In his first UFC main event, Aleksandar Rakic picked up arguably the biggest win of his career.
The light heavyweight prospect punished former title contender Anthony Smith with kicks on the feet and then battered him with ground and pound to win a one-sided decision after three rounds. The scorecards read 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 with Rakic getting the win as he moves to 13-2 in his career.
“I’m happy with my performance against a veteran and a former title challenger,” Rakic said after having his hand raised in victory. “Everybody underestimates my wrestling and my grappling. I showed the world and I showed the division that I’m not only a dangerous striker, I can wrestle, I can grapple, I can dominate on the ground. These guys need to take me serious cause I’m in the top five now.”
Like he was chopping down a tree, Rakic was attacking Smith’s foundation with a brutal series of kicks to the lead leg throughout the opening round. While Smith did his best to counter with a series of leg kicks of his own, Rakic made that the centerpiece of his strategy in the early exchanges.
As the leg kick assault continued, Rakic actually dropped Smith to the ground with two in a row that saw the former title contender get twisted around before falling to the mat. Despite doing a lot of damage on the feet, Rakic was more than happy to get into a grappling exchange with Smith, which kept him from absorbing any more kicks for the rest of the round.
After a rough start, Smith came out firing in the second round and he connected with a powerful right overhand right that blasted Rakic on the jaw. Unfortunately as Smith closed the distance, Rakic was able to toss him down to the canvas before following him to the ground where he landed on top.
Rakic was content peppering away with short punches as he pressed down on Smith while driving him against the cage, which thwarted any submission attempts from the bottom.
With five minutes remaining, Smith knew he had to get a finish so he came out aggressive in the final round but Rakic made him pay for it. The Austrian unleashed another series of kicks, first to the leg and then to the body and head.
Smith appeared to be rattled with Rakic surging forward in an attempt to score the knockout but the nearly 50-fight veteran was smart enough to grab onto his opponent before dragging the fight to the floor. Still, Rakic remained in complete control as he just battered Smith on the ground until time ran out.
While he was coming off a razor-close split decision loss in his last outing, Rakic made a statement with his victory over Smith at UFC Vegas 8. He’s now looking to put his name into title contention with a new light heavyweight champion about to be crowned at UFC 253 in September.
“You know what’s next. The belt is next,” Rakic said in his post-fight interview. “[Dominick]Reyes-[Jan] Blachowicz, winner, it’s me. This is the next for Aleksandar Rakic.”