UFC on ESPN 36: Blachowicz vs. Rakic Preview

Jan Blachowicz wants to turn things around since he lost his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship last year. In the first step of getting on the right track, he’ll look to pick up a win over rising contender Aleksandar Rakic in the main event of Saturday’s UFC “Fight Night” card.

The light heavyweight bout is headlining a short 11-bout card that is scheduled to take place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Here is a preview of the evening.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (7:30PM EDT / 4:30PM PDT) (ESPN2 / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Nick Maximov (8-0) vs. Andre Petroski (7-1) (Middleweight)

Undefeated middleweight Nick Maximov will attempt to keep his UFC run going in the opening bout on Saturday’s card, facing Andre Petroski.

A lot has been made of Maximov’s training history with Nick and Nate Diaz since he entered the UFC last year. He is coming off his second win in the promotion from earlier this year, defeating Punahele Soriano via split decision.

Petroski will be fighting for his third UFC victory as well. He picked up two wins for the promotion last year after appearing on a season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Bout 2: Carlos Candelario (8-1) vs. Tatsuro Taira (10-0) (Flyweight)

Two high-level flyweight prospects will make their first UFC appearance on Saturday night’s prelims. In the second bout, undefeated Tatsuro Taira will face Carlos Candelario.

This fight was first booked for late April but was moved to this card after illness briefly sidelined Candelario.

Taira is entering the UFC with a flawless pro record of 10 wins. At just 22 years old, Taira tore up the regional Japanese scene and became the Shooto Japan Flyweight Champion along the way.

Candelario fought on the most recent season of “Dana White’s Contender Series” After a split decision loss to Victor Altamirano, which was his first pro loss, Candelario was given a UFC contract. Candelario became the first fighter in “Contender Series” history to get a UFC contract despite not winning his fight.

Bout 3: Virna Jandiroba (17-3) vs. Angela Hill (13-11) (Strawweight)

Strawweights Virna Jandiroba and Angela Hill will meet in the next prelim fight.

Hill will be fighting to avoid slipping into a three-fight losing streak. She took two losses last year, dropping bouts to high-level strawweight names Tecia Torres and Amanda Lemos.

Jandiroba is also coming off a loss. Her last performance was at UFC 267 last year, where Amanda Ribas beat her via unanimous decision.

Bout 4: Michael Johnson (19-17) vs. Alan Patrick (15-3) (Lightweight)

Both fighting for their first victory in a long time, lightweights Michael Johnson and Alan Patrick will collide.

Johnson has lost four consecutive fights in the UFC. Not a lot of fighters survive in the promotion after losing that many bouts in a row. His last fight was in early 2021 when veteran Clay Guida beat him on scorecards.

Patrick is fighting for his first win since early 2018. He has fought three times since then, resulting in two losses and a no contest.

Bout 5: Viviane Araujo (10-3) vs. Andrea Lee (13-5) (Flyweight)

Flyweights Viviane Araujo and Andrea Lee will close out Saturday’s prelims.

Araujo had a two-fight winning streak stopped in her last appearance, dropping a unanimous decision against Katlyn Chookagian. She was originally scheduled to return earlier this year against Alexa Grasso, although that fight ended up not happening.

Lee is coming off a successful 2021 that saw her score two finish victories. Her last win came in November 2021, when Cynthia Calvillo was stopped in between the second and third rounds.

Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ESPN2 / TSN 5)

Bout 6: Jake Hadley (8-0) vs. Allan Nascimento (18-6) (Flyweight)

Undefeated flyweight Jake Hadley will make his UFC debut in the first bout of the opening card, facing Allan Nasicmento.

Hadley joined the UFC roster in October 2021, submitting Mitch Raposo on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” Before then, he earned seven wins on the regional scene and became the Cage Warriors Flyweight Champion.

Nascimento will be fighting for his first UFC victory this weekend. He lost his promotional debut at UFC 267, dropping a split decision to Tagir Ulanbekov.

Bout 7: Frank Camacho (22-9) vs. Manuel Torres (12-2) (Lightweight)

Frank Camacho will make his return on Saturday night, facing UFC newcomer Manuel Torres in a lightweight bout.

Camacho has been out of the cage since 2020. He was booked to face Matt Frevola last year but had to withdraw from that fight after being involved in a car crash.

The pressure is on for Camacho this weekend, as he’ll be fighting to avoid falling into a three-fight skid.

Torres is making his first appearance on the UFC roster. He won on the most recent season of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” stopping Kolton Englund in the first round of a bout with strikes.

Bout 8: Katlyn Chookagian (17-4) vs. Amanda Ribas (11-2) (Flyweight)

Amanda Ribas will make her debut at flyweight on Saturday night when she faces Katlyn Chookagian.

Ribas fought frequently down at strawweight in recent years. She had a run up the divisional ranks from 2019 to 2021, putting together a long streak of wins. This momentum was snapped in early 2021, as Marina Rodriguez scored a finish victory over her.

Ribas is moving up after winning in her last appearance, defeating Virna Jandiroba at UFC 267.

Chookagian is a tough first fight for Ribas at flyweight. The former title challenger is currently on a three-fight winning streak, including a victory she earned over Jennifer Maia earlier this year.

Bout 9: Louis Smolka (17-8) vs. Davey Grant (11-6) (Bantamweight)

Experienced bantamweights Louis Smolka and Davey Grant will meet on Saturday’s main card. Both fighters are looking to come back from recent defeats.

Smolka was finished in his last fight, taking a first-round defeat against Vince Morales.

Grant lost two decisions in 2021, appearing on the losing side against Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez.

Bout 10: Ryan Spann (19-7) vs. Ion Cutelaba (16-6-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Before light heavyweights take to the cage in the main event, light heavyweights Ryann Spann and Ion Cutelaba will compete in the co-main event.

Spann’s last appearance was in the headlining spot of a card last year. He lost that fight, suffering an early submission defeat against Anthony Smith.

Cutelaba earned a victory in his last fight, defeating Devin Clark. That was a needed victory for him, as previous fights resulted in a draw and two losses.

Bout 11: Jan Blachowicz (28-9) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (14-2) (Light Heavyweight)

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz will attempt to get back into the win column when he fights Aleksandar Rakic in the main event of Saturday night.

Blachowicz dropped his title in October 2021, suffering a second-round submission loss against Glover Teixeira. He earned his belt roughly a year before then, pulling off a stoppage victory over Dominick Reyes. He defended his belt once during his reign, defeating 185-pound champ Israel Adesanya.

Overall, the loss that Blachowicz suffered last year wiped clean a five-fight winning streak that he attained from 2019 to 2021.

On the other hand, Rakic has the opportunity to score a big win in Saturday’s main event. He has slowly been on the climb up UFC’s light heavyweight ranks in recent years, scoring six wins through seven fights. He beat former title challenger Thiago Santos in his last bout, defeating him via unanimous decision in 2021.

Saturday won’t be the first time that Rakic appears in a UFC main event. However, it will be the first time he competes in a UFC bout that could go up to five rounds in total. The contender could get taken into deep waters for the first time this weekend against a former champion. How he does with these factors in play could certainly prove where he stands in the division right now.

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