The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight division takes center stage this Saturday (Aug. 29, 2020) when former 205-pound title challenger, Anthony Smith, faces Austrian knockout artist Aleksandar Rakic in main event of UFC Vegas 8, which takes place inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap are a Welterweight clash pitting Neil Magny against the ever-destructive Robbie Lawler and what figures to be Flyweight fireworks between Ji Yeon Kim and Alexa Grasso.
Before all that, though, we’ve got half-dozen “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine. Here’s the first batch ...
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Giga Chikadze
Alex Caceres (16-12) — who struggled through a 2-5 skid from 2014 to 2017 — now finds himself with wins in four of his last six bouts. He’s won two straight since falling to Kron Gracie, narrowly edging Steven Peterson last year and utterly dominating Chase Hooper nine months later.
“Bruce Leroy” stands two inches shorter than Giga Chikadze (10-2) and gives up a half-inch of reach.
Chikadze’s “Contender Series” bout in 2018 ended in disaster when Austin Springer scored a comeback submission in the final minute of the final round. After two gimme wins in Gladiator Challenge, Chikadze got his shot in the Octagon, where he’s won three straight over Brandon Davis, Jamall Emmers and Irwin Rivera.
All seven of his stoppage wins have come in less than three minutes.
Chikadze’s fight with Emmers showed that he’s still vulnerable to pressure and aggressive wrestling, which “Pretty Boy” simply failed to utilize until Chikadze had built an insurmountable lead. While Caceres has the submission skills to ruin Chikadze’s day if it hits the mat, he lacks the style or takedown prowess to bring them to bear. His mobile, out-fighting style plays right into the Georgian’s hands, and he’ll likely struggle to get the clinches he needs to bring Chikadze to the mat.
Caceres admittedly has a habit of flipping the script and making me look extremely stupid, so an upset isn’t out of the question, but I have more faith in Chikadze’s kickboxing than in the universe’s desire to thwart me at every turn. Chikadze chews him up at range for a wide decision.
Prediction: Chikadze via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Polyana Viana
These two were booked to fight in March before “Spitfire” missed weight and was subsequently pulled. Since recycling is important, I’ll be copy-pasting ...
Emily Whitmire (4-3) took out Christina Marks with a 40-second armbar in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26, but suffered stoppage losses of her own to Roxanne Modafferi in the house and Gillian Robertson at the Finale. She went on to win her next two, including an upset of Jamie Moyle, before running into Amanda Ribas in Minneapolis.
“Spitfire” faces a 3.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Polyana Viana (10-4) — a decorated submission artist — showed her stuff in her Octagon debut by dominating Maia Kahaunaele-Stevenson. She hasn’t tasted victory since, losing three straight and tapping to Veronica Macedo in her most recent effort.
All but one of her 10 stoppage wins have come in the first round.
Viana absolutely has the tools to win this fight. She also had the tools to beat J.J. Aldrich, Hannah Cifers and Veronica Macedo, and look how that turned out. I don’t know whether it’s a mental block or just an overall inability to fight up to her potential, but Viana is a profoundly frustrating fighter to follow.
That said, “Spitfire’s” wrestling and submission defense have failed her in the past, and Viana’s grappling credentials are pretty dang impressive. This pick will probably come back to bite me, but I say Viana claws her way back into the win column with an early submission.
Prediction: Viana via first-round submission
170 lbs.: Christian Aguilera vs. Sean Brady
Christian Aguilera — who fell short in both of his LFA main events — got the call to face Anthony Ivy in June after winning two straight. He made the most of the opportunity, smashing “Aquaman” in just 59 seconds for an upset victory.
Ten of his professional wins, including six of his last seven, have come by knockout.
Sean Brady (12-0) claimed the CFFC Welterweight title back in 2017 with a guillotine finish of Tanner Saraceno, then successfully defended it against Mike Jones and Taj Abdul-Hakim. He’s found similar success in the Octagon, claiming decisions over Court McGee and Ismail Naurdiev.
He’ll enjoy one inch of height and a half-inch of reach on Aguilera.
I expected Aguilera’s grappling issues to cost him in his debut, but he handily side-stepped that hazard by just pulverizing Ivy before he could shoot. I don’t expect things to be anywhere near as easy against Brady. The Renzo Gracie-trained product is exponentially more comfortable on the feet than Ivy, who’s long been prone to simply covering up under fire, and boasts more than enough wrestling chops to Aguilera out of his comfort zone.
“The Beast” appears notably outclassed in practically every area besides power, and Brady’s never shown the sort of durability issues that would let Aguilera turn things around in one shot. Brady out-techniques him on the feet and racks up long stretches of top control for a decision win.
Prediction: Brady via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 8 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, including the the debut of a two-time “Contender Series” winner in the featured undercard match. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 9 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 8: “Smith vs. Rakic” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.