What’s Next: UFC Vegas 54 Losers

Aleksandar Rakic UFC Vegas 54
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 14: (R-L) Aleksandar Rakic of Austria kicks Jan Blachowicz of Poland in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Vegas 54 was a rough night at the office for a couple of fighters on the main card. Setbacks are part of MMA; no one outside a very special few finish their careers undefeated, or even with all their losses avenged. But a loss due to injury is a hard pill to swallow, and Aleksandar Rakic now has to contend with just that. Here’s what could be next for the light heavyweight and other losing fighters from this past Saturday.

Aleksandar Rakic

In terms of divisional relevance and position, Aleksandar Rakic really isn’t hurt by his loss to Jan Blachowicz. His knee gave out, plain and simple. Rakic later revealed he’d suffered an injury in camp three weeks prior that was virtually identical. Actually, he said it was the same, but hey, how often do we get to say that?

Rakic is probably going to be out a while. He has an MRI planned for Monday, which will probably have happened by the time you read this. Is it an ACL tear? How bad? That will determine his time off, but a year wouldn’t be surprising in the least.

Rakic is gunning for a rematch upon his return. Depending on where Blachowicz stands at that point, it’s not the worst idea. That said, it’s hard to play matchmaker in the face of so much uncertainty, and it’s equally hard to make a title fight for Rakic should Blachowicz go on to win the belt. So, this one is essentially, Blachowicz if he’s not holding gold, otherwise, wait and see.

Rakic’s next fight: injury rehab, then maybe Jan Blachowicz

Ion Cutelaba

Ion Cutelaba did what Ion Cutelaba does in the UFC Vegas 54 co-main event. He came out swinging hard. A little too hard. Ryan Spann caught him off-balance and out of position, and locked up a guillotine choke. That’s an unfortunate ending for Cutelaba, who apologized for the loss after the fact. As an aside, fighters should stop doing that: losses are part of the sport, and you don’t owe anything to anyone.

What’s next for Cutelaba? Let’s put him in a fight where swinging for the fences can pay off. Johnny Walker has lost his last two fights. Both these guys can get a bit crazy at times. Might as well have some fun with it.

Cutelaba’s next fight: Johnny Walker

Louis Smolka

Louis Smolka is flirting with disaster in his second run with the UFC. He’s 3-4 since coming back to the fold in 2018, this time as a bantamweight after competing as a flyweight the first time around. He’s also been knocked out in his last two fights.

Khalid Taha is another fighter who badly needs to pick up a win. He was supposed to fight back in February, but had to pull out. If he’s ready to go say, four to five months down the road, book it.

Smolka’s next fight: Khalid Taha

Amanda Ribas

Speaking of fighters coming into UFC Vegas 54 with injuries, we give you exhibit B: Amanda Ribas. After suffering a split decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian in a move to flyweight, Ribas’ father revealed she had torn her bicep ahead of the fight.

Unlike with Rakic, the injury didn’t have an obvious effect on the fight, but who knows what might have happened otherwise? In any case, Ribas fell just short to Chookagian, and must now determine if she wants to stay at flyweight, or move back to strawweight, where the path to a title shot is unquestionably longer.

In this case, probably strawweight. Unless she can no longer handle the cut. Because frankly, the loss to flyweight’s gatekeeper will dog her in terms of getting a push there. At strawweight, meanwhile, book her opposite Angela Hill, who fell short on the prelims at UFC Vegas 54.

Ribas’ next fight: Angela Hill

Frank Camacho

Frank “The Crank” Camacho returned from a lengthy layoff at UFC Vegas 54, which had been forced upon him due to injuries suffered in a car crash. Frank “The Crank” (such a simple, yet fantastic nickname) did not see things go his way, falling by TKO for his third straight loss.

With the loss to Manuel Torres, Camacho is 2-6 in the UFC and may be shown the door. That might sound cold, and circumstances may buy him a stay of execution. If the UFC opts to give him one more fight, it should probably be against another newcomer/relatively new guy. That either gets him a win, or builds up a potential future player. In this case, Trey Ogden is 0-1 in the UFC and looking to bounce back. He has losses from earlier in his career to a couple of current/former UFC guys, as well as a win over prospect Lucas Clay.

Camacho’s next fight: Trey Ogden, or a newcomer

Jake Hadley

Contender Series alum Jake Hadley nearly didn’t make it to the UFC, reportedly due to attitude issues, but Dana White opted to give him a chance. Now, he’s lost his debut, and will need to tread very carefully, and ensure that he gets his hand raised next time out.

Hadley fell to Allan Nascimento, who has roughly three times the experience of Hadley himself. That feels like a bit much in retrospect. Let’s see how he does against Carlos Candelario, who also came up short in his UFC debut this past Saturday. Their records are 8-1 (Hadley) and 8-2 (Candelario), and the timing works out perfect.

Hadley’s next fight: Carlos Candelario