- Date & Location: Saturday Aug. 29 @UFC Apex, Las Vegas, NV.
- Odds: Anthony Smith +240, Aleksandar Rakic -310
- Prediction: Rakic by knockout
The UFC is once again in Las Vegas for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ event. In the headlining bout, former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith faces the rising Aleksandar Rakic.
Smith, who lost a five-round decision to Jon Jones for the 205-pound crown in March 2019, is coming off a brutal TKO loss to Glover Teixeira in March. Rakic, who lost his first professional contest and then ran off 12 straight wins, is coming off a split-decision setback to former UFC title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. That contest took place in December.
The official UFC rankings have Smith at No. 5 in the light heavyweight division and Rakic at No. 8.
SMITH vs. RAKIC ODDS
SMITH vs. RAKIC PREDICTION & PICK
Smith joined the UFC in 2013 with the promotion’s purchase of Strikeforce. He lost his UFC debut. The UFC released him after that defeat. He spent the next two years fighting for five different promotions, going 7-0 and winning the Victory FC middleweight crown. Smith went 4-2 as a middleweight with the UFC before moving to light heavyweight in mid-2018. Three stoppage wins earned him the fight against Jones. Between his losses to Jones and Teixeira, Smith submitted three-time light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.
At 32, Smith has fought 48 times. That’s a lot of miles for an MMA fighter who is relatively young. The question about Smith is how is he going to look after the beating he took from Teixeira. That was an ugly loss. It got so bad that Teixeira eased off on his striking to go for a submission before he finished Smith with strikes in Round 5. Referee Jason Herzog later apologized for letting the fight go so long. It hasn’t been that long since that fight and recovery time is a big concern with Smith, who is 33-15 in his career.
The 28-year-old Rakic has not been as busy as Smith. Rakic has a career record of 12-2. Those losses came more than eight years apart. Rakic has nine victories by knockout, one submission win and two decision triumphs. The two fights where he went the distance in winning were both in the UFC. Two of his knockouts — both of the first round variety — came with the UFC. He joined the promotion in 2017 and he is 4-1 under the UFC banner.
When you combine Rakic’s knockout ability and Smith’s short recovery time from the Teixeira loss, it’s hard to pick against the up-and-coming Rakic.
Pick: Rakic (-310)
BETTING VALUE WITH RAKIC
Rakic can go the distance as he showed against Oezdemir, but he rarely needs to do so because of his powerful striking. His 47-second head kick starching of Jimi Manuwa was a perfect example of that power. Rakic only landed two strikes in that fight and the second one was the kick that left Manuwa totally unconscious for a scary long time after the stoppage.
Rakic’s power and Smith’s willingness to step back into the octagon so quickly after absorbing 202 total strikes from Teixeira make a knockout win likely, but Smith is a resilient fighter, so a decision win for Rakic could be possible.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
I expect Smith and Rakic will spend most of this fight on their feet. With that, Rakic has the statistical edge. Rakic lands 5.17 significant strikes per minute, which puts him at No. 6 all-time in that category in UFC light heavyweight history. Meanwhile, he gets hit just 2.41 times per minute. Rakic’s strike differential of plus 2.76 is second best in UFC light heavyweight history.
Smith does not compare statistically to Rakic. He lands 3.19 significant strikes per minute and absorbs more than that at 4.57, which is far from ideal. What makes it worse in this matchup is that Rakic is active in striking as well as powerful. That’s a bad recipe for Smith’s chances at victory.
FIGHT STATS: SMITH vs. RAKIC
|Anthony Smith||Category||Aleksandar Rakic|
|3.19||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||5.17|
|4.57||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.41|
|0.45||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.20|
|0.70||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.3|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The stakes for this matchup are higher for Smith than they are for Rakic, but that doesn’t mean Rakic doesn’t have a lot to lose. He does.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones recently vacated the title. On September 26, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the division, will fight for the light heavyweight crown. The winner of this bout has a decent shot at being the first challenger for the newly crowned champion.
If Smith loses to Rakic, his days of being a title contender could be limited and he could easily slip into a gatekeeper role. Rakic, at just 28 and without a UFC title fight on his record, will be able to rebuild from a defeat and get back in the mix. However that will take some time.