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Monday Morning Hangover: Can Aleksandar Rakic return to the top following devastating knee injury?

UFC Fight Night: Blachowicz v Rakic Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC Vegas 54 went down last Saturday night (May 14, 2022) from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, leaving several fighters feeling the post-fight blues. Among them was Angela Hill, who suffered her fourth straight loss after coming up short against Virna Jandiroba. And Ion Cutelaba, who was submitted by Ryan Spann early in the opening round (see it again here). But, which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now a few days removed from the show?

Aleksandar Rakic.

Coming into his headlining fight against Jan Blachowicz, Rakic was hoping to secure a Light Heavyweight title shot with a win, which would have been his third straight and seventh in eight tries inside the Octagon.

Things started off great for Rakic, who cut open Blachowicz early in the first round. He had other great shining moments throughout the first two rounds, as he started to find his rhythm going into the third.

And then disaster struck.

As he was backing up during an exchange, Rakic fell to the canvas in pain, immediately grabbing his knee (see it here). Thankfully, Blachowicz recognized the injury and didn’t follow up with any unnecessary shots before the referee stepped in to call the fight. While Rakic will go through an MRI later today, the worst fear is that he suffered a complete ACL tear.

According to Rakic, however, it’s a lingering issue.

“The same damn injury from 3 weeks ago in camp showed up again tonight,” he wrote on Instagram. “Congratulation to Jan and I wish him the best. I will take care of this injury and come back like you never seen me before. This is a unfinished fight between Jan and I and I really hope UFC gives me a REMATCH.”

For Rakic, the road to the title ends for now because he will be facing an uphill battle on his road to recovery, which could be anywhere from six to nine months, assuming there are no further complications. That said, some fighters sit out that long even if they aren’t injured, but we still can’t expect “Rocket” to be back until at least the first quarter of 2023.

It’s an unfortunate blow for the towering Light Heavyweight, who will have to sit idle and watch the division move on without him. He probably won’t lose his ranking in the Top 5, but there will be several other contenders emerging in his absence.

When he does return, the 205-pound landscape will look drastically different than it does now, so there’s no point in trying to predict who he will be facing, though my guess is it will be someone in the Top 5.

Rakic’s injury is reminiscent of Thiago Santos tearing up his knee during his title fight against Jon Jones. When he was able to return 15 months later, “Marreta” didn't look the same, going just 1-3 since, including losses to Rakic, Glover Teixeira and Magomed Ankalaev.

Rakic, though, is eight years younger that Santos, so that could also play a big factor in his recovery process and how he adapts after suffering a devastating injury to go along with an extended sit.

For complete UFC Vegas 54 results and coverage click here.

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