Tomorrow night the UFC returns with action from the APEX as light heavyweights take center stage for a solid main event. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (33-15) will be taking on Aleksandar Rakic (12-2) in the main event of the evening. A very solid night of fights are ahead so let’s dive into the main card.
Top Eight UFC light heavyweights battle
The main event is a really solid one between two top eight UFC light heavyweights. Both Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic are looking to bounce back after suffering losses in their last time out. Due to the short notice main event slot, this is a three round fight.
For Smith, he’s coming off of a really tough loss to Glover Teixeira back in May. Smith looked really good in the first couple of rounds, but about halfway through the fight there was a massive change. Teixeira was hurting Smith badly, and finished him in the fifth.
It was the second loss in three fights for Lionheart, granted the other came to Jon Jones at UFC 235. Smith is one of the top contenders at light heavyweight for a reason. He entered the division with three consecutive finishes before getting the Jones fight. Then he submitted Alexander Gustafsson after the Jones loss.
Smith possesses solid ground and striking skills. Lionheart has a wealth of experience, and he does have the skills to pose some interesting challenges for Rakic.
Rakic came into the UFC back in 2017 and he’s looked incredibly impressive. He did lose a close split decision in his last fight, but outside of that, he’s 4-0 with two incredible finishes. One of those finishes was a highlight reel headkick against Jimi Manuwa.
Rakic is explosive in his striking, and he’s incredibly efficient on his feet. He’s a very exciting fighter for the light heavyweight division. In his 12 victories, nine of them have come by knockout.
In going through this fight, I think the three round nature is going to play a big factor. If this was a five round main event, I think I would lean a little towards Smith given the experience. I think the fight is going to go the distance in this one.
Rakic is extremely explosive, but I really would like to see him go five rounds. Smith has fought into the fifth round a couple of times in his career. With it being three rounds, I like Rakic to land some really clean shots and pick up a decision. Don’t count out Lionheart, but I think Rakic takes this one.
Prediction: Aleksandar Rakic by Unanimous Decision
Robbie Lawler vs Neil Magny
In the co-main event of the evening you have the former UFC welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler (28-14, 1 NC), taking on the Haitian Sensation Neil Magny (23-7). This is a little bit of a do or die fight for the former champion.
After his stint with Strikeforce, Lawler returned to the UFC back in 2013. Ruthless went on a 8-1 run that saw him become the welterweight champion and defend the title successfully twice. He then was knocked out by Tyron Woodley to lose that title.
Since losing the title, Lawler really hasn’t been the same. He won a decision against Cowboy Cerrone, but then he’s lost three in a row. The Askren loss is still questionable, but he was dominated by Rafael Dos Anjos and Colby Covington over five rounds.
With Lawler, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a guy who is always looking to finish the fight with his striking. In the past, he would be very aggressive, but we haven’t seen that guy in a few fights. Maybe he returns Saturday.
Magny is looking to have the best year of his professional career. After an 18 month layoff, Magny has won two fights in 2020. A third over a former champion would be huge for Magny. The Haitian Sensation is also looking to pick up another win over a former UFC champion.
Magny is not going to really wow you with any of his skills, but he’s incredible efficient. He’s put together a resume that includes wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks, and Carlos Condit. Magny is incredible long, and he’s got very good grappling skills.
This is a tough fight for me to pick. A few years ago, I would have said Magny has no chance. However, I’m not sure Robbie Lawler is the same guy he used to be. To win this fight he needs to fight how Santiago Ponzinibbo fought Neil Magny.
Lawler needs to move forward and throw big shots. Magny is at a striking disadvantage here so you might see him try to wrestle more in this one. Maybe I’m going with my heart a little, but I think Lawler will land bigger shots over three rounds. I’m not picking a finish, but I think the bigger shots outweigh the volume in a very close fight.
Prediction: Robbie Lawler by Split Decision
Alexa Grasso vs Ji Yeon Kim
The third fight on the main card is a really good women’s flyweight weight contest as Alexa Grasso (11-3) moves up in weight to take on Ji Yeon Kim (9-2-2). Both of these women are ranked in their respected UFC divisions.
Grasso comes into this contest at 3-3 in her last six fights. She has incredibly good striking, but she’s ran into a problem in her three losses. Grasso does not fair well against fighters with good grappling backgrounds.
In her three losses, Grasso has shown that when she gets taken down, she’s more of the fighter who hopes for a stand up from the referee. When in striking range, she can compete with anyone, and this is a fight that can let her shine.
Kim entered the UFC with a decent amount of hype given her pedigree. She is well-versed in many martial arts and had some amateur boxing and kickboxing experience. Kim also entered the octagon for the first time at 6-0-2.
She did have an impressive win in her last outing, but outside of that, the results have been very underwhelming. Kim is 3-2 in the octagon but two of those wins came via split decision. If those judges sided the other way we’d be looking at a fighter who is 1-4.
I think this fight is going to stay on the feet over the course of three rounds. Kim has plenty of skill to be able to win this fight, but I just can’t have any confidence in her based on what I’ve seen.
I think Grasso will have the speed and technique advantage moving up from 115. Look for Grasso to use some crisp combinations in this one. If Kim can keep the fight at distance, she might be able to get the decision, but I’m going with Grasso on this one.
Prediction: Alexa Grasso by Unanimous Decision
Ricardo Lamas vs Bill Algeo
The second fight on the main card features former featherweight title challenger, Ricardo Lamas (19-8), taking on UFC newcomer Bill Algeo (13-4). Lamas was supposed to fight Ryan Hall, but Hall was forced to pull out due to injury.
Lamas is at an interesting stage in his career. He’s 38 years old and he’s just 1-3 in his last four fights. However, one was a split decision loss and the other two came against Josh Emmett and Calvin Kattar. No shame in those losses. In between the losses was a TKO win over Darren Elkins.
With Lamas, you’re going to get a guy who is comfortable everywhere. He has really good striking, and he’s got great submissions. He even submitted Charles Oliveira back in 2016.
This is a really tough draw for Algeo in his first fight with the promotion. Algeo is a veteran of the Contender Series, but lost a decision in his fight. He did come away giving off a good impression which is why the UFC is willing to give him the short notice fight here.
Algeo has very good striking, and he hits with good power. He does a really good job of mixing up his strikes going up top and to the body. Algeo definitely has the skills to make this an interesting matchup.
Yes, Lamas on paper is just 3-4 in his last seven fights. However, those four losses are all to top competition. This is just a little too much to ask of Algeo in his debut. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m going with experience here and I’m picking Ricardo Lamas to pick up the victory.
Prediction: Ricardo Lamas by Unanimous Decision
Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba
Kicking off the UFC Vegas 8 main card on ESPN+ is a light heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) and Ion Cutelaba (15-5, 1 NC). This fight was originally supposed to happen a couple of weeks ago, but a positive COVID test pushed it back.
These two fought back in February and the results was nothing short of controversial. Nothing of significance seemed to land from Ankalaev, but Cutelaba was acting rocked. You could tell he was acting just by his movements. Maybe some shots landed for Ankalaev, but nothing damaging.
During his acting, you could tell Cutelaba was trying to time a big shot. Maybe not the brightest strategy, but he did have Ankalaev going after him pretty open. Nevertheless, the referee stopped the fight believing Cutelaba was out on his feet during his cherade.
Now, the two men will run the fight back. Ankalaev will try to make it five wins in a row in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Ankalaev has diverse striking and very good power in his shots. Magomed Ankalaev is really good wherever the fight goes.
In the early stages of any fight, Cutelaba is extremely dangerous. He’s got fantastic hand speed and really good power. Just ask Khalil Rountree about the power that Cutelaba possesses. However, his skills are more geared towards a fast start.
If this fight gets out of the first round, I’m not sure how well I think Cutelaba will do against Ankalaev over three rounds. I think the diversity in the striking is really going to play to Ankalaev’s advantage. While not the sexiest fight picks, I’m going with another main card decision in this one.
Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev by Unanimous Decision
UFC Vegas 8 Outlook
On paper, this is a fantastic card from the UFC. MMA fans should be excited for tomorrow night. I expect the card to deliver some great fights that will have everyone talking about it next week.