Last Updated May 18, 2022, 10:20 AM

UFC Vegas 54 Picks, Predictions, Odds

This weekend former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz, takes on top contender Aleksandar Rakić in Vegas.

Blachowicz is coming off a tough loss against Glover Teixeira in a fight where he lost his title. Meanwhile, Rakić is coming off a rather uneventful outing against former title challenger Thiago Santos last year. Both men are hungry for a flashy win here.

In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 54 Light Heavyweights Ryan Spann and Ion Cutelaba will lock horns in what promises to be an action-packed bout between two heavy hitters.

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Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakić Betting Picks

Blachowiczvs.Rakić
39Age30
6’ 2”Height6’ 5”
78”Reach78”
205 lbs.Weight205 lbs.
OrthodoxStanceOrthodox
28-9-0Record14-2-0
8KOs9
9Subs1
StrikerStyleStriker

Former champion Jan Blachowicz is looking to get right back in the title mix and a win over 205-pound prospect Aleksandar Rakić is the best way to do it.

The tale of Jan's 'polish power' was his trademark during his short-lived reign as champion, however I think we might've gotten carried a bit away in regards to that. In the light heavyweight division anyone can hit hard, and although I do think Jan has power above the average fighter, I don't think it's close to being an x-factor for him.

But if we stay on the power for a minute, I think it's obvious that Jan is able to land these bigs shots on guys that walk him down and meet him in the middle. Rockhold, who isn't exactly known for his chin, was walking directly into the pocket constantly and paid for it in the end. Reyes did the exact same thing, as did Anderson. Apart from his impressive five-fight win streak that won him the title, where has the power been? I don't buy all the talk of his power - Blachowicz is a decisionater when it's all said and done. That's not a knock on the guy either, because I think people are underselling his composure to a great extend and focusing solely on his power. In my eyes, a simple power puncher would not be able to go the distance with Israel Adesanya and win a decision.

My concern is what happens when he faces someone who doesn't bum-rush him yet stays on the outside and picks him apart. The Adesanya fight was obviously a good performance from Jan, however Izzy was undersized in that fight, let's not discount that as anything but a fact. Rakić is a really big guy for the division at 6' 5", and he'll be the tallest guy Jan has fought in the UFC.

Although I was really high on Rakić in the beginning of his UFC tenure, his last fight left me confused. Landing less than 40 punches in 15 minutes against an old Thiago Santos with no knees is really uninspiring. Santos does have a lot of power, and perhaps Aleksandar just fell into a state of being overly cautious. Regardless, he cannot show up and do nothing for 15 minutes because Jan will win that decision.

It's a tough one to call, because both fighters are amazing at their best, but recent outings from both make me question the composure of both men. Rakić is usually a great striker, but not when he just does nothing for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Blachowicz is a good counter striker, but only when his opponents give him the opportunity.

All in all I think overall career trajectories will decide who wins this one. Blachowicz has had his time at the top, I think, and Rakić is the new blood in the division. The losses Blachowicz has on his record, along with the fact that he looked completely off in his fight against Glover makes me side with the youngster in Rakić.

Prediction: Aleksandar Rakić def. Jan Blachowicz.

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Ryan Spann vs. Ion Cuțelaba Betting Picks

Spannvs.Cuțelaba
30Age28
6’ 5”Height6’ 1”
79”Reach75”
205 lbs.Weight205 lbs.
OrthodoxStanceSouthpaw
19-7-0Record16-6-1
5KOs12
11Subs2
StrikerStyleStriker

In the co-main we also find ourselves in the 205-pound division.

In my mind Spann is a bit of a glass canon. What I mean by that is he can KO anybody with the right shot, however most guys can do the same to him at any given moment. This makes most of Spann's fights against good strikers a toss-up for him at best, in my opinion.

Cutelaba took two consecutive L's to Ankalaev via KO in 2020, and because of his aggressive style I feared it might mess him up mentally in subsequent bouts. Getting put out cold like that can change fighters. That didn't seem to be the case though, and in his last bout he dismantled Devin Clark for three straight rounds. He is still all there, aggressive as ever, and he still has the motivation to perform.

Neither fighter has impressed me with their cardio, however Cuțelaba has improved more as of late. Spann does his best work in the first, by far.

It really comes down to: if these two end up in a shootout, who ends up still standing? I think Cuțelaba has shown to possess that grit more in his fights than Spann has, and outside of that Ankalaev KO his chin has been sturdy. A good shot from anyone will put down Spann in my mind, and if Cutelaba just gets this fight into a phone booth, which he usually does, I think both will land their shots but Spann will go down.

Numbers-wise Ion has Ryan beat too, averaging well over four punches every minute while Spann only does a little over three. Wrestling should favor Cutelaba too, and Spann's alleged jiu-jitsu skill should keep this fight on the feet where Cuțelaba gets the job done.

Prediction: Ion Cuțelaba def. Ryan Spann

Davey Grant vs. Louis Smolka Betting Picks

Grant vs.Smolka
36Age30
5’ 8”Height5’ 9”
69”Reach68”
135 lbs.Weight135 lbs.
OrthodoxStanceOrthodox
13-6-0Record17-8-0
3KOs8
8Subs7
StrikerStyleStriker

At bantamweight two tough fighters try to get back in the win column.

Louis Smolka is the more experienced UFC fighter here, however the fact that he was cut and is now fighting on his second stint is a red flag statistically. Most of the time this is only a red flag when the fighter on a second stint is favored however. At plus money the increased liability is already baked into the price.

Davey Grant is a fun guy with a sturdy chin, having never been knocked out in his pro tenure as a mixed martial artist. This is impressive considering he's faced nasty finishers such as Marlon Vera (twice) and Adrian Yanez. I get the feeling that Grant is just a tad overpriced coming into this fight though, mostly due to the fact that he just had a good showing, although a losing one, against aforementioned Adrian Yanez.

At the same time Louis Smolka, the more experienced fighter on paper, is a massive underdog, most likely due to the fact that he was flatlined in round one against Vince Morales in December of last year.

Smolka is an inconsistent fighter, no doubt about that, but what does that make Davey Grant who is 4-5 in the UFC?

I won't put too much into Smolka' most recent loss - this is MMA and flash-KOs like that can happen to anyone. I think he can pull himself back.

Grant is the type of guy who wins, or at least does well, in the fights he should be losing, and loses the fights he should be winning. Historically, that's been the narrative with him.

I think it's interesting that Grant has been priced as a pretty steep underdog in most of his UFC bouts, and only now, coming off two straight losses, is he getting the 'respect' he deserves from the betting market. Logically it doesn't really make sense considering he hasn't been winning.

Striking-wise Davey has power, but he will not be able to blow Smolka out of the water by any means. For that reason alone, I think the odds make a bet on Smolka justifiable. He is far too well-versed against good competition to be such a big 'dog.

This is a toss-u where we can get a discount on the underdog due to recency bias from the betting market. The favorite has lost two straight here.

Prediction: Louis Smolka def. Davey Grant.

Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas Betting Picks

Chookagian vs.Ribas
33Age28
5’ 9”Height5’ 4”
69”Reach66”
125 lbs.Weight125 lbs.
OrthodoxStanceOrthodox
17-4-0Record11-2-0
2KOs3
1Subs4
StrikerStyleGrappler

Amanda Ribas moves up to flyweight to take on former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian.

Chookagian is the definition of a point fighter. She has yet to finish, let alone knock an opponent down inside the UFC octagon. When she goes the distance she is pretty consistent though, winning 10 of the 12 UFC bouts where she's seen the scorecards.

Katlyn is tall for flyweight which means she can stand and pick opponents apart from range. The fact that Ribas, a strawweight, takes on one of the largest flyweights on the roster makes me wonder how much the size discrepancy will play into this fight. On paper, Ribas only has a two-inch reach disadvantage, but the six-inch height discrepancy adds to that too.

Historically, Ribas has been punished by the girls who can hit hard. Due to the fact that she doesn't have the best chin she's been on the losing end of some knockouts. In this fight however, she faces the, perhaps, softest puncher on the entire roster which means she will be walking Katlyn down without getting too discouraged from entering the pocket.

Grappling-wise Ribas is levels ahead of someone like Chookagian who concedes a takedown in just about every one of her fights.

Betting-wise I think its weird that Ribas is the underdog. I personally have this as a pick'em fight. One the off chance that Ribas cannot secure any takedowns over the course of 15 minutes, I still think she will be able to get off some good offense and could even win a striking battle here, simply due to the fact that Katlyn only throws to score points. At the same time, the difference in size makes it harder for someone like Ribas who is accustomed to grappling with smaller girls go out there and chain wrestle against Chookagian.

The odds are what make me lean toward Ribas. Not only does she have a big advantage on the mat, which is always big in MMA, she also has the better striking stats with superior defense, offense and volume.

As always, the smaller octagon favors the grappler, which is a little factor that can have great significance in fights like these.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas def. Katlyn Chookagian

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