UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakic Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 8 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 • 10:20 PM ET

Las Vegas will host this weekend's UFC event.

A light heavyweight bout between former title challenger Anthony Smith and No. 9 ranked Aleksandar Rakic will headline the UFC’s return to the Apex in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 8 this Saturday.

The No. 5 ranked Smith is coming off a heartbreaking fifth-round TKO loss to Glover Teixeira in May. Smith had Teixeira on the verge of being finished, but he couldn’t close the show and was then finished himself. Throughout the later rounds, Smith was hurt badly, so much so that his corner was criticized for not stopping the fight. The 32-year-old Smith will have a big opportunity to rebound this weekend and could put himself back in the title conversation with a win over a rising contender in Rakic.

Fighting professionally since 2008, Smith (33-15, 8-4 in UFC) has a wealth of experience with key victories over Hector Lombard, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, Volkan Oezdemir and Alexander Gustafsson. He’s trying to move on from his last fight and isn’t paying attention to any critics that might doubt him after being finished by Teixeira.

“I’m kind of pissed off at all the critics anyway, so f-ck ’em,” Smith recently told MMA Junkie. “It’s really about me, man. I tend to always perform better when I am coming off a loss.

“I’ve never lost two in a row in the UFC before. I want to get in there, and I want to pick back up (where I left off).”

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Smith will attempt to reclaim his winning ways on Saturday.

“I’ve been in this (pattern of) starting and stopping, starting and stopping,” Smith said. “Like, I fought Jon (Jones), lost, then I went in and did really well against Alex, get a finish. Got all this momentum, I feel like, and then it turns out my hand is much worse than we thought. I have a couple surgeries, trying to get back from that, then just the goddamned disaster that happened in the Glover fight and everything leading up to it. I just need to get back on the horse and get that momentum rolling again, and that’s my goal, man.

“During the beginning of the Glover camp before the full pandemic, I made a lot of improvements, and I added a lot of things and felt like I made a lot of headway, and then all the bullsh-t happened and the fight went the way that it did. Now I was able to pick back up where I left off with Denver and training at home, and I just, I’m in a good place. I’m super happy. I’m comfortable.”

Rakic was 4-0 in the UFC until winding up on the wrong end of a split decision in December against Oezdemir. He’s 12-2 overall and produced one of the best knockouts of 2019 when he landed a devastating head-kick on Jimi Manuwa.

The 28-year-old is ready for Saturday’s big moment and thinks he can shock the MMA world.

“I respect Anthony,” Rakic said. “He’s a true warrior. He’s a very experienced guy.

“He has many main events. He fought for the title. He’s a really tough guy and a tough challenge, but man, I’m damn ready for this. I’ve been through hell in the last two months for my camp, and I’m ready to put on a hell of a fight, and my performance and my shape is very good, and I cannot wait on Saturday to show the world what I was doing the last two months.”

Rakic also commented on a former light heavyweight champion, while divulging his plans for after Saturday’s fight.

“The time to the title is even shorter now, to get the title,” Rakic said. “But I understand Jon. He wants a new challenge. He’s been in the light heavyweight division his whole career. He was champion at 24. He wants new challenges. Maybe he wants more money in the heavyweight division.

“But maybe I’m going to face Jon Jones in the heavyweight division in the future. You never know. My plans are also to goto the heavyweight division when I finish my business in the light heavyweight division.”

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a welterweight fight between former champion Robbie Lawler and long-time contender Neil Magny.

The No. 13 ranked Lawler will try to rebound from three straight losses, the most recent of which coming to Colby Covington by unanimous decision last August. He won the welterweight title at UFC 181 in 2014 and defended the belt twice before being knocked out by Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in 2016.

The 38-year-old Lawler has been a pro since 2001, defeating some of the best fighters in MMA. He has key victories over Josh Koscheck, Rory MacDonald (twice), Jake Ellenberger, Matt Brown, Johny Hendricks, Carlos Condit and Donald Cerrone.

Lawler is on the back end of his career, but he can prove that he still has the ability to compete with the welterweight division’s elite with a win over Magny.

Magny, the UFC’s 14th ranked welterweight, will ride two straight victories into Saturday’s bout after taking nearly two years off from fighting (Nov 2018-March 2020). He most recently defeated Antony Rocco Martin at UFC 250 in June, and a win over Lawler would certainly boost the 33-year-old’s resume. He already has key victories over Li Jingliang, Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks, Hector Lombard, Kelvin Gastelum, Erick Silva and Tim Means.

Magny has been a top 10-caliber fighter in the division since 2015, regularly being one big win away from entering the title conversation. As he sits at the bottom of the top 15, a win over a legend and former champion could land him back in the top 10 and set him up for a fight with title implications.

Magny originally trained to fight top-10 fighter Geoff Neal, but health complications forced Neal to withdraw from the bout. Magny is excited to have a former champion as a late replacement.

“It caught me a little off-guard,” Magny said during a virtual media interview. “First, when I got the email about Geoff Neal falling out, I was kind of bummed and it was like, ‘Hey, man. Geoff Neal fell out of the fight; we’re keeping you on standby. The next day was like, ‘Hey, Robbie Lawler wants to fight,’ and I was like, ‘Holy crap. This is even better.’

“So it was pure excitement and joy like, ‘Heck, yeah. I get a new opponent, and it’s a guy who’s a legend, a guy who I can really go out there and make a name for myself against.’ I was super excited to get that matchup.”

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. EST

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 14 Ji Yeon Kim vs. No. 14 (strawweight) Alexa Grasso

Featherweight bout - Ricardo Lamas vs. Bill Algeo

Light heavyweight bout - No. 13 Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba

 

ESPN+ Prelims at 6 p.m. EST

Middleweight bout - Maki Pitolo vs. Impa Kasanganay

Women’s strawweight bout - Mallory Martin vs. Hannah Cifers

Middleweight bout - Alessio de Chirico vs. Zak Cummings

Featherweight bout - Alex Caceres vs. giga Chikadze

Women’s strawweight bout - Polyana Viana vs. Emily Whitmire

Welterweight bout - Sean Brady vs. Christian Aguilera

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