Aleksandar Rakic beat Anthony Smith in the headliner of the UFC on ESPN+ 33, justifying all the stories that might be the next best thing in the light heavyweight division.
The Austrian with Serbian origins earned his victory following a unanimous decision, with all three judges confidently scoring in his favor, 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26.
“You know what’s next. The belt is next,” said Rakis (13-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) following the fight, announcing his ambitions.
— UFC (@ufc) August 30, 2020
Right now, the lightweight throne is empty, after Jon Jones vacated the title recently. Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will decide about the new champion at the UFC 253, and apparently, Rakic wants the shot against the winner.
He was harassing Smith (33-16 MMA, 8-6 UFC) right from the start, inflicting Lionheart a lot of pain with strong leg kicks and kick-boxing. But unlike many predicted, we saw the Serb excellent on the canvas too, where he took Smith a couple of times and scored points as well.
Rakic’s tactics included constant chop of Smith’s leading leg, and it is hard to believe that the American didn’t suffer any severe injury in this bout, having in mind the number of absorbed hits to his calves.
All the statistical data is suggesting that this was one-sided domination. Rakic scored a knockdown, had 141 strikes compared to Smith’s 40, while the difference in significant strikes was 44-9 in his favor. The winner was in control 12:14 minutes, while on the other side, the former title challenger just 36 seconds.
After the match, Rakic spoke that he felt a lot of pressure, mostly because this was his first main event since joining the UFC. The lone defeat in this organization came in December 2019, when Volkan Oezdemir managed to interrupt his 12-win streak, with a highly controversial split decision. Many believed that the judges made a massive mistake, for not giving Rakic a win.
Nevertheless, he bounced back with a win here, and is in the combination for big matches. Maybe he won’t receive a title shot immediately, but we can sure expect this guy in some sort of a title eliminator pretty soon.
As for Smith, this was his third defeat in four contests, all of them in main events. The only win was against Alexander Gustafsson. The veteran is on the decline, and if he doesn’t change something in the next few bouts, Smith will definitely lose his status in the division.