Jan Blachowicz's journey back to the UFC title got off to an odd start. But the former champ will certainly take it.
Blachowicz defeated Aleksandar Rakic via TKO at 1:11 of the third round after Rakic suffered an injury to his right knee. Blachowicz landed a combination and Rakic took a step back. When he planted his right, rear leg, the knee appeared to give out. Rakic went down immediately and referee Mark Smith stepped in to call the bout off.
Earlier in the week, Blachowicz described his desire to get back the UFC light heavyweight title by likening it to the character Gollum from the "Lord of the Rings" movies attempting to obtain the precious ring. In a division where wins are not easy to come by, Blachowicz wasn't feeling too ashamed about this victory. And he had been performing well leading into the finish.
"He had an injury, it is what it is," Blachowicz said in his postfight interview. "I cannot wait to step inside again with this type of feeling, with this joy. And I hope the UFC gives me the next title shot."
This was Blachowicz's first fight since dropping the light heavyweight title to Glover Teixeira via second-round submission at UFC 267 last October. Coming in, ESPN had Blachowicz at No. 2 and Rakic at No. 5 in the world at light heavyweight.
Blachowicz had a ton of success in the first round with his low leg kicks to Rakic's left calf. By the end of the round, Rakic had swelling and several hematomas on that calf. Rakic went for a takedown and got it in the second round, likely because of how compromised his lead leg was becoming.
"This is our secret weapon," Blachowicz said. "In the gym, we always kick it. ... I knew that he was slowing down, slowing down, slowing down."
Rakic opened up a cut on the inside of Blachowicz's left eye in the first round with a nice jab and did solid work on the ground in the second. In the third, Blachowicz was doing well on the feet, landing a punching combination -- a left hook to the body and overhand right to the head -- with success, plus the leg kicks.
Blachowicz (28-9) had a five-fight winning streak snapped by Teixeira last year. The Polish-born fighter knocked out Dominick Reyes to win the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 253 in September 2020 and then defended it successfully against middleweight champ Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in March 2021. Blachowicz, 39, has won 10 of his past 12 fights.
Rakic (14-3) was coming off a unanimous decision win over Thiago Santos at UFC 259 and had won two straight prior to Saturday. The Austria native of Serbian descent has won six of eight UFC fights overall. Rakic, 30, has been considered one of the top MMA prospects coming out of Central Europe.