Anthony Smith is the UFC’s odd man out at light heavyweight

Anthony Smith

There appears to be an odd man out in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16) now finds himself in a difficult spot after suffering a recent injury. There were advanced talks to have Smith face Aleksandar Rakic in December.

However, Smith had to pull out of the fight due to knee surgery and the UFC decided to move in a different direction. While the fight with Smith could happen a few months later, the UFC pivoted and booked Rakic in a main event against former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.

Smith is currently ranked fourth in the light heavyweight division. The only men above him are Rakic, Jiri Prochazka, Blachowicz, and the champion Glover Teixeira. Jiri Prochazka is expected to face Teixeira for the title sometime during the spring.

This leaves Smith as the odd man out at 205 pounds. Smith said this week that he would be frustrated if the UFC gave Rakic the fight against Blachowicz after Rakic has turned down multiple fights. In the end, the frustration wasn’t enough and the promotion booked that fight anyway.

What does the UFC do with Lionheart?

As mentioned, Smith is currently working his way back from a staff infection and knee surgery. Smith told MMA Fighting this week that he would be frustrated that he wouldn’t get the fight with Blachowicz after Rakic has turned down multiple fights while Smith has turned into a gate keeper.

Smith took on up and coming contenders and dominated three of them in his last three fights. Those wins snapped a losing streak which featured a loss to Rakic. The UFC likely gave Rakic the nod due to the fact that he won a head to head battle with Smith. Nevertheless, Smith has a point about Rakic’s inactivity.

The next two guys behind Smith, Magomed Ankalaev and Thiago Santos, are booked to face each other in March. Those two would make the most sense for Smith, but now the only fight out there for him might be a battle against a fellow former UFC title challenger.

In looking at the division, the only opponent that makes real sense is Dominick Reyes (12-3). Reyes has been taking some time off after suffering three straight defeats. Granted, two losses came in title fights and one came in a title eliminator against Jiri Prochazka.

Reyes is likely going to be looking for an opponent soon and Smith needs one. On paper, one might wonder why someone with three straight losses would fight someone with three straight wins. Simply put, these are the two best guys not booked in the top ten, and it would be a great fight.

Time will tell what the UFC decides to do. Perhaps Smith becomes the alternate for the title fight with Prochazka and Teixeira. Nevertheless, he’s in a very tough spot and is likely going to be in limbo for the short term.

UFC books headliner between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic

Corey Anderson

The UFC has finalized a big time main event in their light heavyweight division. After Ariel Helwani first reported the possibility yesterday, the UFC finalized a headliner between former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz (28-9) and Aleksandar Rakic (14-2).

The matchup will headline a Fight Night on March 26th. In all likelihood, this matchup will be a title eliminator at 205 given where both men stand in the division. Back in 2017, Rakic made his UFC debut and he’s been close to perfect.

Since debuting, he’s gone 6-1 with the lone loss coming to Volkan Oezdemir. However, most believe that Rakic won that fight but was the victim of a bad decision by the judges. Since that loss, he’s won two straight.

Those two straight wins came over former title challengers Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. There was talks of Rakic fighting Smith again in December, however, that fell through after Smith pulled out with an injury.

Rakic last fought at UFC 259 when he took on Thiago Santos. When we see Rakic next, it would have been just about a year away from the cage. After the layoff, he’s going to have a massive challenge in front of him.

Former UFC Champion Returns

After struggling early in his UFC career, Jan Blachowicz completely turned things around over the past few years. The Polish Power went on an incredible run that saw him go 9-1 and he captured the light heavyweight title.

The biggest win of that stretch was when he handed Israel Adesanya the first loss of his professional career back at UFC 259. Recently, Blachowicz took on Glover Teixeira at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi.

Blachowicz really never got going in the fight and was ultimately stopped by the 41 year old Brazilian. Now, Blachowicz will try to get back and get to his UFC light heavyweight title. To do that, he will need to defeat a man who could say that he’s truly never been defeated in the octagon.

At this time, there’s no timeline for the potential title fight between Teixeira and top contender Jiri Prochazka. However, that fight is likely going to take place around this same time which sets this fight’s winner up perfectly to be the next in line barring injuries.

What happened to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267?

Corey Anderson

It’s been a few days since we saw UFC 267 where Jan Blachowicz (28-9) lost his light heavyweight title to Glover Teixeira (33-7). Of course, the day of the event and the follow up days have all been focused on the 42 year old Teixeira who captured UFC gold after all of these years.

The story is too good to ignore and Teixeira deserved all the shine that he got. However, I started thinking about the former champion. Thinking about the incredible run that he went on over the past few years that saw him capture UFC gold.

Jan Blachowicz was at one point 2-4 in six fights. He truly looked like a fighter who was about to be cut by the UFC. However, things started to change and the Polish Power presented itself. Blachowicz’s would go on a stretch where he was 9-1.

In those wins he had wins over Israel Adesanya, Dominick Reyes, Corey Anderson, Luke Rockhold, and others. He truly looked like the best light heavyweight in the world not just in the UFC. However, Saturday night, he didn’t look close to being the best in the world.

What happened at UFC 267 and what’s next?

The performance was not good from Blachowicz on Saturday. He was beaten to the punch on the feet by Teixeira and he had no answer for Glover’s takedowns. Anyone who is anyone knew that the only way Teixeira would win is by getting takedowns.

He was able to get them easily at UFC 267. Blachowicz never landed anything of significance that backed off Teixeira. In the second round, Teixeira actually rocked Blachowicz on the feet before a takedown led to a choke and the finish.

I was stunned by the result and honestly thought Blachowicz would knock him out. After beating the guys he did, I didn’t think Blachowicz could lose to Glover at UFC 267. Maybe the Polish Power thought the same thing.

Whether you want to say it was just a bad night or whether you want to say he overlooked Teixeira, no matter what, something went wrong at UFC 267. So, what does Jan Blachowicz do now that he’s lost in the fashion that he did.

Well, he’s going to need a big win to show he’s still at the top of the division. Guys like Aleksandar Rakic or Anthony Smith could be on deck for Blachowicz. Either way, Blachowicz should be put right back in there with a top contender so he can prove to the UFC, he’s still the same guy with the legendary Polish Power.

After dominant win at UFC Vegas 37, what’s next for Anthony Smith?

Anthony Smith

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 37, we saw a light heavyweight showdown between Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16) and Ryan Spann (19-7). For Smith, he was trying to turn away another up and coming contender.

Lionheart was at the peak of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division entering 2020. However, two rough losses shuffled him back in the pack and there were a lot of questions regarding the desire of Smith to compete on the highest level.

The UFC decided to book him against some of the younger contenders to see where he was at. As a result, Smith went on a two-fight rampage where he stopped by Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute in the first round.

That said, the UFC decided to give Smith another tough rising contender this past Saturday in Ryan Spann. Once again, Smith answered the call in completely dominating fashion.

From the opening bell, Smith completely outclassed Ryan Spann. Lionheart dropped Spann multiple times before getting his back and submitting him in the first. It was the third straight first round finish for Lionheart in the UFC.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 37?

Make no mistake about it, Lionheart is back near the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division after Saturday night. He did what the promotion asked in scaling back the competition to reset his career.

Out of this, Smith looks better than ever. His striking looks incredibly crisp and his ground game looks tremendous as he’s secured two submissions. After his win on Saturday, there was one light heavyweight that he called out.

That man is Aleksandar Rakic (14-2). Rakic is currently the UFC’s third ranked light heavyweight contender. Smith and Rakic fought last year with Rakic winning a dominant decision.

Now, you might ask why the UFC would rebook these two after Smith was dominated last year by Rakic? Well, they would for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that this looks like a completely different Lionheart.

Lionheart looks more motivated than ever and he looks more dangerous than ever. The second reason is that Rakic really failed to impress the UFC with his last performance. He defeated Thiago Santos, but nobody was excited about the fight or his victory.

With that, he lost a little steam. Rakic said on Twitter that he’s ready to go for a fight in December. Smith responded in the Octagon saying, “Merry Christmas to me.” This definitely looks like the direction the UFC should and will go next for Lionheart.

After huge knockout win at UFC Vegas 25, what’s next for Jiri Prochazka?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 25, we saw a big time matchup in the light heavyweight division. Top contenders Dominick Reyes (12-3) and Jiri Prochazka (28-3-1) went head-to-head.

Dana White had said earlier in the week that the winner of this matchup would be the number one contender in the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. Of course, number one behind Glover Teixeira who’s scheduled to fight the champion Jan Blachowicz in September.

Reyes was coming off of back-to-back title fights where he came up short in both. However, there’s no questioning that Reyes is at the top of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. Jiri Prochazka made his octagon debut last July on Fight Island.

There was a lot of mystique surrounding Prochazka. Out of 26 professional wins, 23 were by knockout. He immediately showed off his talent at UFC 251 by knocking former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir out cold in the second round.

Prochazka was looking to continue that momentum on Saturday night and he didn’t disappoint. UFC Vegas 25‘s main event was incredibly fun and Prochazka fought like an avalanche. He just kept coming after Reyes looking for the finish.

In the second round, Reyes caught him flush and Prochazka had to shoot for a takedown. However, after he recovered and there was a scramble, Prochazka landed a savage spinning back elbow to knock Reyes out cold.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 25?

There is no doubting the fact that Prochazka should be getting the next UFC title shot after Teixeira. The one frustrating part for Prochazka is the layoff that goes along with waiting for the next shot.

As mentioned, the title fight isn’t even scheduled until September. That would mean that Prochazka would not get his title shot until the very end of this year or early next year.

With that, what does Prochazka and the UFC do? Of course, he can choose to sit out and get the title shot. However, there is one fight that Prochazka has said he’s interested in that the UFC could put on in the interim.

That fight would be pairing Prochazka with Aleksandar Rakic (14-2). Rakic is ranked third in the light heavyweight division while Prochazka is ranked second. He’s 6-1 in the UFC and he’s also knocking on the door of a title shot. Perhaps the promotion books a title eliminator between the two men.

Aleksandar Rakic believes he’s the new face of light heavyweight after UFC 259

This past Saturday at UFC 259, top four light heavyweight contenders kicked off the main card. Former title challenger Thiago Santos (21-9) took on Aleksandar Rakic (14-2). Both men were looking to take another step towards the UFC‘s light heavyweight title.

The expectation going into this fight was that it was going to be a fire fight. Both men possessed knockout power and both had highlight finishes inside the octagon. However, that isn’t the fight we got on Saturday night.

The fight was incredibly slow and featured Rakic just picking his shots from the outside. There were a few times where power shots were thrown, however, nothing serious ever landed. Neither man was in trouble at UFC 259.

In the end, Aleksandar Rakic had his hand raised by unanimous decision. After the fight was over, Rakic went over to Dana White’s table and told him that he was the new face of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. Is that the case?

What’s next after UFC 259?

I will give Aleksandar Rakic this, he’s been sensational since joining the UFC. Since making his debut with the promotion back in 2017, Rakic has gone 6-1 inside the octagon. The only time he lost was to Volkan Oezdemir by split decision.

However, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of people believe that Rakic won the fight against Oezdemir. You could very well make the case that Rakic is unbeaten in the UFC. Rakic has all the makings of a future champion at 205.

He’s got the size, strength, and the skills to make it happen. We’ve seen him show off great kickboxing and we’ve also seen him show off decent skills on the ground. However, his last three fights have failed to wow fight fans.

With that, we know that Rakic is not getting the next UFC title shot. That shot belongs to Glover Teixeira. So with that, where does Rakic go from here? I think where we go from here is we look at the upcoming light heavyweight matchup in May.

Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka will fight in May. Whoever wins that fight would matchup up perfectly with Rakic for a title eliminator. Based on rumblings in the background, it appears that the UFC is heading in this direction and that potential title eliminator should be a lot of fun to watch.

What’s next for Thiago Santos after another loss at UFC 259?

This past Saturday at UFC 259, former title challenger and top light heavyweight, Thiago Santos (21-9), returned to action. He took on fellow top light heavyweight contender, Aleksandar Rakic (14-2), to kick off the PPV main card.

For Santos, this was his second fight back since recovering from knee surgery. Santos had the opportunity of a lifetime when he earned a title shot against Jon Jones at UFC 239. However, the fight went very wrong very early on.

Early in the fight, Santos completely tore his knee apart. With the injury, Santos wasn’t able to explode and do the damage that he’s normally capable of doing. Somehow, Santos still fought the all time great to a split decision back in 2019.

After the fight, Santos had to have major reconstructive surgery to repair the damage in he knee. After about 17 months away, Santos returned last November to take on Glover Teixeira. At first, it looked like Santos was going to get back to normal.

Santos dropped Teixeira and looked like he was going to return to be the force in the UFC‘s light heavyweight division that he was before the knee injury. He ended up dropping Teixeira twice in their matchup, but ultimately gassed out and was submitted.

He turned right around to face Rakic at UFC 259. One thing I did notice in the Teixeira fight is that Santos didn’t quite have the same explosion that he did prior to the injury. This is something I also noticed a lot in the Rakic fight.

What’s Santos’ UFC future?

There was just no explosion from Santos on Saturday night. To me, it was clear that he had the power and the speed advantage at UFC 259. In the past, we’ve seen Santos explode forward to overcome range disadvantages. However, he couldn’t do that on Saturday.

He was always too far away and couldn’t get anything going. As a result, he was outpointed and he lost his third consecutive fight. Santos is still ranked fourth in the UFC’s light heavyweight rankings, but where does he go from here?

To me, Santos needs a reset. He needs to fight someone in the top ten that’s in a similar position, but it needs to be a winnable fight. Personally, I love the idea of Santos taken on another former title challenger in Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) next.

We haven’t seen Oezdemir compete inside the octagon since his knockout loss at UFC 251 back in July. Both men are former title challengers, but they’re also top ten light heavyweights needing to bounce back. Seems like a great time for the UFC to pair these two up.

Aleksandar Rakic earns a decision over Thiago Santos at UFC 259

Kicking off the PPV main card of UFC 259 was a light heavyweight contest between two top four contenders. Former title challenger, Thiago Santos (21-8) was taking on the rising contender, Aleksandar Rakic (13-2).

For Thiago Santos, he was looking to snap a two-fight losing streak. At UFC 239, Santos got his shot at Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title. Early on in the fight, Santos tore most of the ligaments in his knee.

Somehow, Santos was able to will his way through the fight and fight Jones to a split decision. It would be more than a year before Santos returned. Just a few months ago, Santos returned against Glover Teixeira.

Santos dropped Teixeira a few times in the fight, but didn’t look the same and ultimately was finished in that fight. He had a very tall order this evening in trying to end the losing streak. Many consider Aleksandar Rakic to be a future champion.

It’s hard to find a weakness when examining the overall game of Aleksandar Rakic. He’s good on the feet, good on the ground, and he’s one of the biggest guys in the division. The only slip up he’s had in his UFC career thus far was a split decision to Volkan Oezdemir. A win over Santos would put him in title contention.

UFC 259 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 259 main card opener started with a touch of the gloves. Rakic opened with pressure while Santos was circling on the outside. Good low kick from Santos opens up the striking.

Santos moves forward with his own pressure, but Rakic lands some counters that backs him off. Both men were just looking to time the other early on. Powerful leg kick lands for Thiago Santos.

Rakic throws a high kick that was blocked, but it was powerful and got Santos’ attention. Santos was remaining patient on the outside while Rakic was plotting forward cautiously. Santos steps forward with a big body kick and a left hand.

Rakic then lands a couple of really powerful leg kicks. Another kick lands for Rakic. It was clear that both men really respected the power of the other in the first. A nice jab lands for Rakic. Body kick lands for Santos. Two nice body kicks lands for Rakic. Round one ends and I think it’s 1-0 Rakic at UFC 259.

Round 2

The second round of the UFC 259 light heavyweight contest started with more pressure from Rakic. Santos was a little more in his base to start the second and he was looking for power shots. A nice leg kick from Santos opens the striking.

Santos tries to push forward with a superman jab, but it doesn’t land. Rakic went right back with the pressure and tried to land a lead uppercut. A good leg kick lands for Rakic. Santos lands a good jab to the body of Rakic.

Thiago Santos didn’t seem to have much explosion in there tonight. He tries to push forward, but Rakic catches him and presses him against the fence. Rakic was landing some decent body shots in the clinch, but nothing significant.

One minute left in the round and there was virtually no action in this one. Rakic lands a nice counter 1-2 just before the round ends. The UFC 259 main card opener wasn’t the most thrilling fight to start, but Rakic has won the first two rounds on my scorecard.

Round 3

Entering the final round at UFC 259 and Santos needs a finish in this one. Rakic opens the striking with a switch kick that was blocked by Santos. Both men exchange leg kicks and the action was already picking up in the third.

Santos then shoots in for a surprising takedown and Rakic defended and pushed Santos against the fence. They separate and Santos lands a body kick. A nice leg kick lands for Santos. Santos then lands a massive body kick on Rakic.

Rakic lands a leg kick and he tries to close the distance behind his jab. A 1-2 lands for Rakic, but Santos counters with a powerful leg kick. Halfway through the round and Santos lands a stiff jab on Rakic.

Another powerful body kick lands for Thiago Santos. Rakic was pressuring Santos, but wasn’t throwing much. A takedown attempt from Rakic, but Santos was defending well. Good shots along the fence land for Thiago Santos, but Rakic was staying on him.

One minute left and Santos needs to separate. However, Rakic was doing well staying heavy along the fence. The two separate with thirty seconds left in the round. However, neither man landed anything in the final thirty seconds and this one ends. Should be a decision win for Rakic at UFC 259.

Aleksandar Rakic def. Thiago Santos by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

UFC 259 Preview: Thiago Santos – Aleksandar Rakic

Kicking off the UFC 259 main card is a pivotal matchup in the light heavyweight division. Top four light heavyweight contenders, Thiago Santos (21-8) and Aleksandar Rakic (13-2) will battle it out as they look to take a step towards a UFC title shot.

If you want to just look at someone who appears to be a future champion at 205, look no further than Aleksandar Rakic. Rakic has all of the tools and the attributes he needs to become a UFC champion.

He possesses great striking with power, he has a really good ground game and once he’s on top of you, it’s hard to get back up. He’s very big for the weight class and he also has really good cardio to go with it.

Since making his UFC debut back in 2017, Rakic is 5-1 with the lone loss being a split decision to Volkan Oezdemir. Rakic is coming off of a dominant win against Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in his last fight.

Thiago Santos needs a rebound at UFC 259. Santos is the second ranked contender in the light heavyweight division, but he’s looking at a potential three-fight losing streak if he can’t get it done tomorrow night.

Santos fought Jon Jones to a split decision in 2019. However, he completely tore his knee apart in that fight. He returned a few months ago to face Glover Teixeira and he didn’t look like the same guy.

The power was still there, but the movement of Santos was not. His movement and confidence play right into his power which makes him so dangerous to other light heavyweights. If he doesn’t have that at UFC 259, he could be in for a long night.

UFC 259 Prediction

This is a fight that I’m completely on the fence about. Thiago Santos has all the skill needed to get the win here, but I just don’t know what Thiago Santos we will see tomorrow night. Is his movement going to be improved? Will he feel more stable on those legs?

We know that Aleksandar Rakic is going to move forward at UFC 259. Rakic will put pressure on Santos and he’s going to come heavy with his shots. Santos still has the power to hurt Rakic with counters, however, if he doesn’t have good movement, he’s going to be a sitting duck.

I really like Aleksandar Rakic in this matchup considering where both men are in their careers. Now, would it shock me to see Santos land a bomb and knock out Rakic tomorrow night? Absolutely not.

However, at the end of the day, I think Rakic is going to move forward and will not let Santos get off those power shots. I’m also expecting a few takedowns from Rakic. I think Rakic gets this fight down for good in the third to pickup the TKO win at UFC 259.

Prediction: Aleksandar Rakic by TKO – Round 3

UFC booking Thiago Santos – Aleksandar Rakic (Report)

The UFC is close to finalizing a big time matchup for the first half of 2021 in the light heavyweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto is reporting that the promotion is close to finalizing a matchup between Thiago Santos (21-8) and Aleksandar Rakic (13-2).

The proposed light heavyweight showdown will take place on the UFC‘s March 6th card. The fight will not be the headliner of this fight night. This is a big fight for the light heavyweight division as both contenders rank in the top four.

Thiago Santos wasted no time in trying to right the wrong of his last performance. Last weekend at UFC Vegas 13, Santos suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Glover Teixeira. Santos was the big betting favorite going into the fight.

However, Santos had no answer for the ground game of Glover Teixeira. Santos did have some high points in the fight. He wobbled Teixeira badly in the first and dropped him in the third. However, both times, Teixeira was able to reverse the situation and get Santos down.

The former UFC title challenger was making his return after being off for the last year and a half. Santos tore several ligaments in his knee during his title fight with former champion, Jon Jones back at UFC 239.

UFC March 6th

Santos will get the chance to right that wrong, but he has a tall order in front of him. The Rocket, Aleksandar Rakic, has looked sensational since joining the UFC back in 2017.

Since making his debut with the promotion, Rakic has gone 5-1 with the UFC. His lone loss came against Volkan Oezdemir in a split decision. That’s a fight that a lot of people believe Rakic actually won.

In his last fight against Anthony Smith, Rakic’s leg kicks chewed up Smith. Smith was visibly limping in the first round of their fight after taking a couple of clean leg kicks. However, Rakic received some criticism for not going for the kill that night.

Nevertheless, Rakic got the victory which is ultimately what matters. Rakic campaigned for a UFC title shot after the victory, but he still has work to do. However, getting a win over Thiago Santos in March could get him there.