UFC Vegas 8: Smith and Rakic Battle for Position in the Rankings

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Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic, UFC Vegas 8
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Opponents Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic of Austria face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on August 28, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic will be looking to make big moves up the rankings at UFC Vegas 8 as the light heavyweight division is on the verge of starting a new chapter next month.

If Anthony “Lionheart” Smith was affected by his setback in May, he certainly isn’t showing it.  After a disheartening loss to Glover Teixeira that saw him hand his falling teeth to the referee in the middle of the fight, Smith accepted a bout with the surging Aleksandar Rakic just a few weeks later.  In interviews since then, he claims that the loss to Teixeira does not linger in his system.  Instead, he is bothered more by his prior losses to Jon Jones and Thiago Santos, as he looks to continue to his path back to a UFC title shot.

On paper, Smith is as poised as just about anyone on the roster for a breakthrough.  In his 33 victories, 31 of them have come by some form of finish.  Working as an analyst on ESPN, he gets an opportunity to connect with a bigger fan base by sharing not only his knowledge but also his personality at the desk.  At a time when the division is about to enter a new chapter with a new champion, another impressive victory to add to a resume that includes names like Alexander Gustafsson, Mauricio Rua, and Rashad Evans would go a long a way toward propelling Smith to another shot at the UFC title.

The opportunity at this juncture is certainly not lost on Aleksandar Rakic, who is looking to show that he deserves to be on a 13 fight win streak after a razor-close split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir last December.  Having built up a reputation as a finisher in his native Austria, the decision put a hamper on what was quickly becoming one of the more standout runs in the light heavyweight division.  That said, the nature of the loss had many scoring the bout as a Rakic victory and the booking with Smith would indicate that the UFC is treating it as such.

Entering the UFC in 2017, Rakic got his Octagon career off to a 4-0 start that included stoppages over Devin Clark and Jimi Manuwa.  Now looking to bounce back from his first loss in seven years, Rakic has a huge opportunity as their bout was recently promoted to the main event.  Should he be able to upset the more well-known Smith, a bout against one of the top contenders competing in the next month could get him to his first UFC title shot.

Stylistically, the two heavy hitting athletes bring a high output and the bout figures to be one of the more exciting matchups of 2020.  Smith does his best work with his boxing, doing his damage at mid-range and pushing forward after he’s injured his opponent.  Against Rakic, he must initiate the action as the Austrian product is known for a high output himself and uses a more versatile attack with more kicks and takedowns in his arsenal.  The key for Rakic should be to mix up his offense and use leg kicks and takedowns to wear down the explosiveness of Smith.

The winner of the bout looks poised to face the loser of the one of the upcoming fights: Dominick Reyes vs Jan Blachowicz or Thiago Santos vs Glover Teixeira.  The winners of the aforementioned fights figure to be matched up against each other, which would leave the Smith vs Rakic winner looking at one of the outliers from those bouts as their springboard to get into the title conversation in 2021.

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