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LineStar® Weekly Knockout (UFC) -Fight Night Blachowicz vs. Rakic

Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
We’re Back With Another LineStar Weekly Knockout!
Written by LineStar contributor, combat sports enthusiast, and practitioner, Chris Guy.
Instagram: @therealsethgeko & Twitter: @DadHallOfFamer

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“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away/ Now it looks like they’re here to stay/ Oh, I believe in yesterday” – The Beatles 
As I sit here reflecting upon the strangeness of last night, Carla Esparza and Rose Namajuanas are still circling the seven-layer dip, feinting for the last Tostitos.  Neither will commit.  They’re stuck in a purgatory of sorts; Rose is afraid to be caught out of position if Carla shoots, and Carla is afraid to risk getting caught with something on the way in.  The sour cream spoiled a while ago, but I don’t want to do the same to the ending.  I mean, someone’s gotta make a move sooner or later…    
Michael Chandler has to return the Rug Doctor by noon but can’t clean the Tony Ferguson skin rug with Justin Gaethje spinning around, throwing wild haymakers all over the place.  I told Chandler to just take it out back and beat it with a broom, but apparently, he couldn’t hear me over Donald Cerrone’s groaning.  
He’s still on the shitter.  I told Cowboy not to mess with that roach coach, but he didn’t listen.  It was a terrible matchup; the bubble guts are undefeated, and Cerrone’s riding a six-fight winless streak.   Something had to give, and unfortunately Donald trained the wrong clinch.  Personally, I think he’s putting one over, flopping like an NBA playoff foul after he heard I dropped an Andy Jack on Joe Lauzon.  
Charles Oliveira has been posted up on the Ikea futon trying to organize a red panty night ever since letting go of Justin Gaethje’s neck.  The only time he looks up from his phone is to holler at Mary Jane.  I’m a little jealous, but there’s nothing I can do about it; it’s not like I can fight him for her.
For a second, Carla had her hand on the last Tostitos after a desperate shot but dropped it. IDK, it wasn’t much, but it might be enough to win the round. F it, someone has to put an end to this. On my way out the door, I stop and grab the last chip and toss it to the dog, Brandon Royval. Carla and Rose throw up their hands in victory, but it’s short-lived. I hand them my scorecard, 49-49, a draw. Nobody wins. Nobody.
Main Card
Jan Blachowicz (+155) vs Aleksandar Rakic (-200)
Blachowicz: DK: $7.5k | Rakic: DK:$8.7k
This is a matchup between the former champ and a man who someday hopes to call himself a former champ.  Jan Blachowicz will be attempting to scale the sport’s Mt. Everest, winning the belt for a second time after watching it slip from your fingers and disappear into the clouds below.  There’s no climb more difficult than the one after a fall from the top.  Few complete the climb one time, but even fewer complete it a second.  That takes a different type of individual.  An individual who knows just how difficult the journey is and still signs up for it.
Blachowicz won noine out of ten fights, an epic run to the title, before running into the man who committed patricide, slaying father time in a public display of defiance, Glover Teixeira.  The discouraging part of that fight wasn’t that Blachowicz got taken down and dominated on the mat; it was getting beat in the stand-up.  Glover is far from the striker he used to be, but he managed to get the better of the majority of the exchanges.  That’s a bad look for Jan coming into a fight against a killer like Aleksandar Rakic.
The biggest hurdle Blachowicz will have to overcome against Rakic is that the blueprint to defeat Blachowicz has been written.  Take him down.  Jan couldn’t offer much from his back against Glover, and although Rakic isn’t half the wrestler/grappler that Glover is, he has devastating ground and pound and heavy top control.  Rakic dominated Anthony Smith from the top, battering Smith for a full fifteen minutes.  Afterward, the conversation was about if Smith’s corner should have thrown in the towel.
Jan’s path to victory is on the feet.  He has underrated sneaky power that can evade the most diligent neighborhood watch.  Blachowicz tends to blitz with generic, repetitive left-right combos while charging his opponent in a straight line.  Jan rocks tank tops but manages to keep a trick up his sleeve.  One of his bread and butter strikes is the lead and power uppercuts.  He hides them behind three to four-punch combos, and they’re his most effective finishing move.  But he’ll have to be careful not to over pursue into takedowns and counters.
Aleksandar Rakic hurts people.  He lost his first Pro fight and then reeled off twelve straight wins before losing a close split decision to Volkan Oezdemir in 2019.  Rakic fought almost three rounds with Quato from Total Recall growing out of his shin after an Oezdemir calf kick.  Rakic went on to win two straight against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos and now sits one statement victory away from a possible future title shot.
When Rakic can stay on the outside and throw bombs, he’s hard to beat.  He has heavy kicks from either stance and has a highlight reel head kick KO of Jimmy Manuwa on his record.  I expect the stand-up to be fairly even, but Rakic will have a clear advantage on the mat.  Rakic has an excellent single-leg takedown, and his ground and pound is life-changing.  The only red flag for Rakic was his last fight against Thiago Santos.  That fight was eerily similar to Esparza vs. Namajunas.  A fight that was supposed to be guaranteed downtown Fourth of July fireworks turned out to be Tijuana sparklers in the driveway.  Fights like that are the reasons for 10-10 rounds.  If nothing happens, no one wins.  With a possible title shot on the horizon, Rakic fought not to lose, and that’s a good way to do just that.
Rakic opened as the (-170) favorite because he has more ways to win the fight.  If he secures the top position, Jan will be in deep waters and didn’t wait an hour after eating.  I think the chances of this going the distance are very low.  If it does go the distance, we’ll be debating Carla and Rose vs. Blachowicz and Rakic afterward.   
Last week, I had a main event dub in my grasp when Justin Gaethje had Charles Oliveira dead to rights but lost his damn mind and started spinning around, windmilling punches all over the arena.  Homie looked like Chaz Michael Michaels hitting triple axels, leaping out of his shoes.  The harder I yelled, “Calm the F**k down, Gaethje!” the harder he swung for the fences.  Alexander Rakic, TKO round three.  On wax. 
Winner: Aleksandar Rakic | Method: TKO Rd.3
Leg kicks are bad m'kay
Leg kicks are bad m'kay
Ryan Spann (+185) vs. Ion Cutelaba (-230)
Spann: DK: $7.3k | Cutelaba: DK: $8.9k
For one of these guys, this fight will likely end with one of them being chased down a hallway by a burn victim wearing a glove made of steak knives.  For better or worse, Ryan Spann’s last three fights have ended in the first round.  And four of his seven UFC bouts ended in the first round; Spann went 2-2 in those bouts.  Nearly half (5) of Ion Cutelaba’s eleven UFC bouts also ended in the first round.   If neither fighter attempts a takedown in the first round, this fight will end within the first five minutes.
If you’ve been following the Weekly Knockout for a while, you already know Ion Cutelaba is the biggest frontrunner in the UFC.  He does Toyota Frontrunner commercials that put Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials to shame.  You could say Cutelaba is the 2015 Cam Newton of the UFC.  That was the year the Toyota Frontrunner went into production, the year Newton and the Carolina Panthers were all up in the videos, wearing shiny suits and posing for pictures on the sidelines all season long.  Only to get their ass cracked like a Conor McGregor tib/fib in the Super Bowl. 
Other than his two fights against Magomed Ankalaev, the first round against Ion Cutelaba is like hang gliding during a hurricane.  It’s risky business not covered by most health insurance.  The problem for Cutelaba is after the first five minutes.  He turns into a walking version of Tony Ferguson’s and Frankie Edgar’s faces while being punted, a melted vague resemblance of himself.   
Ion is 1-2-1 in his last four fights but is coming off a win against the always-tough Devin Clark.  Cutelaba is best known for his prefight antics, painting his entire body green like the Hulk at weigh-ins and such.  But don’t let all that fool you; Cutelaba is a real monster, and he can KO you with a missed punch.  Ion can also take the fight to the mat and finish the fight with heavy-heavy ground and pound.  Ion is a finisher, having ended fourteen of his sixteen career dubs prematurely.
If Ion engages on the feet for any duration during the first round, his gas tank will be on E by the start of the second.  Scoring an early takedown seems to force Ion to pace himself better and has led to him being able to go the distance in his last two bouts.  Ryan Spann will also be looking to score an early takedown, so the key for Ion will be to force the action from the jump and press forward behind heavy strikes.
Ryan Spann is a huge, one-punch power striker and will be the more technical, traditional striker against Cutelaba.   He reminds me of a more polished, better Greg Hardy with a ground game.  Spann has a similar flatfooted, plodding style without much movement, footwork, or otherwise.  For the most part, Spann is a boxer and throws short combinations with a lot of dead air in between exchanges.  He prefers controlled exchanges on the feet and doesn’t thrive in the pocket trading back and forth.  His biggest weapon is his straight right hand that he throws right down the middle behind his jab.
Low output and an unwillingness to engage for long stretches are Spann’s major malfunctions.  He also doesn’t use his reach very well and allows shorter fighters to get inside on him too easily because he doesn’t really react defensively to strikes.  But on the rare occasions that Spann decides to come forward aggressively, he can overwhelm with his power, especially when he can trap his opponent against the cage.
The game plans for Spann and Cutelaba will be identical.  I expect both to look for an early takedown against the cage, and the first one to secure it will likely win.  Neither fighter is very good from their back; their ground games are dependent on gaining and controlling the top position.  Ion’s experience and wild, aggressive style have him entering as the early (-220) favorite, but there is plenty of value for Spann.  He’s going to be a solid middle/low tier roster option with a real shot at scoring an early finish if he decides to be aggressive.  To me, this is a coin flip, a straight pick ‘em.  I’ll take Ion’s top game to be a little better than Spann’s.  Ion Cutelaba via rear-naked choke, round two.
Winner: Ion Cutelaba | Method: Rear-Naked Choke Rd.2
Louis Smolka (+250) vs. Davey Grant (-300)
Smolka: DK: $7.1k | Grant: DK: $9.1k
Davey Grant has been one of my best-kept secrets.  He has Ralph Wiggum stupid power and has turned Jacksons into Grants right before my eyes on multiple occasions.  Grant’s entering this fight on a bit of a rough patch, having lost two straight, but both fights were to high-level competition, Chito Vera and Adrian Yanez.  Grant was highly competitive in both, and you can argue he gave Chito Vera a better run than Rob Font did.
Wavey Davey, you so crazy.  This dude is wild, off the leash dropping doodies in your petunias.  Davey is awkward, like wiping left-handed, and reminds me of a smaller version of Jack Hermansson.  He uses a wide variety of kicks, including spinning heel kicks to the calf, power teeps, and snap kicks up the middle.  Grant uses wide punches and will reach into the back seat like he’s looking blindly for the CD case to load up on his power shots.  His finishing move is a three-quarters shovel punch that he throws at an upward angle from his waist with either hand.  His opponents never see it coming.  Davey’s punches come from every angle like a minute hand, and Grant will use both stances and is extra sneaky using a step-in right hook out of the orthodox stance.  
Grant’s biggest strength doubles as his biggest weakness.  His wide low punches leave him vulnerable up the middle, and he doesn’t have much head movement to supplement his lack of a traditional hand guard.  Fortunately, Grant’s opponent, Louis Smolka, doesn’t have dangerous striking and Grant will have a massive advantage on the feet.
Louis Smolka is on his second stint with the UFC, and this will be his seventeenth fight with the promotion.  The knock against Smolka has always been that he can’t beat top competition.  Every high-level name on his record has a red box in the result column.  He’s a decent striker with one-month economy shipping from India hand speed and is better known for his slick grappling.  
Smolka will look to close the distance and take Grant to the mat, but the problem for Smolka is that Grant is also a solid grappler and was known as a submission artist with eight career subs before he started knocking people out.  Louis will have to come out and make this an ugly close-quarters fight in a phone booth.  If you’ve never seen a phone booth, Duck Duck Go it.  
This is a tough match-up for Smolka.  I don’t know where he’ll have the advantage, but if he can force a scramble and get the mount or back control, he can finish any fight.  But you already know what time it is.  Davey Grant via TKO, round two.
Winner: Davey Grant | Method: TKO Rd.2
"Wavey" Davey Grant
"Wavey" Davey Grant
Katlyn Chookagian (-175) vs. Amanda Ribas (+150)
Chookagian: DK: $8.6k | Ribas: DK: $7.6k
This is the classic grappler vs. striker matchup.  Although Amanda Ribas has serviceable striking and has shown improvements, she’s an elite grappler with wins over world-class grapplers Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba.  Katlyn Chookagian is a cardio kickboxer with E. Honda thousand-hand strikes that never end.
Katlyn Chookagian’s striking is the MMA version of the West Coast Offense.  You could call her the Steve Young of the UFC.  Chookagian’s style is death by a thousand paper cuts to a hemophiliac.  She’s a point fighter who focuses on constantly touching her opponent and weaponizes volume rather than power.  Everything she throws is peppering while skirting around the outside of the pocket.  She averages four and a half significant strikes per minute and can hit one hundred significant strikes landed consistently.  Her major malfunction?  Thirteen of her sixteen professional wins have come by decision.  She’s not a killer, and she doesn’t crush a lot.          
Amanda Ribas is 5-1 in the UFC and has faced the best in the division.  Her only loss was to the dangerous striker Marina Rodriguez.  After dominating the first round with takedowns and top control, Ribas showed little urgency to repeat her success in the second round and was dropped with a right hand and finished with follow-ups.  When she sticks to her grappling, Ribas has shown she is the best of the best on the mat.  
Ribas’ striking isn’t terrible; she has classic Brazilian Muay Thai with the hunched rounded shoulders and squared stance.  Her power is respectable as well, but she lacks advanced technical settings.  She has basic default striking with none of the intricate footwork, head movement, and combinations that elite-strikers have.  If this fight stays standing for fifteen minutes, Ribas will get out-worked and lose a close decision.  If she sticks to a grappling game plan and never abandons it, she will win.
I was surprised to see Ribas as the underdog, but Chookagian is an underrated tough fighter who has fought for the belt.  I like Ribas as an underdog to drag Katlyn to the mat and dominate with ground and pound and top control with a long shot at a submission.  Chookagian has never been submitted in twenty-one career fights and is by no means a Tony Ferguson chalk outline on the mat.  Katlyn Chookagian via decision.
Winner: Katlyn Chookagian | Method: Decision
Frank Camacho (+110) vs Manuel Torres (-130)
Camacho: DK: $7.9k | Torres: DK: $8.3k
They told me this wouldn’t be on the test.  Hold up, I’m going to need a re-up of my herbal super powers before I get into this one.
Frank Camacho’s record indicates he’s 2-5 in the UFC, but I’ve never seen him win a fight, and I’ve never missed a UFC event.  But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t.  Clearly, I must’ve been in the green room for those two dubs.  Manuel Torres is making his UFC debut, and I know as much about him as I do nuclear fission.  He’s coming in off a suspect first-round win on The Contenders series but looked to have technical kickboxing in the two minutes it lasted.  This matchup smacks of an aging veteran being fed to a young lion.  Camacho was finished in the first round of each of his last two bouts.  Manuel Torres via TKO, round two.
Winner: Manuel Torres | Method: TKO Rd.2
Allan Nascimento (-220) vs Jake Hadley (+185)
Nascimento: DK: $7.4k | Hadley: DK: $8.8k
This one has the potential to be the sleeper matchup on the card.  Another Contenders Series alumni, Jake Hadley, is a relatively unknown fighter with an 8-0 record.  From what little I’ve seen of Hadley, he’s a pressure fighter with very unique, unorthodox kickboxing and solid grappling.  This guy fights like he’s fencing, as in the little Arya Stark pointy swords and beekeepers masks.  Hadley fights with his lead hand as a frame held out in front of him like he’s wearing Captain America’s shield.  It looks like he’s on some Three Musketeers type-ish, some Zorro type-ish.  He uses the frame to deflect shots and counter and uses it effectively.  The downside to framing like that, though, is it leaves his body open to attacks, especially his liver side.
I don’t know enough about Hadley’s ground game to know how he’ll match up against the high-level jiu-jitsu of Allan Nascimento.   From the top position Hadley has solid ground and pound and a nasty squeeze on his rear-naked choke that he doesn’t need to get fully under the chin to finish.  But his takedown defense gets a “Needs Improvement” on his progress report, and he’ll need to get his parents signature on it.
This might be one of the rare times you see a fighter prefer to fight from his back.  Paul Craig is one of those types who will pull guard and immediately attack from the bottom.  The problem with that style is that it’s too easy to lose rounds spending too much time on your back if you can’t find a submission.  
Nascimento has a very active guard and subscribes to Dean Thomas’s four s’s: strike, sweep, submission, stand up.  Nas never stops submission hunting and attacking sweeps from the bottom, and his special move is the Kimura.  He hunts for Kimuras as subs and sweeps.  Allan was the man responsible for breaking Dave Chappelle’s attacker’s arm and leaving it a mangled mess as the attacker was hauled away on the gurney.
Nas’ striking doesn’t match his grappling prowess; it’s just stock kickboxing with no bells and whistles.  There are no twenty-two-inch Vogues, no suicide doors spilling peanut butter guts.  It’s just a stick shift with manual locks and roll-up windows.  The number to keep in mind with Nascimento is thirteen; the number of career submission wins on his record.
I have no idea who wins this, and the odds have yet to be released as I write this.  Nascimento will be a submission threat for the duration, and Hadley will have the stand-up edge.  I’ll take the better striker.  Jake Hadley, via decision.
Winner: Jake Hadley | Method: Decision
Jake Hadley
Jake Hadley
Highlighted Matchup
Virna Jandiroba (-175) vs Angela Hill (+150)
Jandiroba: DK: $8.5k | Hill: DK:$7.7k
 If you’re an OG to the Weekly KO, you see Angela Hill’s name, and you already know what time it is.  No other name in the UFC is more synonymous with the infamous Valero in the middle of the Nevada desert known to be the site of countless UFC fighter armed robberies.  Angela Hill was the only witness to US swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous gas station robbery as she was tied up and thrown in the same handicap stall.  
Go watch Angela Hill’s last five fights and try to tell me she didn’t win four of them.  Instead of being 4-1 she’s 1-4 in her last five.  Her only legitimate loss was to Tecia Torres; she won every other fight, but the judges shook her down each time.  That includes her last fight against Amanda Lemos.  Hill got off to a slow first start but won the final two rounds but lost a decision.
I say all that to say this: I like this matchup for Angela.  She can outwork Jandiroba on the feet and is tough to takedown.  If she can keep this fight standing, which isn’t out of the question, she will piece up Jandiroba from the outside all night.  Jandiroba also tends to fade late in fights, and Angela Hill never fades.
Virna Jandiroba is a grappling Bob Ross with thirteen career submissions and is the former Invicta World Champion.  On the hierarchy of elite grapplers, Jandiroba is pulling up the rear of the top five.  Much like Mackenzie Dern, Jandiroba is an elite grappler who struggles to get the fight to the mat.  She lacks traditional takedowns and relies too much on the fence and the clinch.  Virna often gets stuck in kickboxing matches and can only survive with mid-level strikers.
Jandiroba does have a special move on the feet, though.  Virna will cross you up like Allen Iverson with her stare; she can look in two different directions at the same time, creating a sneaky misdirection.  That alone always gives her a puncher’s chance.  But make no mistake, her patch to victory is paved on the mat.  Only two of Hill’s eleven career “losses” have come by submission, but Jandiroba definitely has the grappling chops to finish Hill on the mat.
Jandiroba’s submission prowess has her as the (-165) favorite, making Angela Hill a live underdog.  Unfortunately, when betting on Angela Hill, you have to win two fights, one in the Octagon and one against the judges.  But we came here to kick ass and smoke bowls, and we’re all outta bowls.  Angela Hill via decision.  On wax.
Winner: Angela Hill | Method: Decision
Angela Hill
Angela Hill
Twenty-Twen-Twen Sleepers
Twenty-Ten-Twen Sleeper
It wasn’t pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly last week, but I hit on Carla Esparza at (+180). It sure as hell wasn’t how I thought she could win the fight, but I’ll take it.
At first I didn’t realize that Amanda Ribas is moving up in weight to 125lbs against Katlyn Chookagian. I changed my pick to Chookagian; she’s a savvy vet with championship-level experience and will have the size advantage, but Amanda Ribas is a live dog at (+150). If Ribas stays committed to her wrestling/grappling, she can control the fight on the mat with a long shot at a submission.
Also at (+150) is Angela Hill. Virna Jandiroba is far from an efficient striker, and if she can’t score takedowns consistently, she won’t beat Hill. Hill gets stronger as the fight progresses and will have the stand-up advantage. In a kickboxing match, Angela will out-work/out-point Jandiroba. The big question is, can Angela Hill resist the pre-inflation gas prices offered at a certain Valero gas station? 
Pick ‘Em
Viviane Araujo (-110) vs. Andrea Lee (-110)
            Winner: Andrea Lee
            Method: Decision
Alan Patrick (+130) vs. Michael Johnson (-150)
            Winner: Michael Johnson
            Method: TKO Rd.2
Tatsuro Taira (-240) vs. Carlos Candelario (+205)
    Winner: Tatsuro Taira
            Method: Rear-Naked Choke Rd.2
Nick Maximov (-425) vs. Andre Petroski (+305)
    Winner: Nick Maximov
            Method: Decision
Thanks for reading LineStar Weekly Knockout! We’ll be back next Thursday with another one. Until then, good luck and support your local MMA Gym.
About Me
My name is Chris Guy, and I’m an avid combat sports enthusiast and practitioner. I’ve been a fan of MMA since the early 2000s when Limewire was still around, and I downloaded Bas Rutten’s Big Book of Combat. In 2004, I started training Muay Thai at City Boxing in San Diego, CA. I competed as an amateur for many years, and I’ve also dabbled in Jiu-Jitsu. I follow many different disciplines, such as Combat Ji-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Glory Kickboxing, Boxing, and MMA.
I’m equally as enthusiastic about the craft of writing, and in addition to writing about combat sports, I also write short fiction and music. I hope to bring unique prose to sports writing, and along the way, encourage people to not only become Martial Arts fans but to also become Martial Artists themselves. 
In the future, you may see me refer to the Thunderdome; it’s an ode to the old Mad Max movie and refers to the world-class training facility I built in my one-car garage. It’s complete with throw dummies, wrestling mats, heavy bags, and six months’ worth of Chef Boyardee cans from when I thought the world was going to end back in March. I hope you enjoy my work, and if you don’t, the Thunderdome has an open door policy. 
Check out my Podcast The Whiskey (S)ick Podcast on Apple and Spotify. Parental Advisory Warning
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Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
Chris Guy (MMA Expert) @LineStarApp


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