Former Light Heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz, returns to the Octagon this Saturday (May 14, 2022) for the first time since losing his belt, headlining the latest event inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, against dangerous contender, Aleksandar Rakic. Earlier that evening, Ion Cutelaba squares off with Ryan Spann in another 205-pound bout, while Frank Camacho and Allan Nascimento welcome Contender Series graduates Manuel Torres and Jake Hadley.
We’ve still two more UFC Vegas 54 “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine (check out the first batch here). Let’s dig in …
125 lbs.: Viviane Araujo vs. Andrea Lee
Viviane Araujo (10-3) followed a brutal one-punch knockout win in her debut by winning three of her next four, among them decisions over veterans Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi. Then came Katlyn Chookagian, who out-lasted Araujo en route to a narrow decision victory.
This fight ends a 364-day layoff because of injury.
Andrea Lee (13-5) went from starting her UFC career 3-0 to losing her next three, including two by split decision. “KGB” has since bounced back with a pair of finishes, among them a bonus-winning beatdown of Cynthia Calvillo in Nov. 2021.
Her eight professional finishes include five via submission.
Araujo’s disinclination to improve or even properly manage her cardio will forever keep her out of contention. Her one-shot power and ground game are genuinely elite for the division and allowed her to control one of the division’s most frustrating fighters in Chookagian early on, but they’re only a threat for two rounds maximum.
Lee, on the other hand, looked better than ever against Calvillo. Though I’m not totally convinced she’s fixed the wrestling issues that have plagued her throughout her career, her consistent, effective striking attack should allow her to hold her own early and take over down the stretch. Though Araujo could grind things out, expect Lee to out-work her to a 29-28 decision.
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Michael Johnson vs. Alan Patrick
Michael Johnson (19-7) broke out of a 1-5 slump with consecutive decisions over Andre Fili and Artem Lobov to kick off his first multi-fight win streak in three years. He has since lost four straight, two of them by comeback finish.
He fights for the first time in 15 months.
Alan Patrick (15-3) quietly put together a 5-1 run to kick off his Octagon career, the only loss coming to a streaking Mairbek Taisumov. He now sits at 0-2 (1 NC) in the last 3.5 years, most recently getting smashed by Mason Jones before escaping with an eye poke “No Contest.”
He stands one inch taller than Johnson and will enjoy a half-inch reach advantage.
I make an effort to not be too trigger-happy with such labels, but Johnson really is one of the biggest choke artists in UFC history. The gap between what he’s accomplished and what he’s capable of accomplishing is absolutely mind-boggling. Luckily for him, Patrick avoids the “underachiever” label by just plain not being very good. Though he has the “MMA Math” advantage thanks to a 2016 win over Stevie Ray, his failure to develop any sort of striking attack has made his smothering top game a non-factor against more athletic and seasoned opposition.
Johnson has one of the worst bottom games I’ve ever seen, so it’s more than possible that Patrick zombies his way to some successful takedown. More likely, though, Johnson chews him up on the feet for a unanimous decision or late stoppage.
Prediction: Johnson def. Patrick via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 54 is not the prettiest card, but I can see it producing some violent finishes. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2022: 71-32
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 54 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 54: “Blachowicz vs. Rakic” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.