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UFC Vegas 8 preview: Jon Jones departure elevates ‘Smith vs Rakic’ on Aug. 29

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) booked the light heavyweight showdown between Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic all the way back in June, a main event for this weekend’s ESPN+ fight card that was met with a collective indifference.

No disrespect to either headliner, but Smith (33-15) is coming off a lopsided defeat to Glover Teixeira and Rakic hasn’t beaten anyone in the Top 15. In addition, the 12-2 “Rocket” is looking to rebound from a loss of his own to veteran bruiser Volkan Oezdemir.

Then Jon Jones went and abruptly surrendered his 205-pound title, giving top contenders Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz the opportunity to bang it out for the vacant strap. Suddenly, what started as light heavyweight filler has now become a contest with legitimate title implications.

“Reyes and Jan, they really deserve to fight for the title,” Rakic told MMA Junkie. “An interesting one is also Thiago Santos against Glover Teixeira, and also me against Smith. So those three fights, when they’re going to end, we’re going to see what happens and we’re going to see who is the first challenger of the winner of Reyes and Jan.”

Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira are both former light heavyweight title contenders who dropped decisions to Jones. They collide on Sept. 12 for what could be the first crack at the winner of Reyes vs. Blachowicz after they throw hands at UFC 253.

That means the winner of Smith vs. Rakic this weekend at UFC APEX in Las Vegas could be one victory away from their own crack at the division crown. That’s a pretty good position to be in for Smith, who lost to Jones in March 2019, as well as for Rakic, who is ranked No. 8 at 205 pounds.

“I need to make a statement on Saturday and I need to shock the world once again with my performance, and let’s see what happens next,” Rakic said. “Now I’m focusing 100 percent on Anthony, and after Saturday, when the fight ends and I get my hand raised, then I’m going to decide what I’m going to do and what I’m going to say to the community.”

Say, “Thanks Jon.” will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at this weekend’s UFC Vegas 8 event click here.