Following an incredibly entertaining UFC 274 pay-per-view in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to their trusty Apex Center in Las Vegas for another talent-stacked fight card.
The main event of the evening will pit two of the top-ranked light-heavyweight contenders across the octagon from one another, as former champion Jan Blachowicz will meet for war with Aleksandar Rakic.
Continue reading for our first look preview on Blachowicz and Rakic.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic
UFC Light Heavyweight Main Event
UFC in Vegas 54 takes place on Saturday, May 14th, from the UFC Apex Center in Las Vegas, streaming live on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+.
Pro MMA Record: (28-9-0)
Gym: WCA Fight Team
An unfortunate title loss for Jan Blachowicz temporarily put “Polish Power” on hold. Still, after an eight-month absence from the octagon, Jan Blachowicz returns to the octagon on Saturday evening with no handouts in mind as he’ll face one of the top up-and-coming 205lb fighters on the planet.
If you aren’t familiar with the work of Jan Blachowicz, I’m confident you’ll recognise the successes from his UFC resume. The UFC’s most dominant middleweight champion since Anderson Silva in Israel Adesanya, former title contender who was expected to receive the judge’s vote versus Jon Jones in Dominick Reyes, the current No.1 ranked Bellator MMA light heavyweight in Corey Anderson, and the legendary Jacare Souza have all fell victim to the skillset of Blachowicz.
Born and raised in Cieszyn, Poland, Blachowicz began his professional mixed martial arts tenure with an incredible run through the European MMA promotions. Eventually, the WCA Fight Team representative signed with the UFC boasting a 17-3 pro record, but the hype failed to deliver early. Following a 2-4 beginning for the company, Blachowicz went on a tear through the light heavyweight division starting in 2017 and collected the championship during this run that ended by the skills of Glover Teixeira last year.
Pro MMA Record: (14-2-0)
Gym: Gym 23
During the period in 2017 when Blachowicz began his 9-2 streak towards gold, an Austrian native of Serbian descent with an impressive boxing/kickboxing background debuted in the UFC and instantly made a name for himself. Aleksandar Rakic has stormed into the top-five rankings, and a 6-1 record for the promotion has gifted him an opportunity to prove himself versus the former champion this weekend.
Before taking up mixed martial arts, Rakic was known for his boxing and kickboxing stints, where he competed in over 40 bouts. Aged 19, Rakic has built a well-rounded martial arts skillset where his elite-level striking is now accompanied by a keen ability to grapple.
Successive wins over Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith have been enough evidence to believe Rakic is placed where he belongs – amongst the elite.
And now, Rakic is potentially one-win away from earning himself a No.1 contender position. However, entering the first 5-round battle of his UFC career against the former champion won’t be a walk in the park.
Blachowicz vs Rakic Betting Odds & Analytical Breakdown
The UFC 274 pay-per-view this past Saturday in Phoenix provided fight fans and avid bettors with a wealth of opportunities. Carla Esparza cashed as a vast +180 betting underdog, Macy Chiasson overcame Norma Dumont at +180, and the most significant value of the night came from C.J. Vergara with an impressive +270 price tag.
Promo codes available in Arizona sportsbooks are now preparing for the UFC in Vegas 54 betting odds, and it’s Rakic who’s entertaining the main event as the bookmaker’s favorite.
Whilst I agree that Rakic deserves a position as the betting favorite based on his age, upward trend, and substantial diversity, odds of -190 with the comeback at +160 are showing a lot of disrespect to Blachowicz has defeated some of the world’s greatest fighters.
Ultimately, I do believe Rakic can outperform the muay thai base of Blachowicz with his primary kickboxing offense. The glaring hole in Rakic’s game would be his leg kick defense, but with the speed and strength advantage, it’s difficult to ignore the come up of the Serbian striker.
We should note that both men have a similar style; we aren’t going to witness either fighter rushing in or giving opportunities for a knockout as they both thrive on counterstriking. With that said, when Rakic does lay on the pressure, he can deliver a vicious set of combining strikes like the one-two high kick combo that flattened Jimi Manawa.
I don’t anticipate many grappling exchanges as both men will be weary, they could both suffer during a 25-minute bout, but I would side with Rakic taking this advantage with how much domineering top control he’s shown in the past.
I’ll side with Rakic taking this contest, but I wouldn’t be quick to wager the moneyline; the strongest feeling I get from this meeting stems toward a drawn-out fight that exceeds two or three rounds minimum.