UFC Vegas 8: Smith vs Rakic - Major Talking Points

Aleksandar Rakic triumphed over the higher-ranked Anthony Smith with a scoreline of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.

After his loss in December 2019, Aleksandar Rakic (right) was desperate for a turnaround and this showed in his performance on Saturday night. - TWITTER (@UFC)

Three dominant unanimous decision wins highlighted UFC Vegas 8 aka Fight Night 175 at the UFC Apex in Nevada on Saturday. The lower-ranked MMA artists toppled their higher-ranked opponents with ease to make a statement in Las Vegas.

Let’s take a look at what transpired at UFC Vegas 8 and how it’s going to affect the promotion’s future.

RAKIC DEFEATS SMITH TO STAMP HIS AUTHORITY IN THE LH DIVISION

With champion Jon Jones dropping his belt this month, the light heavyweight division suddenly became the most talked-about division in all of UFC. Each one among the top-five contenders was in a position to bag a title bout at least by next year, considering most results went their way. And Saturday’s main event featuring #5-ranked Anthony Smith and #8-contender Aleksandar Rakic had so much at stake.

Rakic, who had lost to #7 Volkan Oezdemir by split decision at UFC Fight Night 165 in December 2019, was desperate for a turnaround and this showed in his performance on the night.

Smith was brought down with a leg kick by Rakic in the second minute of the first round. The former looked to be in trouble briefly before seeing his way through to the buzzer.

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After trading kicks with his challenger in the opener, Rakic continued with the same move at the beginning of the second round. But Smith, who connected with an inch-perfect right hand, seemed to gain the upper hand for a while.

Rakic sent his rival to the canvas and kept him down to close the penultimate round. Smith, after losing two rounds, had to finish off his opponent in the third and final one. But Rakic never gave him an inch as he threw some hard strikes and got on top to avoid any late drama, triumphing over Smith with the judges’ scorecards reading 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.

“I showed the world I’m not only a dangerous striker, but I can also wrestle and dominate on the ground,” Rakic said during the post-fight interview.

 

So what next for the winner? He wants a title fight straightaway. Dominick Reyes, the #1 contender of the light heavyweight division, will take on #3-ranked Jan Blachowicz next month at UFC 253 for the vacant championship and Rakic wants to face the winner of this contest.

“You know what’s next - the belt is next. Reyes vs Blachowicz winner should face me. That’s the next one. That is next for Aleksandar Rakic,” he added.

However, he’s still quite a way off a possible title bout. Thiago Santos, #2 in the division, will collide with #4 Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 177 in two weeks and the victor of that clash will be the next challenger for the belt.

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So Rakic could face off against #6 Jiri Prochazka who is on an 11-match winning streak or, as last resort, re-run the light heavyweight encounter versus Oezdemir in the meantime.

MAGNY GRAPPLES HIS WAY TO VICTORY OVER LAWLER

Former welterweight titleholder Robbie Lawler, who is ranked #13 in the division currently, slumped to the fifth loss in his last six outings after he was undone by #14 Neil Magny at the UFC Apex. Ever since Lawler dropped his belt to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 during July 2016, he has been defeated by Rafael dos Anjos, Ben Askren and Colby Covington before Saturday night, while beating only Donald Cerrone. This might be the right time for the 38-year-old veteran to hang up his boots.

Meanwhile, Magny still has a lot to prove in the welterweight division after this dominant triumph. He was supposed to face #11 Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 8 but the latter withdrew from the event due to health issues. Lawler was a makeshift replacement.

And Magny got the better of the former champ with a triple 30-27 decision from the judges. He was right on top of Lawler with his grappling moves and added some jabs, kicks and knees to his arsenal to seal a pretty comfortable deal.

Neil Magny defeated Robbie Lawler. - TWITTER (@UFC)

 

“I’m doing the right things and I’m going in the right direction. I’m right there for the top-10,” said Magny after his win.

Should Magny go after Neal after such a victory or target a top-10 welterweight adversary? Neal has won seven on the trot and holds the tag of ‘a guy nobody wants to fight.’ On the other hand, with Magny ready to fight anyone at any time, he could make a statement at the expense of Neal too.

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“Any of those guys that are ready to go. Let’s get me another fight this year and make a run at the title,” Magny claimed.

An encounter against a ranked contender from the top-half or a high-profile one versus #12 Nate Diaz is still clearly on Magny’s mind though as he wants to hold the belt someday.

GRASSO SILENCES KIM ON WOMEN'S FLYWEIGHT DEBUT

It’s not easy to move up a division in MMA and above all, facing a top-15 fighter on your debut in the weight category could stretch you to your absolute limits. But Alexa Grasso, who was the #14-contender in the women’s strawweight division, thumped Ji Yeon Kim, her #14 counterpart from the women’s flyweight category, to cap off a memorable first fight in the division.

 

This was another triple 30-27 decision from the judges at UFC Fight Night 175 as Grasso used her smooth and efficient boxing techniques to her advantage in Nevada.

She was quick throughout the three rounds and stayed out of Kim’s reach for most parts of the bout. Grasso would strike her opponent cleanly and move out of range before she could get hurt.

Kim did connect with some neat punches but Grasso’s gameplan paid dividends during the Vegas event. A late takedown concluded the debutant’s mission in style as she proved that belongs to the women’s flyweight division.

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“I feel amazing in this new weight class. I just wanted to show you that I’m a very, very hardworking person. I love my job. Every time I step in the cage, you can see I’m evolving,” Grasso said.

She can now surely look at a top-10 fighter for her next outing. The winner of the contest between #7 Roxanne Modafferi and #9 Andrea Lee at Fight Night 177 could be one potential opponent for her. On the contrary, the MMA artist coming out on top in the Viviane Araujo-Montana De La Rosa flyweight clash next week could be another option for Grasso. Araujo is ranked #8, while De La Rosa is #12 in the division.