Jan Blachowicz gets fire back in crucial win over Rakic

Jan Blachowicz gets fire back in crucial win over Rakic

LAS VEGAS — Jan Blachowicz knew he had to change his approach after losing the UFC light heavyweight title to Glover Teixeira last year. For Blachowicz, the joy of the game was gone and he knew that at 39 he had to find it again quickly.

Blachowicz on Saturday looked like the guy who had won five in a row and nine out of ten before losing his title to Teixeira at UFC 267 on October 30.

He stopped Aleksandar Rakic ​​in the third but it’s a win that will live with an asterisk. Blachowicz threw a kick and left hand at Rakic. As Rakic ​​moved away, his right knee caved in and he fell to the ground.

Referee Mark Smith stopped the fight immediately at 1:11 of the third round at Apex, giving Blachowicz an absolutely crucial win. Dreaming of regaining the title, he now faces the winner of the match between Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka on June 11 in Singapore.

A UFC spokeswoman said Rakic ​​will have an MRI on Monday to look for MCL and LCL damage.

It was a disappointing end to a fantastic fight. The first lap in particular was a spirited back-and-forth that showcased the skills of both men.

“Naturally [it is disappointing to win via an injury]said Blachowicz. “I’m a fighter and a warrior and it’s better if you win by KO or a clean submission. My body was harder tonight. I was ready for three, four, five tough laps.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 14: (RL) Jan Blachowicz of Poland fights Aleksandar Rakic ​​of Austria in a light heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 14: (RL) Jan Blachowicz of Poland fights Aleksandar Rakic ​​of Austria in a light heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Blachowicz kicked Rakic’s legs hard, trying to knock them down and drain his power. Rakic ​​is one of the UFC’s best forwards and he’s relentlessly moving forward. Given the quality of Rakic’s chin, he can eat punches that allow him to build his own.

So Blachowicz’s strategy of attacking the legs was correct. And while it’s impossible to say if the kicks led directly to Rakic’s injury — “That’s a question for him,” Blachowicz said — it certainly didn’t hurt.

Most importantly, Blachowicz got the fire back into his game that for some reason wasn’t there at UFC 267 when he lost his title to Teixeira. There were a few dozen Polish fans in the building and they made a lot of noise as they cheered on Blachowicz.

He also gave them much to cheer about. He caught Rakic ​​with a combination just under two minutes from time in the first round and backed off with a big hook a minute later.

However, Rakic ​​wasn’t a punching bag and scored alone. He hit Blachowicz early in the first eye on the left eye which opened a cut around him. It didn’t really hinder Blachowicz.

Both guys had the pedal down and were riding hard, clearly not looking to do five laps. And that was a good test for Blachowicz, whose work with a sports psychologist clearly paid off.

He looked energetic as he made his way to the Octagon, and he fought like another shot at the world title was riding on his effort. Against an elite opponent who had gone through many of his previous opponents, Blachowicz not only gave as best he could, but his body language indicated there was nowhere else he would rather be.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 14: Jan Blachowicz of Poland reacts after his TKO victory over Aleksandar Rakic ​​of Austria in a light heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 14: Jan Blachowicz of Poland reacts after his TKO victory over Aleksandar Rakic ​​of Austria in a light heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

And as he showed in his 9-1 streak before the Teixeira fight, a focused and prepared Blachowicz is just as dangerous as anyone.

“I’m milking that answer, but this fight gave me the answer I wanted,” Blachowicz said. “I feel like I felt before Glover when I fought Israel [Adesanya] and Dominick Reyes. I am just happy. I go to the Octagon to do a job and put on a great fight, but also to have fun. And I had it. I enjoyed it.”

He’s likely to like what comes next, especially if the 42-year-old champion can defeat the highly regarded Prochazka in Singapore next month. Before the fight, Teixeira tweeted that if they both won, he would give Blachowicz a rematch.

Those were the words Blachowicz wanted to hear the most.

“I hope the UFC gives me another title shot,” he said. “I was number 1. Rakic ​​was number 3. For me, it’s a no-brainer. I am now the #1 contender.”

He certainly fought like he did on Saturday.

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