UFC on ESPN: Błachowicz vs. Rakić Predictions
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Over a two-year period in the UFC between 2019 and 2021, Blachowicz went on a career-defining five-fight winning streak that saw him defeat a string of notable names like Luke Rockhold, Ronaldo Souza and Corey Anderson before defeating Dominick Reyes to win the vacant belt and then outpointing Israel Adesanya on the scorecards.
Blachowicz was dethroned by Glover Teixeira via submission last time out though and now the 39-year-old will attempt to get back to winning ways against the in-form Rakic, who has a 6-1 record in the UFC so far and is coming off unanimous decision victories against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos.
Blachowicz is a solid all-rounder with good technical ability in the striking department, fighting at a measured and somewhat plodding pace while being mindful of his defensive responsibilities, while still offering up that “legendary Polish power” when he does let his hands go. He’s also a very capable wrestler offensively and has good submissions too, though he’s not really that great when he’s fighting off his back.
During his rise to prominence in the UFC, Rakic showed off his dynamic striking skills and he works well on the outside, with solid power in his punches and good kicks too, while not taking too much in return. However, in more recent times the big, athletic 205lb’er has started to lean more heavily on his wrestling ability, and it’s paid off for him in terms of picking up wins, if not gaining the kind of fanfare that would fast-track him into a title shot.
I think Rakic will hold a wrestling advantage here and given his willingness to use that of late I think he’ll play it safe and look to get the fight to the mat when possible, but the younger man can more than hold his own on the feet too at times on his way to a decision victory.
Prediction: Aleksandar Rakic to win by decision.
Ryan Spann vs. Ion Cutelaba
After a four-fight winning start to his time in the UFC, Spann has now lost two of his last three fights via KO and submission after taking a step up in competition, while Cutelaba has also found the going challenging when he’s faced upper-level competition during his 5-5-1 UFC campaign, but is coming off a unanimous decision win over Devin Clark.
Both of these fighters are fairly well-rounded. Spann has a 4″ height and reach advantage to work with and he’ll look to land punches from range and has solid power, but he doesn’t have the highest output and can be hit in return more than you’d like to see. That being said he’s also a capable wrestler who will pose a submission threat too.
Cutelaba is a notoriously fast starter, coming out with all guns blazing in the striking department, while also bursting into takedowns too if the opportunity presents itself, setting up the opportunity for big ground-and-pound strikes. At times it’s been a successful strategy for him that can overwhelm opponents, but it becomes less effective as the standard of competition increases and he’s often been left running out of gas in the later rounds if he doesn’t secure a fast finish.
However, there have been signs that Cutelaba is finally starting to address those issues and is beginning to pace himself a bit more and that would bode well if the fight goes longer. That being said, Cutelaba does have that track record of first round finishes and Spann’s recent losses have come early, so I’ll take ‘The Hulk’ to continue that trend with an opening round TKO finish.
Prediction: Ion Cutelaba to win by TKO in Rd1.
Davey Grant vs. Louis Smolka
Grant is coming off two losses in a row heading into this one after being on a three-fight winning streak prior to that, while Smolka has been finished three times in his past five fights, including a first round KO defeat last time out.
Grant’s striking style is something to behold as he will throw everything into his high-volume offense with almost reckless abandon at times, even if it leaves him off-balance. It’s a risky strategy, but one that was actually paying off for him with back-to-back KO victories.
It helps that Grant is a durable fighter and also that he has a very solid ground game to back it up, and in fact that was his bread and butter earlier in his career, racking up numerous submission stoppages along the way.
As for Smolka, he also likes to fight at a high tempo and can mix things up well on the feet and on the mat. Grant seems like the stronger, more potent threat wherever the fight goes though and is also less vulnerable to being finished, so I favor him to emerge victorious one way or another here, with a TKO on the feet perhaps the most likely option.
Prediction: Davey Grant to win by TKO in Rd2.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas
Chookagian is currently the No.1 contender at flyweight after winning her last three fights on the scorecards, while Ribas has won five out of her six UFC fights to date and earned a decision victory in her last bout.
Chookagian is primarily a striker, and will have a 6″ height and 2″ reach advantage here. She’s the kind of fighter who likes to constantly stay active in her fights, and while it’s not always the most effective or damaging work and does involve a lot more air-swatting than you’d like to see, it does help keep her opponents at bay and has swung many a fight her way on the judges scorecards.
Ribas is more athletic and committed to her offensive attacks on the feet, but without much in the way of fight-ending power. That being said, she is dangerous on the mat with some very crafty grappling ability.
Ribas is certainly talented, but I think this will play out much the way a lot of Chookagian’s fights do as she uses her movement and long strikes from range to keep a safe distance on the outside in order to frustrate and ultimately outpoint her opponent over the course of three rounds.
Prediction: Katlyn Chookagian to win by decision.
Frank Camacho vs. Manuel Torres
With just two wins from seven UFC outings, Camacho is in dire need of emerging with his hand raised on Saturday night when he goes up against a new recruit from the Contender Series in Torres, who holds a 12-2 career record.
Camacho hasn’t fought in a couple of years due to health issues outside the Octagon, having been forced to cancel a fight in September of 2020 due to getting Covid, followed by a June 2021 match-up being scrapped after he was involved in a crash that left him suffering from neck and back injuries.
When he was active, Camacho was a fun fighter to watch as he is an all-offense machine who had an impressive finishing rate via strikes on the regional scene. However, while his volume of strikes is incredibly high, he actually manages to eat even more strikes than he lands, and he’s paid the price for that in two of his last four Octagon outings, suffering a KO defeat against Geoff Neal and most recently a 41 second TKO loss against Justin Jaynes.
In Torres he’s fighting a hungry 27-year-old prospect who is also all about the finish, having amassed 11 stoppages in his 12 career wins to date. He’s aggressive and carries good power in his punches and kicks, though the majority of his recent wins have come on the mat via submission.
Torres has also been tapped out a couple of times in the past though and while he opts not to really use it, Camacho is actually a capable grappler. Still, Camacho’s long lay-off and wear-and-tear inside and outside of the octagon is a real concern and I think the younger, fresher Torres gets the better of the early firefight to claim a first round TKO victory here.
Prediction: Manuel Torres to win by TKO in Rd1.
Jake Hadley vs. Allan Nascimento
The undefeated Hadley comes in to make his debut from the Contender Series, and the 25-year-old already has a number of notable triumphs from his 8-0 run on the regional circuit, including winning a title in both Cage Warriors and EFC. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Nascimento is the more experienced fighter here with an 18-6 record, but he lost by split decision on both the Contender Series a few years ago and then in his eventual UFC debut last year.
Both men are talented grapplers, with Hadley being an aggressive player on the mat with a knack for finding his way to his opponent’s back, while Nascimento will be more than willing to operate on the canvas too with an impressive 13 finishes via submission from 18 career wins, though he does his best work on top and has come off second-best in the past when the roles have been reversed.
Striking wise Nascimento may have the edge with his muay thai ability serving up solid kicks, but Hadley will let his hands go too, though he’ll always be ready to pounce on a potential takedown attempt.
So, this should be a good scrap, but I favor Hadley who has good momentum heading into this one and I think will find that he can get the better of the action on the mat. He might struggle to find a finish, but I see Hadley getting enough control time to emerge with a decision win.
Prediction: Jake Hadley to win by decision.
UFC on ESPN: Błachowicz vs. Rakić Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
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Virna Jandiroba vs. Angela Hill
Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario
Nick Maximov vs. Andre Petroski
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.