Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight strikers Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 29, 2020) at UFC Vegas 8 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Smith finds himself in an interesting position. Heading into his bout with Glover Teixeira, Smith was working towards a second title shot, but with Jon Jones holding the bout, that goal seemed nearly impossible. Smith ended up getting smashed by “Hands of Stone,” but with the Light Heavyweight title now vacant, Smith’s chances of getting another shot are better than before! Alternatively, Rakic enters this match up following his first UFC defeat, a real close bout with veteran contender Volkan Oezdemir. The Austrian striker is one of the most exciting young fighters in the Light Heavyweight Top 10, so a big win here in his first main event slot could go a long way.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Key Wins: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 138), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 153), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 134), Rashad Evans (UFC 225), Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 116), Andrew Sanchez (UFC on FOX 24)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 235), Glover Teixeira (UFC Jacksonville), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 125), Cezar Ferreira (TUF 23 Finale)\
Keys to Victory: Smith has been around the sport for a long time now. Over the last decade or so, Smith has really refined his overall game, becoming a more deadly Muay Thai striker and growing much more dangerous on the mat.
Pace seems to be the key to this fight for Smith. In general, a fair amount of his success at 205-pounds has come from out-lasting his opponents. Men like Oezdemir and Alexander Gustafsson found success against Smith, but when “Lionheart” refused to fade, opportunities to shift momentum opened up.
This may only be a three-round fight, but Rakic fights with a lot of explosion behind his strikes, and he did slow against Oezdemir. If Smith can remain active without completely overdoing it (like in the Teixeira bout), there’s a real chance cardio will be the deciding factor in his favor. Otherwise, both of these men like to work with short combinations and follow them with kicks. That style works better on the front foot, so Smith should lead the dance when possible.
Key Wins: Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 153), Devin Clark (UFC 231), Justin Ledet (UFC Fight Night 134)
Key Losses: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 165)
Keys to Victory: Rakic is a real physical specimen at 205 lbs., a man who is consistently taller, longer, and stronger than his opposition. He combines those physical gifts with aggressive kickboxing, marching foes down with power punches then blasting them with kicks at the end of combinations.
As mentioned above, pace will be very important for Rakic. Despite the finish losses on his record, Smith is actually rather durable, so really trying to knock him out early is a recipe for a comeback loss. Fortunately, Rakic has shown the striking skill to pick Smith apart, which could still result in that same stoppage win.
Smith relies a lot of his height and range, but the two are nearly equal in that regard. As a result, some of Smith’s defensive habits that typically work because of his length should leave him vulnerable. For example, Smith rarely checks low kicks, as his opponents are often uninterested in fighting at Smith’s kicking range.
A few digs from Rakic can completely deaden a leg, so chopping into the thigh/calf seems wise.
In addition, a takedown or two doesn’t seem a bad idea for Rakic. He caught kicks and converted them into takedowns against Oezdemir nicely, and limiting Smith’s kicking game a bit would be very helpful in winning Rakic the stand up. He has to be careful not too over-commit to the takedown and tire himself, but a takedown here and there could be quite beneficial.
The Light Heavyweight division is wide open.
Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes are set to collide for the 205-pound title, but what comes next? Regardless of which man wins the belt, it would appear that the victory of Glover Teixeira vs. Thiago Santos is next-in-line for a title shot.
Regardless of who holds the belt at the end of all that, the winner of this fight is the next most deserving contender. Realistically, the timeline will demand another fight however. Former RIZIN star Jiri Prochazka is coming off an amazing debut win, so it seems distinctly possible that the victor of this fight squares off with “Denisa” to secure a shot at gold.
Alternatively, the defeated man will be riding a two-fight losing streak. He’ll still be ranked inside the Top 10, but this vacant title situation is a golden opportunity, and the losing fighter will be unable to capitalize.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card this weekend right here, 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.
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At UFC Vegas 8, Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic will square off in the main event. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?