Aleksandar Rakic (-290) vs. Anthony Smith (+235)
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (205lbs)
Surging contender Aleksandar Rakic will be squaring up with Anthony “Lion Heart” Smith in a three round main event at UFC on ESPN+ 33. Both fighters are coming off tough losses, with Rakic losing a razor close decision to Volkan Oezdemir his last go around. As for Smith, he was KO’d by Glover Teixeira in the fifth round of a main event slot back in May.
Smith took a hefty amount of damage during the fight, at one point handing his tooth to the ref while adsorbing ground-and-pound. Smith was really pushed around for much of the fight, especially the latter stages. His corner allegedly tried to stop the fight at one point.
Though also a loss, Aleksandar Rakic is coming off of a much closer, and much less damaging fight. The Austrian lost via split-decision in a fight that saw his mobility drastically decrease. It only took a few heavy, lead leg kicks from Oezdemir for a nasty hematoma to appear on Rakic’s leg. It truly was one of the nastiest hematoma’s I’ve seen since I started covering this sport.
Once his legs were compromised, Rakic naturally saw a huge decrease in speed in movement ability overall. He was forced more or less to counter strike, which many thought he did well enough for a win. Ultimately, Volkan squeaked out a decision in my eyes thanks to forward pressure and clinch advantage. It was as narrow as could be, however, and I think Rakic would have won had he been able to move effectively.
Aleksandar Rakic is of course just one fight removed from a highlight reel, head-kick KO of Jimi Manuwa. He is 11-1 overall and has wins over Devin Clark and Justin Ledet on his UFC resume. The Austrian is lightening quick and has an enormous gas tank. He will likely be motivated following the loss and will also be facing his most formidable opponent yet in Smith.
On the ground I may have to give the edge to Smith, but there isn’t much of one. Both fighters have submission threat but Smith just has more mass to Rakic’s reach, which could benefit Smith in wrestling situations.
With that said, I expect this fight to largely play out on the feet. Rakic has excellent take down defense and can work out of the clinch effectively. If it stays on the fight, I like Rakic in a kickboxing match every time.
As good as Anthony Smith is, losing the way he did last go around is never a good sign. Age is one thing in the UFC, but damage is an entirely different ball game. Anthony Smith has one hell of a chin and I’m not saying he’s cooked by any stretch, but I do have to wonder how recovered he is from such a battering. Smith has also racked up over 40 professional fights at just 32 years of age.
For these reasons, I’m going to go with Aleksandar Rakic by knockout (+100). I truly believe that Rakic is a top contender just searching for a big, signature win. The speed he has, coupled with the chin concerns I have about Smith, make an Aleksandar Rakic KO very much in the cards.