Top UFC light heavyweight contenders Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic went toe-to-toe for two intense rounds before an injury forced an unfortunate end to their contest early in the third frame.
After planting his right leg, Rakic dropped to the floor in clear pain, rendering him unable to continue, and Blachowicz was awarded a TKO win at the 1:11 mark of the third round in the main event of Saturday's UFC on ESPN 36 event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The two heavy hitters wasted little time engaging at the start of the contest, trading punches and kicks in close range. Rakic drew blood in the opening minute with a crisp jab that busted up Blachowicz's left eye, and he also chewed up his opponent's lead leg with nasty low kicks. The former champ stood firm, scoring with a heavy left hand of his own later in the frame and also doing damage to Rakic's legs with repeated chopping blows.
Rakic opened the second with a quick takedown, then worked his way through a few submission attempts to establish top position. Blachowicz did his best to stay active underneath, but Rakic was able to maintain the dominant spot until the end of the frame.
As the two looked to engage again in the third, Rakic's right leg visibly rippled from an apparent ligament snap, and he dropped awkwardly to the canvas. Blachowicz showed restraint in refusing to attack an injured foe, but with Rakic unable to defend himself, referee Mark Smith waved off the contest.
With the win, former light heavyweight champion Blachowicz (29-9 MMA, 12-6 UFC) clears himself to potentially fight again for the belt against the winner of June's title fight between current champ Glover Teixeira and challenger Jiri Prochazka, who meet at UFC 275 in Singapore. Meanwhile, Rakic (14-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) sees a two-fight win streak stopped with the setback.
Complete UFC on ESPN 36 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+)
- Jan Blachowicz def. Aleksandar Rakic TKO (leg injury) – Round 3, 1:11
- Ryan Spann def. Ion Cutelaba via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 2:22
- Davey Grant def. Louis Smolka via knockout (punches) – Round 3, 0:49
- Katlyn Chookagian def. Amanda Ribas via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Manuel Torres def. Frank Camacho via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:27
- Allan Nascimento def. Jake Hadley via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+)
- Viviane Araujo def. Andrea Lee via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
- Michael Johnson def. Alan Patrick via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 3:22
- Virna Jandiroba def. Angela Hill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Tatsuro Taira def. Carlos Candelario via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Andre Petroski def. Nick Maximov via technical submission (anaconda choke) - Round 1. 1:16
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.