UFC VEGAS 8: ‘SMITH VS. RAKIC’ is in the books and so is the UFC’s August schedule. The card started out red-hot with four submissions in four fights, then the decisions went from entertaining to unremarkable as the night progressed, making it kind of a “meh” card on aggregate.
In the main event, Aleksandar Rakic and Anthony Smith traded vicious kicks early but it was Rakic who chopped Smith down to the mat with calf kicks. Rakic was able to control Smith from top position and basically repeat the process in the final two rounds. Outside of one right hand in round two, Smith had no meaningful offense and Rakic was just too fast and too strong for him.
For Rakic it’s the biggest win of his career by virtue of beating a recent light heavyweight title challenger. He’s back on track after a close loss to Volkan Oezdemir that ended his unbeaten UFC run. As for Smith, he was compromised early thanks to those leg kicks and he never recovered. After an incredible career revival at the start of his run at light heavyweight, he’s dropped three of his last four and is falling further and further out of the title picture.
More thoughts below:
I was hoping Robbie Lawler would give us a vintage “Ruthless” performance against Neil Magny, hence I picked heart over mind. I should’ve listened to the mind. Not only did Magny outgrapple and outwrestle Lawler, but Lawler bizarrely initiated the grappling to start the fight. Even more worrisome for Lawler is he got outstruck, as Magny looked crisp and Robbie barely let his hands go. Magny getting the decision was not a surprise, but Lawler looks like an old man now and the wars have caught up with him — there won’t be another career resurgence, this is the decline and it’s sad to see.
Alexa Grasso had the size disadvantage against Ji Yeon Kim, but the career strawweight’s bump up to flyweight was a successful one. The Mexican’s speed and accuracy off the counter was on full display as she bested the Korean by unanimous decision. There were plenty of clean, quality shots landed by both women but Grasso had the superior offense and better workrate.
Former featherweight title challenger Ricardo Lamas had a much harder time than anticipated against late replacement Bill Algeo. After narrowly taking round one, Lamas was badly hurt and in serious trouble in round two after eating a big knee. With the fight hanging in the balance, “The Bully” ultimately bullied Algeo on the ground en route to a unanimous 10-8 and thus 29-27s across the board. Algeo may regret shooting for takedowns both times he had Lamas in a bad state, but it was a good performance from him given the late notice and more relief for Lamas after struggling through much of that bout. Awesome scrap, and if Lamas does retire (as he indicated he was considering in the post-fight interview), he’ll go out on a high note.
I had reserved this space for Ion Cutelaba vs. Magomed Ankalaev, but... well... yeah. Hope Cutelaba fully recovers from COVID-19 and that the UFC doesn’t just merely push the fight back another two weeks.
Impa Kasanganay just got his UFC contract by winning on Dana White’s Contender Series earlier this month, and now he’s in the UFC win column after a fun scrap with fellow Contender Series alum Maki Pitolo. They both threw heavy leather but Kasanganay landed the better shots and had the better workrate.
Zak Cummings almost had an awesome buzzer-beater, third-round KO against Alessio di Chirico, but he did get his hand raised after taking a unanimous decision. Make no mistake though, Cummings had di Chirico in a world of hurt with that head kick and I suppose Alessio getting up the first time (before falling down again) was enough for Mark Smith not to rule that a KO. As such, this result became the submission streak c-c-c-c-c-c-ombobreaker.
Alex Caceres showed up without an Afro and that threw me for a loop. This is probably how others feel when they see me after I get a haircut. Anyway, those stories can be told another day. “Bruce Leeroy” took care of short notice replacement Austin Springer by capitalizing on a poor takedown attempt, rapidly taking the back and getting the rear-naked choke locked in for the instant tap. Amazingly, this is the first three-fight win streak of Caceres’ career
Keep an eye on Sean Brady as a potential contender at welterweight down the line. Brady had Christian Aguilera using both feet and one of his arms to tap to a nasty mounted guillotine early in round two. Brady is now 3-0 in the UFC and this is his first finish.
Polyana Viana was taken down by Emily Whitmire, but that was hardly the worst thing given she has an aggressive submission game. Whitmire found out the hard way and was caught in an armbar that led to an instant tap. Fight over in under two minutes, and the Brazilian is back in the win column after a three-fight losing skid.
Mallory Martin was arguably KO’d in round one by a huge Hannah Cifers right hand, but Chris Tognoni did not stop the bout and she saw out the rest of the round. It was a different story in round two, as Martin beat up an exhausted Cifers on the ground and secured the fight-ending rear-naked choke for an astonishing comeback win to open up the card. While Martin let out screams of joy, Cifers unfortunately became the first UFC fighter ever to lose four straight bouts within a calendar year.