It wasn’t that type of performance that leaves a lasting imprint on the minds of those who witnessed it, but there’s no denying that Aleksandar Rakic was in complete control against Anthony Smith in the UFC Fight Night 175 headliner.
The Austrian contender utilized leg kicks, positional dominance and ground-and-pound to cruise to a clear-cut unaniomus decision over the former light heavyweight No. 1 contender at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
“I [said] in my interviews this week I need to make a statement,” Rakic said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I’m not going to rush a finish, if the finish comes, it comes. If not, my goal is to make a great performance and this is what happened. In the third, I think I dropped him. I followed up, but I knew Anthony’s a tough guy. He can take a beating and I didn’t want to spend all my energy. I was was secured and that was the gameplan, to get the dominant victory.”
Unofficially, Rakic logged 12 minutes of ground control time in the bout, and that was without attempting a single takedown. It was in those moments that his size and strength advantage was most evident.
“I worked hard on my wrestling and putting pressure on him,” Rakic said. “I made him really tired. I heard in the second and third how he was breathing heavy. The plan was, don’t rush and don’t go for the submissions. If he gave me something really, really, then I’d go for it. The goal was to dominate, put pressure, and to win.”
Rakic has won five of his six UFC appearances, with his lone setback coming in a contentious split-decision defeat against Volkan Oezdemir this past December. While “Rocket” believes he has proven himself as a light heavyweight contender, he has yet to be involved in a five-round fight in the Octagon. Saturday’s bout was elevated to the main event on short notice after the original headliner was scrapped. Rakic vs. Smith remained three rounds as a result.
“I made a great performance tonight and I think I’m next for the title, but if the UFC want to see me in a five-round fight, they can do it,” he said. “I was preparing for a three-round fight, but I could go another two rounds with no problems, so I was ready for five. Can you imagine [a fight] with me getting ready for a five-round fight at this pace? It’s going to be amazing.”
Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will square off for the the light heavyweight crown recently vacated by Jon Jones in the UFC 253 co-main event on Sept. 26. Meanwhile, Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira will meet in another matchup of top contenders in the UFC Fight Night 177 headliner on Sept. 12.
Rakic will be an interested observer for each of those fights.
“I think the hardest challenge for me would be Dominick Reyes,” Rakic said. “He fought a very good fight against Jones. He’s fighting for the title with Jan. Both guys deserve a title shot. But Thiago, Glover and Jan are very strong athletes, and they are here in the top for a reason.
“We’re going to see what the UFC has planned for me next,” he added. “I’m gonna be ready, it’s getting very interesting right now. Jan-Reyes, Thiago-Glover. We’re gonna see what happens.”