The UFC event machine continues to roll forward on Saturday night with a big meeting in the light heavyweight division. Former 205-pound champion Jan Blachowicz is set to take on rising contender Aleksandar Rakic in the main event from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The fight could produce the next challenger to the title that is up for grabs again next month in Singapore.
Blachowicz charged to the top of the light heavyweight pack when Jon Jones' planned move to heavyweight and vacating of the 205-pound championship left the division without a top dog. Blachowicz followed up a knockout of Corey Anderson with a dominant, one-sided stoppage of Dominick Reyes to win the vacant title.
After an impressive performance in fending off middleweight champion Israel Adesanya's attempt to become a two-division champion, it seemed Blachowicz was set for a long reign as light heavyweight king. Then came a UFC 267 clash with Glover Teixeira this past October, a fight that saw Blachowicz finished in the second round as the 42-year-old Teixeira snatched the championship.
Blachowicz was set for a fairly quick turnaround as he was scheduled to fight Rakic in January. Blachowicz then suffered a neck injury that left him unable to feel or move the left side of his body, forcing the fight to be delayed several months.
"It was scary," Blachowicz told MMA Fighting. "You don't know what happened. You can't move your left hand. It was a weird feeling for me. A new thing, a scary thing."
Blachowicz also noted in an interview with Daniel Cormier that he felt flat against Teixeira throughout camp and on the walk to the Octagon, but it was all the motivation he needed to get right for this bout.
"This time was completely different," Blachowicz said. "I think I'm the kind of fighter who needs to lose sometimes to remind me why I'm doing this. If you look through my record since I got to the UFC, I have a couple wins, losses, a couple wins, lose; all my life was like this.
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Rakic is a dangerous opponent and a man who has quietly remained one of the better fighters in the UFC light heavyweight division for years.
Since joining the promotion in 2017, Rakic has compiled a 6-1 record in the Octagon. The lone loss in that time came by split decision to former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, a result many in the MMA world disagreed with at the time. Without that loss, Rakic may have already been granted a shot at the championship.
Adding a win over Blachowicz after back-to-back victories against former title challengers Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos may just be the thing Rakic needs to land in a title fight by the end of 2022.
"This is the biggest fight of my career yet, fighting such a good guy -- a veteran, an experienced guy; the former champion who beat Israel Adesanya," Rakic said in an interview with UFC.com. "I'm very happy that I have the opportunity to fight him; I love the challenge.
"We're in the UFC -- we're the best in the world -- and I want to show the people and the UFC that I've been training hard the last year and I'm able to fight with everyone in the world. He is a former champion, he's my biggest challenge -- the biggest name I'm going to fight -- and I'm so ready to go."
The undercard fills out with some familiar names and faces. Ion Cutelaba battles Ryan Spann in another light heavyweight contest slotted for the co-main event. Veterans Davey Grant and Louis Smolka are set for a bantamweight clash. Women's flyweight stalwart Katlyn Chookagian welcomes Amanda Ribas to the 125-pound division after a long stay at strawweight. Plus, Manuel Torres takes on Frank Camacho at lightweight and Jake Hadley faces Allan Nascimento at flyweight.
Here's the fight card for UFC Fight Night with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
Aleksandar Rakic -195
Jan Blachowicz +165
Ion Cuțelaba -240
Ryan Spann +200
Davey Grant -310
Louis Smolka +250
|Katlyn Chookagian -190||Amanda Ribas +160||Women's flyweight|
|Manuel Torres -125||Frank Camacho +105||Lightweight|
|Jake Hadley -220||Allan Nascimento +180||Flyweight|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: May 14 | Start time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: UFC Apex -- Las Vegas
TV Channel: ESPN2 | Stream: ESPN+
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic: Blachowicz had a very bad night against Teixeira, there's no way around that. But against Anderson, Reyes and Adesanya he was outstanding. Rakic has been consistent and solid against somewhat middling competition and only three fights removed from not making a clear case for a win against Oezdemir. The odds here feel like an overreaction to Blachowicz coming up well short on a night that felt like pure destiny for an all-time great. A Rakic win is far from out of the question, but Blachowicz has beaten better fighters than Rakic and beaten them more convincingly. Until I see proof that Rakic is the better fighter, my instincts say to stick by Blachowicz at an underdog price. Pick: Jan Blachowicz via UD
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