Jon Jones’ departure has left the light heavyweight division without a champion, and – with the possible exception of No. 1 contender Dominick Reyes – without a clear hierarchy of contenders for the vacant title. That gives Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic room to make their cases in the main event of UFC Fight Night 175 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Smith (33-15) enters the fight as the No. 5 light heavyweight contender, while Rakic (12-2) slots in at No. 8.
Smith Ready to Bounce Back from Loss — Again
The 32-year-old Smith has fought a dozen times in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2016. He earned himself a shot at Jones’ title in March 2019, but came up short, losing by unanimous decision. After submitting Alexander Gustafsson last June, he most recently suffered a brutal fifth-round TKO loss to Glover Teixeira at one of the UFC’s Jacksonville shows back in May.
“I tend to perform better when I am coming off a loss,” Smith told MMA Junkie. “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.”
Reyes will fight Jan Blachowicz for the vacant light heavyweight title in September. But the winner of that fight will eventually have to defend the title, and Smith believes he and Rakic are right in the mix for that next shot, with one possible exception.
UFC Fight Night 175 Odds
- Anthony Smith (+220) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (-290)
- Robbie Lawler (+200) vs. Neil Magny (-260)
- Alexa Grasso (-325) vs. Ji Yeon Kim (+240)
- Ricardo Lamas (-300) vs. Bill Algeo (+230)
- Magomed Ankalaev (-350) vs. Ion Cutelaba (+260)
Odds via PointsBet
“I think that Thiago [Santos], Glover [Teixeira], myself, and Rakic are kind of in a race right now to see who can have the most impressive win because I think that’s what it comes down to,” Smith said. “Unless Glover wins. To be very honest with you, if Glover wins, I’ll keep my mouth shut and stay out of his way.”
Win Could Catapult Rakic to Stardom
Rakic enters the fight as a -290 favorite over Smith (+220), but also as the lesser-known name, at least to American UFC fans. That gives Rakic the perfect platform to prove what he can do in front of a huge audience against one of the most respected names in the division.
“I respect Anthony,” Rakic told MMA Junkie. “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.”
The co-main event features welterweights Robbie Lawler (28-14) and Neil Magny (23-7). The 33-year-old Magny enters as a -260 favorite over Lawler, who is riding a three-fight losing streak heading into the fight.