looked extremely fast, and shut down all of his foe’s takedown attempts with relative ease. Even so, it was a bit nerve-wracking, as one can never be too confident in a Johnson fight.
This time, however, there would be no surprise. Johnson kept interrupting Patrick’s kicks and bursts, cutting off the Brazilian’s offense in punishing fashion. That’s how the end came about: a brilliant four-punch counter combo to the body and head that sent Patrick to sleep.
You just can’t miss a “Menace” fight, one way or another.
- Manuel Torres defeats Frank Camacho via first-round knockout: It took roughly four seconds for these two to start BANGING! Camacho kept his guard high and stuck some hard counters, but Torres really overwhelmed his opponent, firing punches in bunches to find holes in the guard. Camacho tried to get the wrestling going, but he couldn’t complete his shots, and that allowed Torres to fire freely. The end came when Torres slammed an uppercut between the gloves and wobbled Camacho. “The Crank” tried to fire back, walking into a pair of counter punches from the rangy debutant. Great win!
- Andre Petroski defeats Nick Maximov via first-round anaconda choke: This bout was advertised as a clash between wrestlers, but jiu-jitsu ended that contest before it really began! Petroski sprawled on an early Maximov shot and very patiently worked from the front head lock position, sinking one arm deep. Maximov was willing to work from that position too, as he’s comfortable wrestling from there, but that proved to be a mistake. Petroski locked his arms and fully committed to the anaconda choke, but Maximov to sleep quickly and handing the prospect his first career defeat.
For complete UFC Vegas 54: “Blachowicz vs. Rakic” results and play-by-play, click HERE!