Jan Blachowicz had one successful defense of his UFC Light Heavyweight championship before he suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of Glover Teixeira. While he is no longer the champion, he is still one of the most respected athletes in the division; opponents know they will not have an easy night when they climb in the octagon to face him. His next opponent, Aleksandar Rakić, has been ranked in the top three in the division for over a year. He knows a win against Blachowicz could likely catapult him into number one contender status. These two men will stop at nothing in their quest to wear the belt that every mixed martial artist covets. They’re going to put it all on the line Saturday, during the next edition of Fight Night from the Apex Center. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!
Blachowicz vs. Rakić
Jan Blachowicz is a Black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and his accomplishments in Muay Thai and Grappling competitions in Europe are too extensive to list in this article. However, his biggest claim to fame is his short-lived reign as champion of the UFC’s light heavyweight division. At 39-years-old, he does not have many of his prime years left as an athlete. If he does not climb back to the top soon, his time as champion will be seen as one of the most disappointing runs in the history of the organization.Embed from Getty Images
Aleksandar Rakić fought for a variety of organizations in Europe after turning pro in his native country of Austria in 2011. He was noticed by the UFC in 2017, and has carved out a niche for himself since joining the roster that year. He is a Brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, who often relies on his years of kickboxing experience when he is in the octagon. Currently, the biggest question mark surrounding Rakić is his recent level of inactivity. He fought once in each of the last two calendar years. There is a prevailing thought that if he were among the more active fighters in the division he would already be the champion. A win against the former champion on Saturday would move him that much closer to his goal, most likely making him the number one contender in the division and putting him within arms reach of achieving his dream.
Spann vs. Cutelaba
After winning the LFA Light Heavyweight Championship in 2018, Ryan Spann was immediately invited to be a part of Dana White’s Contender Series. After a good showing on that platform, Spann was added to the UFC’s roster, where he’s remained ever since. Although he’s lost two out of his last three fights, Spann is still seen as a threat inside the octagon; he’s currently ranked in the organization’s top 15 fighters in the division. If he wants to regain his place in the top 10, he’ll have to return to his winning ways.
In his last four fights, Ion Cutelaba has amassed two losses, one draw, and one victory. He was once seen as a rising star in the division; now there are question marks surrounding his dedication to the sport. If he is to once again become a ranked fighter, he must beat Ryan Spann on Saturday, a man who has become a polarizing figure in the sport and the organization. However, Cutelaba is still only 28-years-old; there is plenty of time for him to get his career back on track if he rededicates himself to the sport the way he did when he first began to climb the rankings.
Grant vs. Smolka
Bantamweight prospects Davey Grant and Louis Smolka are both coming off of disappointing losses in their most recent performances inside the octagon. Both men joined the UFC’s roster in 2013, and neither of them have been able to earn a title shot since becoming a part of the organization. This fight is seen as a bout between two unranked fighters who are desperate to get their careers back on track. The UFC is notorious for purging underperforming fighters; on Saturday, both of these athletes will desperately try to avoid falling into that category.
Chookagian vs. Ribas
Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas are both ranked in the top ten in the UFC’s Women’s Flyweight division. Chookagian is currently on a three-fight win streak, while Ribas has won six out of her last seven fights. While neither woman has been able to win a title in the UFC, they both achieved championship status in regional organizations before being called up to the most prestigious mixed martial arts platform in the world. Each of these women believes they have a legitimate shot at becoming a world champion; on Saturday they will try to prove it to the world when they face square off in the octagon together.
Camacho vs. Torres
Frank Camacho is on a two-fight losing streak and hasn’t been seen inside the octagon by the public in nearly two years. During his time away from the spotlight, he was involved in a car accident that caused injuries to his neck and back. However, reports coming out of his camp indicate he is in the best shape of his life and has fully recovered.
Manuel Torres has toiled in relative obscurity in regional circuits in his native country of Mexico since 2014. Last October, he got his big break, competing in Dana White’s Contender Series for the first time. He performed admirably, winning his bout via first round knockout. That earned him a spot on the organization’s roster. He will make his official debut on Saturday when he climbs in the octagon to face the wily veteran, Frank Camacho.
Hadley vs. Nascimento
In his three years as a professional, flyweight prospect Jake Hadley is yet to lose a fight. Allan Nascimento, on the other hand, has been a pro for the last eleven years and has come out on the losing end of six bouts during that time frame. While on paper, Hadley may be the more promising prospect, there is no substitute for experience. Nascimento has three times as many professional fights under his belt than Hadley; it will be interesting to see how this plays out when they make their UFC debut against one another on Saturday. Each man will be trying to impress their new boss. Whoever succeeds will be one step closer to changing their lives forever.
How to watch
UFC Fight Night can be viewed on BT Sport in the United Kingdom and on ESPN Plus in the United States. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!