At the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, a headlining light heavyweight bout between former title challenger Anthony Smith and prospect Aleksandar Rakic showed there is a new contender in the division.
Rakic cruised to a decision victory (30-27 x2, 30-26) and showed he deserves to be fighting the top guys at light heavyweight.
Smith was never in this fight after eating a series of brutal leg strikes in the opening minute of the first round. Rakic poured on the ground pressure and never let Smith find his rhythm. To the surprise of many experts, Smith entered as a +205 betting underdog despite being the higher-ranked fighter in the division. Rakic was not phased by Smith's experience and looked composed and confident in his first main event appearance.
While this was always an interesting fight on paper, the stakes increased dramatically when Jon Jones decided to relinquish his belt and focus on his move to heavyweight. Suddenly, Rakic seems to be one win away from fighting for a championship in a division loaded with contenders and Rakic made his ambitions clear.
In a little less than a month, Dominick Reyes and Jan Błachowicz will meet in the co-main event at UFC 253 to fight for the vacant belt. While UFC gold may be in Rakic's horizon, he will likely need to continue building his name and show he has a five-round main event in his tank. Fighting the loser of Reyes-Błachowicz may be the perfect stepping stone to catapult him into a title fight.
For Anthony “Lionheart” Smith, this marks his second straight defeat and it’ll be a tough road if he wants to fight for another UFC belt.
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