UFC continued its stay in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the UFC APEX last night (Sat., Aug. 29, 2020) for UFC Vegas 8. For the second time in as many weeks, the event was heavily carried by the top half of its card, a genuinely notable contest between Light Heavyweight contenders Anthony Smith vs. Aleksandar Rakic, as well as a fun veteran fight between Robbie Lawler and Neil Magny. Otherwise, the rest of the card was marred by cancellations and weight misses, though their was still fun to be had.
Let’s take a closer look at the slickest techniques and best performances:
Smith’s Painful Blueprint
Smith walked into his sixth main event in a row last night. That type of streak is great for one’s bank account, but it’s actually something of a negative when it comes to affecting performance.
See, the book is written on “Lionheart.” Continual improvements over the years or not, we’re talking about a guy with dozens of professional fighters who’s been doing this for quite some time. The holes in his game are there to stay, and they’re only growing more glaring as they’re exploited on the big stage every three-to-nine months.
If nothing else, Rakic proved himself smart enough to watch film and learn from it last night. Smith does not like getting kicked in the leg, it ruins all his jabbing and counter hooking, strikes that are partially responsible for Smith’s recent rise in relevance. Rakic — who already quite likes kicking the leg and kicks with a menacing thud regardless of target — put two and two together, kicking Smith’s lead leg to pieces in the opening 90 seconds.
The rest of the fight didn’t even really need to happen. Smith showed his heart, but Rakic overpowered him and gained top position. Then, the waiting game, as Rakic coasted to an easy decision win that will move him into the top five.
It wasn’t an amazing fight, but blaming Rakic for taking the path of least resistance is stupid. Instead, have a note of sympathy for Smith, who once again had his flaws demonstrated for all the hungry 205-pound up-and-comers to see. Though those prospects likely have their own technical issues, none will be as well broadcasted as Smith’s problems.
Neil Magny put on an incredibly complete performance last night.
It’s quite true that Robbie Lawler was unfortunately quite flat last night (read more on that HERE!) but that doesn’t mean we should discount all the improvement Magny showed. Magny was at his smothering best last night, taking advantage of small opportunities to make Lawler miserable.
For example, Lawler strangely shot for a takedown early in the first round. Magny didn’t just stuff the shot and slip away or even re-shoot. Instead, he secured the bolt cutter position — a jiu-jitsu move that sets up the d’arce choke — and simply weighed down on Lawler’s neck. He trapped him in a crappy position, tired him out, and hammered the body.
That’s smart work.
Additionally, Magny’s offense simply looked crisp. His jabs and cross were not for show; he was touching Lawler up! That was especially true in the clinch, where Magny landed knees that likely knock out lesser men. All in all, it was a great showing for the veteran.
Jiu-Jitsu Saves Lives
Major underdog Hannah Cifers nearly landed a pretty amazing knockout in the very first round.
Mallory Martin — the grappler — was willingly exchanging with her opponent, confident in her toughness and chin (and perhaps the general lack of power in the women’s Strawweight division). Cifers proved that a poor idea, dropping a picture-perfect overhand direct to the chin, briefly knocking Martin out.
Martin woke up and worked to her feet, which did not work well. Still wounded, Martin stumbled around the Octagon and got smashed by punches. The finish seemed imminent, but Martin wisely realized that standing back up was only going to get her further beaten up.
So, she jumped guard! A generally bad strategy, but this time, it allowed her to survive the round and regain her legs.
In round two, Martin immediately went back to her wrestling. She scored with a trip along the fence, quickly advanced into mount, then bloodied and finished her opponent with relative ease. That likely should have been the strategy from the first bell, but Martin wouldn’t have scored such an impressive comeback had that been the case!
- Alex Caceres defeats Austin Springer via first-round rear naked choke: Don’t look now, but Caceres might be finally coming into his own after like a decade of inconsistency! Caceres has always been tough and tricky, but he looked noticeably more muscular last night. While his opponent did take the bout on short-notice — so let’s not get too hyperbolic — Caceres looked sharp right away, timing an early high kick to wobble Springer right off the bat. In general, Caceres seemed to be sitting down on his punches a bit more than usual, which helped him land the submission victory.
- Sean Brady defeats Christian Aguilera via second-round guillotine: It’s time to recognize Brady as a likely top 15 Welterweight. The Philadelphia-native picked up his third-straight victory inside the Octagon last night, improving his record to 12-0. More than his undefeated record, Brady has shown such veteran skill and composure. He’s an excellent pocket boxer, can kick hard, wrestle well, and he damn near decapitated Aguilera with this choke! Aguilera showed some grit on short-notice, but he was simply out-matched by a really excellent Welterweight.
- Polyana Viana defeats Emily Whitmire via first-round armbar: Here’s a pro tip for my readers who watch fights with family and friends: whenever a pair of athletes in the Strawweight division land in guard, and neither woman is ranked inside the top 15, immediately tell anyone listening that the girl on bottom is setting up an armbar. Roughly every single time, you’ll look like a prophet! Once again, the Strawweight armbar made an appearance, as Whitmire scored a takedown then settled into full guard. Fast-forward a minute or so, and Viana’s legs climbed high and isolated the arm to force a tapout ... rebounding from a loss in which she was forced to tap to a similar armbar.
For complete UFC Vegas 8: “Smith Vs. Rakic” results and play-by-play, click HERE!