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UFC Vegas 54: Blachowicz vs. Rakic - Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers from UFC Vegas 54

Ryan Spann submitted Ion Cutelaba at UFC Vegas 54.
Ryan Spann submitted Ion Cutelaba at UFC Vegas 54.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Jan Blachowicz probably wanted his fight against Aleksandar Rakic to end in a more definitive manner, but sometimes, it’s best just to take what happens and move on. It seems as if that is what the former light heavyweight champion is going to do after UFC Vegas 54.

Blachowicz’s goal was to get the win against Rakic, hold on to his No. 1 spot in the official UFC light heavyweight rankings and set himself up for a potential rematch against the man who took the title from him, Glover Teixeira. Blachowicz realized his goal when a knee injury stopped Rakic in the third stanza of their contest. Now, he’ll wait and see if Teixeira can successfully defend his title against No. 2 ranked Jiri Prochazka at UFC 275.

In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 54, Ryan Spann earned a first round submission win over Ion Cutelaba.

Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 54, which took place at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Winners:

Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic: Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic were involved in a competitive scrap in the main event of UFC Vegas 54. Blachowicz did a nice job of using punch combinations and low kicks to slow down his opponent in the first round, while Rakic controlled the fight on the mat in the second stanza. However, the contest was cut short when a knee injury sent Rakic tumbling to the mat in the early moments of the third round. With Rakic in pain on the mat, the referee waved off the fight, giving Blachowicz the win.

The outcome was less than ideal, but both fighters fought to their strengths for as long as the contest lasted and the sportsmanship that was shared at the end of the bout was refreshing.

Ryan Spann: Ryan Spann bounced back from a submission loss to Anthony Smith with a submission win of his own. Ion Cutelaba put Spann in some bad spots in the early going of this matchup, but a missed strike gave Spann the opening he needed to grab onto a guillotine choke and force a submission from Cutelaba at 2:22 of the first stanza.

Spann showed good awareness in getting the stoppage and him not getting frustrated when things weren’t going his way says a lot about him as a fighter, especially since he was coming off a first-round stoppage loss.

Davey Grant: Davey Grant ended a two-fight losing skid in a big way on Saturday. Grant, coming off decision losses to Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez, scored a knockout win over the very game Louis Smolka in the third stanza of their bantamweight scrap.

Smolka took the head and body strikes that Grant offered in the first two stanzas, but the leg kicks that Grant used through the first ten minutes added up and dropped Smolka at the start of the third and once Grant got Smolka down, it didn’t take long for him to get the finish.

Grant might not win every fight, but he’s one of those fighters who will give fans their money worth when he’s on a card as his growing list of post-fight bonus awards can attest.

Katlyn Chookagian: Katlyn Chookagian likely held onto her No. 1 ranking in the UFC flyweight division with a win over Amanda Ribas. Chookagian’s length and reach and Ribas’ lackluster striking defense were the main reasons Chookagian won the contest and extended her winning streak to four straight.

Manuel Torres: Manuel Torres picked up a win in his official UFC debut and he did so in a most violent manner. Torres’ power seemed to give his opponent. Frank Camacho, problems from the opening moments of the fight. That power left Camacho attempting five takedowns before the power of his foe ended the fight at the 3:27 mark of Round 1.

Torres looked very good and his striking was devastatingly effective.

Allan Nascimento: Allan Nascimento got his first UFC win on Saturday. He earned that victory over the favored Jake Hadley thanks to his takedowns and incredibly heavy top game.

Viviane Araujo: Andrea Lee nearly finished Viviane Araujo in the early going of the first round of their flyweight bout, but came back strong and just started piecing up Lee with an effective jab. Araujo showed heart and resilience in bouncing back for the decision win.

Michael Johnson: Michael Johnson earned his first win since October 2018 with a knockout win over Alan Patrick. I won’t go as far as UFC commentator Brendan Fitzgerald and proclaim that Johnson is “back,” after all his record dating back to August 2015 is 4-9 with the UFC, but he got a big win and he will likely get another opportunity to fight inside the octagon.

Virna Jandiroba: Virna Jandiroba bounced back from an October loss to Amanda Ribas with a dominant win over Angela Hill. Jandiroba used her strength and submission skills to neutralize Hill and she should earn a step up in competition with her win.

Tatsuro Taira: Tatsuro Taira is a very good young fighter, who might have been under the radar ahead of UFC Vegas 54. He is incredibly comfortable, composed and confident in the cage. He is a dangerous grappler who uses a kickboxing style and distance to set up his takedowns. At 22, Taira has a lot of time to develop and I do think he needs to develop on the feet, but he’s an up-and-coming flyweight to watch.

Andre Petroski: My thoughts on Andre Petroski entering his fight against Nick Maximov at UFC Vegas 54 were that he had a good chance at winning the contest. Petroski and Maximov are both still getting their feet under them in the UFC, but Petroski’s good wresting background coupled with his aggression made him a very live underdog in my mind. I didn’t think Petroski would choke Maximov out early in the first round, as grappling has been the one thing Maximov has excelled at. Andre Petroski had an impressive performance at UFC Vegas 54.

Glover Teixeira: In a sport where trash talk is the norm, it was refreshing to see UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira encouraging the man he took the title from, Jan Blachowicz, prior to his main event matchup against Aleksandar Rakic at UFC Vegas 54.

Losers:

Amanda Ribas: Amanda Ribas took a calculated risk in moving up to flyweight to face the No. 1 ranked Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Vegas 54. The risk did not pay off as Chookagian picked up a split-decision win. Ribas had a sound game plan for the fight. She wanted to pressure Chookagian on the feet and take the fight to the mat when she could. However, she gave Chookagian enough openings on the feet to score with her striking.

Jake Hadley: Came into UFC Vegas 54 with a fair amount of hype and an unbeaten record. He left the Octagon with his hype diminished and a loss.

Hadley is only 25. I hope he and his team look at the setback to the older and more experienced Allan Nascimento as a learning experience. There were positives from Hadley in this fight, but Nascimento outclassed him in the grappling in this contest.

Andrea Lee & Tony Kelley: UFC fighter Tony Kelley was in the corner of Andrea Lee during her bout opposite Viviane Araujo. Kelley’s brand of inspiration to his fighter came across as well, gross.

“That’s what they do. They’re dirty f—king Brazilians,” said Kelley. “They’re going to cheat like that.”

Angela Hill: I was surprised to see that Angela Hill’s loss to Virna Jandiroba dropped her to three straight losses and put her on a 1-5 run. Hill is one of the more active fighters and is always willing to scrap. That fact, along with her popularity, might earn her the opportunity to fight again with the UFC, but she needs to get back in the win column.

Nick Maximov: I was shocked by the odds of this one, considering that Nick Maximov has looked, at best, one-dimensional during his UFC run. Yes, he entered the contest with an unbeaten record and an affiliation with the Diaz brothers, but outside of those two items, nothing stood out about Maximov. Now, after getting choked unconscious against an opponent, Andrei Petroski, who he was a significant favorite over, Maximov’s stock is going to drop.

Dominick Cruz: Dominick Cruz continues to be loudly, confidently and embarrassingly wrong when it comes to discussing the scoring criteria for MMA. He was practically belligerent in defending “control time” during the Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas fight.