UFC Vegas 8’s Anthony Smith: Jones’ Absence Brings the Unknown to Light Heavyweight

It’s about to be a very busy month or so in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

That all kicks off this Saturday at UFC Vegas 8, when Anthony Smith faces Aleksander Rakic. Smith (33-15) is returning after a rough outing, to say the least, against Glover Teixeira. Rakic is looking to bounce back from a close loss to Volkan Oezdemir.

In the weeks that follow, Teixeira will meet Thiago Santos, and Dominick Reyes will face off with Jan Blachowicz for the 205lb title vacated by Jon Jones.

All of that means there’s some extra pressure on “Lionheart” and his opponent this weekend.

“Yeah, yeah there is. And fortunately for me, I tend to perform better when there’s a lot of pressure on,” Smith told Cageside Press during the UFC Vegas 8 media day on Wednesday. “I’d love to get that Jon fight back, so it’s kind of a double edged sword, but it definitely opens up a lot of parity and fun conversations and different match-ups, and it brings a little bit more excitement to the division.”

“But let’s not forget,” continued Smith, “that it’s bringing more excitement to the division because there’s a lot more unknown. Jon Jones was the staple in the division, and people just assumed he was always going to win.”

“Fortunately it gets more exciting when nobody knows really who’s going to win,” Smith observed.

He has a point. While Jones had been tested more than ever in recent outings against Santos and Reyes, he’s ruled the roost so long — with the exception of Daniel Cormier’s reign — that his position as champ seemed a foregone conclusion.

Before Smith can worry about anything else, however, he needs to look at a dangerous opponent in Aleksander Rakic.

“For me, the thing that makes him most dangerous are his intangibles,” Smith stated. “He really believes in himself. He’s confident, he’s got a chip on his shoulder, he believes in his power, and he really believes that he’s the future of the division. Whether that’s true or not, we’ll find out on Saturday. But the fact that he believes it makes him dangerous.”

Once that win is achieved, assuming it is, the Nebraska-based fighter is hoping for a quick journey back to the title. “I would think it’s going to take me no more than two [fights],” Smith suggested. “Rakic and one more.”

The way Smith sees things, he could jump the line “if Glover and Thiago get into a snoozefest, or the winner gets injured, or something like that.”

“It really depends on who wins that fight,” he added. Especially given Glover Teixeira’s recent run. Teixeira handed Smith one of the roughest losses in recent memory back in May, and has had a late career resurgence. “If Glover wins that fight, I will sit down, shut up, and wait my turn. And go do what I’ve got to do to get my title shot. You won’t hear a lot from me arguing about getting a shot over Glover, not because he just beat me, but because he’s done enough. He’s done enough. So I’ll keep my loud mouth shut.”

Should Thiago Santos win, mind you, Smith admitted “there might be a small argument there.”

Watch the full UFC Vegas 8 virtual media day press scrum with Anthony Smith above.