UFC Fight Night Report: Aleksandar Rakić dominates Anthony Smith
By: Eric Marcotte
The UFC held a Fight Night card at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada this past Saturday night. The event was headlined by a bout in the light heavyweight division between ranked contenders Anthony Smith and Aleksander Rakić. Smith was looking to climb back into title contention following a tough loss to Glover Teixeira earlier this year. Similarly, Rakić had just suffered his first defeat in the UFC, following a close split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir. With Jon Jones vacating the division’s title, this was a fight that could have huge ramifications for each man. In the co-main event, former UFC Welterweight Champion, Robbie Lawler, returned to the octagon after a year’s absence to face Neil Magny, who had won both of his fights in decisive fashion since returning from his recent suspension.
This card was originally going to be headlined by a fight between featherweight contenders Yair Rodriguez, and Zabit Magomedsharipov. Roughly three weeks prior to the card, Rodriguez pulled out of the fight with an ankle injury, and the bout between Smith and Rakić was moved into the main event slot. Additionally, A highly anticipated rematch between Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev was scheduled for this card, but it was canceled on the day of the event due to a positive COVID19 test from Cutelaba.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Paul Felder. Performance bonuses were awarded to Sean Brady and Mallory Martin. Fight of the Night bonuses was awarded to Ricardo Lamas and Bill Algeo.
*Mallory Martin def. Hannah Cifers by rear-naked choke at 1:33 of Round 2
*Polyana Viana def. Emily Whitmire by armbar at 1:53 of Round 1
*Sean Brady def. Christian Aguilera by guillotine at 1:47 of Round 2
*Alex Caceres def. Austin Springer by rear-naked choke at 3:38 of Round 1
*Zak Cummings def. Alessio Di Chirico by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Impa Kasanganay def. Maki Pitolo by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Ricardo Lamas def. Bill Algeo by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
*Alexa Grasso def. Ji Yeon Kim by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Neil Magny def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Aleksander Rakić def. Anthony Smith by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
HANNAH CIFERS (16-2, 117) VS MALLORY MARTIN (12-6, 115.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Cifers missed weight by a pound and was fined 20% of her purse.
Cifers was the more active fighter in their early exchanges, although she was continuously walking into the jab and straight right of Martin. Cifers caught Martin with a right hand of her own that dropped Martin, and she wasted no time, jumping right into Martin’s guard. Martin attempted to throw up a triangle, and Cifers responded by picking Martin up and then slamming her down to the ground. Martin worked her way back to her feet, but she was hurt, and Cifers swarmed her with strikes for the remainder of the round. There were multiple times where this fight was close to being stopped, but Mallory kept herself alive and made it to the second round. This was a 10-8 round for Cifers.
Martin took Cifers down with a trip in the opening minute of the second round and began to drop vicious elbows down onto Cifers. She hurt Cifers with those elbows, forcing her to give up her back. Martin secured the rear-naked choke, and Cifers quickly tapped out.
WINNER: Mallory Martin by rear-naked choke at 1:33 of Round 2
This was a phenomenal comeback from Martin, who was nearly finished multiple times throughout the first round. She showcased a ton of toughness and composure here to get the finish, and this marked her first win in the UFC. For Cifers, this was unquestionably a very tough loss. She has competed four times this year and has lost each of those fights. It’s difficult to predict what will come next for her.
POLYANA VIANA (10-4, 116) VS EMILY WHITMIRE (4-3, 115.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Whitmire brought Viana down to the ground early in the first round and began to work from Viana’s guard. Viana threw up an armbar from the bottom, locked it in, and picked up the quick submission finish.
WINNER: Polyana Viana by armbar at 1:53 of Round 1
Viana was in desperate need of a win here, and she rose to the occasion. It wasn’t a long fight, but Viana did impressive work off her back to get the finish here. She is now 2-3 in the UFC, and this was her first win since February of 2018.
CHRISTIAN AGUILERA (14-6, 170) VS SEAN BRADY (12-0, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Brady connected with a left hook as Aguilera walked him down early, which cut Aguilera open near his right eye. They exchanged leg kicks. Aguilera landed a looping right hand, his best strike of the round. With about a minute left in the round, Brady took Aguilera down with a double leg and ended the round beating him down against the cage. 10-9 Brady.
Brady brought Aguilera back to the ground quickly into the second. Brady locked in a guillotine choke from mount, and choked Brady out to pick up the second-round submission.
WINNER: Sean Brady by guillotine at 1:47 of Round 2
Brady controlled the vast majority of this fight and justified his status as the biggest betting favorite on the card. Brady is now 3-0 in the UFC, and 13-0 professionally. It’s probably still too soon to match Brady up against ranked competition, but he isn’t far off.
ALEX CACERES (16-12, 1 NC, 145) VS AUSTIN SPRINGER (12-3, 151) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Springer missed weight by five pounds and was fined 30% of his purse.
Caceres wobbled Springer with a head kick in the opening seconds of the bout, but Springer recovered quickly. Springer attacked the lead leg of Caceres but wasn’t having too much success with the rest of his offense. Caceres was landing the better shots throughout the round, and Springer shot for a takedown. Caceres landed a left hand and stuffed the attempt, before transitioning to his back, immediately sinking in the rear-naked choke and finishing the fight.
WINNER: Alex Caceres by rear-naked choke at 3:38 of Round 1
Springer took this fight on very short notice, and he wasn’t able to give any real account of his skillset here. Caceres had no difficulties in this fight and is now on a three-fight winning streak, the longest win streak of his UFC career. He also buzzed his hair, which was a strange sight after a decade of rocking his trademark afro.
ZAK CUMMINGS (23-7, 185) VS ALESSIO DI CHIRICO (12-4, 184) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Both men were rather hesitant to commit to anything throughout this opening round. Di Chirico caught Cummings with a huge counter right hand that Cummings just ate. Cummings was attacking the lead leg of Di Chirico, which was probably the highlight of the round for him. Di Chirico landed a number of solid left hands to end the round. 10-9 Di Chirico.
The second round was slower than the first, which is saying something. Cummings low kicks were beginning to add up throughout the round, and he ended it strongly, landing a number of counter right hands. 19-19 heading into the final round.
Referee Mark Smith told both fighters that they needed to be more active in this final round. Di Chirico landed a big left hand but missed with his wild follow up shots. Cummings responded with a notable left hand of his own. Di Chirico was working the body more in this round. Cummings caught Di Chirico down low, and the fighters were told to pick up the pace and engage once again. Cummings landed a solid counter right hand but didn’t follow it up with anything. In the final second of the fight, Cummings caught Di Chirico with a huge left high kick, dropping Di Chirico. If there was any time left in the fight, he would have got the finish, but it was not to be.
WINNER: Zak Cummings by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This was not a great fight. Both men fought hesitantly, and the fight was a bit slow as a result. You could make the argument that the fight should have been called following the last second knockdown, but I didn’t disagree with the referee’s decision. Since moving up to middleweight, Cummings has accumulated a record of 3-1.
MAKI PITOLO (13-6, 184.5) VS IMPA KASANGANAY (7-0, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Pitolo connected with a combination of hooks early. Pitolo backed Kasanganay up with a couple of body shots and then nailed him with a counter right hand. Kasanganay switched things up by pressing Pitolo against the cage, but he couldn’t keep him there long, and almost ate a clean head kick for his efforts. Kasanganay landed a counter right hand, his best strike of the round thus far, and he followed it up with a strong flurry of strikes against the cage, cutting Pitolo open near his left eye. This was a very fun round. I narrowly gave the edge to Pitolo.
Kasanganay was throwing overhands with confidence in this round, and they were finding their mark. Pitolo connected with a heavy left hook and avoided a head kick from Kasanganay. Kasanganay landed a solid left hook of his own. His jab was looking much improved this round. Kasanganay landed this brutal elbow off the break that Pitolo just ate near the end of the round. This was another fun round, and I had it tied up at 19-19 going into the third.
Both men landed some strong strikes in the opening minute of the third round. Kasanganay went to the body and then followed it up with a solid left hook. Kasanganay was the far busier fighter in this round, and he was still throwing with the same heat he was from the beginning of the fight. I scored this fight 29-28 Kasanganay.
WINNER: Impa Kasanganay by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Just eighteen days ago, Kasanganay earned his UFC contract on the Contenders Series. It’s tough to predict how a fighter will perform on such short notice, against a much more experienced opponent in their first real UFC fight, but I will say that Kasanganay far exceeded my expectations. His approach was very measured, but every minute was entertaining, and he looked great in this fight. He may be a prospect to look out for at middleweight.
RICARDO LAMAS (19-8, 145) VS BILL ALGEO (13-4, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Lamas grabbed Algeo’s neck and dragged him to the ground, but he escaped quickly. Both men threw a variety of kicks throughout the round. Lamas caught Algeo with a slick uppercut. Algeo was fighting aggressively, but as a result, Lamas was connecting with solid counter shots. Lamas’ leg kicks were starting to add up, but Algeo ended the round strong, stunning Lamas with a series of left hands. Very close round, but I scored it for Lamas.
Lamas took Algeo down but Algeo had no trouble escaping back to his feet. They traded wild hooks on the break from a clinch exchange. Lamas’ nose was pouring blood. He attempted to bring Algeo back to the ground but was unsuccessful. Algeo stunned Lamas with a knee, and then took him down. This proved to be a mistake, as Lamas reversed the position, and began to work with Algeo against the cage. Algeo separated and ended the round strongly. I had it 19-19 going into the final round, and all the momentum was on Algeo’s side.
Once again Lamas opened the round by utilizing his wrestling. He took Algeo down and landed some brutal elbows. Lamas controlled this entire round, dominating Algeo with his grappling, and mixing ineffective ground and pound. Lamas flattened him out near the end of the round and rained down strikes until time expired. You could make the case this was 10-8 round, but I didn’t go that far. Nonetheless, I scored the fight 29-28 Lamas.
WINNER: Ricardo Lamas by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
This was another great fight. Algeo took this fight on short notice, and he really brought the fight to the veteran. Lamas was hurt badly in the second round, but recovered in a big way, looking like the Ricardo Lamas of old in the third round. In his post-fight interview, Lamas acknowledged that this could be the last fight of his career, and if this is indeed it for him, the former UFC featherweight title challenger will retire with a UFC record of 11-6.
ALEXA GRASSO (11-3, 126) VS JI YEON KIM (9-2-2, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
This fight was boxing heavy for both women. Each fighter was setting her feet and throwing in combination. Neither way really pulling ahead, but it seemed as though Kim was landing the biggest shots of the exchanges. Grasso began to mix leg kicks into her attack as the round wore on. Towards the end of the round, Grasso was landing the bigger shots, and I thought she won the first with her output and her combinations late in the round.
Grasso rode her momentum from the end of the first round into the start of the second. Kim appeared to be a bit hesitant and was falling behind on the scorecards as Grasso outworked her. Grasso was really running away with this fight by the end of the round and was getting creative with her striking. She mixed a superman punch into one of her quick combinations. Grasso landed a straight right near the end of the round that seemed to stun Kim. 20-18 Grasso.
The third round was more of the same. Kim fought with a bit more urgency, but she was just getting boxed up, and didn’t have the strength to control Grasso in the clinch. Grasso took Kim down with a minute remaining in the fight. I scored this fight 30-27 Grasso.
WINNER: Alexa Grasso by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
This fight marked Grasso’s first fight at flyweight, and she looked good. She was quicker than Kim, and clearly the better striker. This will likely move her into the flyweight rankings, and to be frank, it is a much easier path to the title at 125lbs then 115lbs. I think this was a good move for Alexa Grasso, and I wouldn’t mind seeing her in there with a top ten opponent next. She is now 4-3 in the UFC.
ROBBIE LAWLER (28-14, 171) VS NEIL MAGNY (23-7, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Lawler opened up the fight with a solid left to the body. Magny defended a takedown attempt from Lawler and was in a good position for a D’Arce choke, but couldn’t find it. He attempted to move to Lawler’s back, but Robbie worked his way back to his feet. Magny dragged Lawler back to the ground, but Lawler reversed the position to end up on top. Lawler landed a couple left hands, and Magny stood up, before promptly taking Lawler back down. Clear 10-9 round for Neil Magny.
Magny threw a head kick and then closed the distance to bring Lawler back to the cage. He brought Lawler down and quickly took his back. Magny was looking for a twister, but couldn’t lock it in, and Lawler moved into a safer position. With about a minute left, Lawler got back to his feet, but Magny responded by landing a number of knees from the clinch. Lawler couldn’t get anything going in the final minute, and Magny was up 20-18 going into the third round.
Lawler landed a combination in the first minute of the third round and Magny pulled guard. Lawler was in top position, but they were stood up quickly as they seemed to be in somewhat of a stalemate. Magny brought Lawler right back down to the ground, although it did not take Lawler long to get up this time. Magny connected with a knee down the middle. Lawler was busted open from the knee, and Magny landed some more strikes in the clinch to end the round strong. 30-27 Magny.
WINNER: Neil Magny by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Magny has improved so much over the course of the last few years. You could really see his evolution as a fighter in this one. The way he was mixing in every aspect of the game was very impressive. In his post-fight interview, he expressed his interest in fighting again this year, and his hopes to challenge for the title in the future. This was Magny’s 17th win in the UFC welterweight division, and he is now on a three-fight win streak. Personally, I would like to see him face Michael Chiesa next.
For Lawler, this was another tough loss. He has lost five of his last six fights and is currently on the longest losing streak of his career. When he fights, you can see that the skills are all still there, but age and injuries have taken their toll on him, as well as the move from ATT. He has had one of the lengthiest and most entertaining careers among active fighters in the sport, but one has to imagine that we are nearing the end of his hall of fame career.
ANTHONY SMITH (33-15, 205) VS ALEKSANDAR RAKIC (12-2, 205.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
This was a three-round main event.
Rakić opened up with a trio of leg kicks. He was attacking Smith’s lead leg hard in the opening round, and Smith responded with leg kicks of his own. Rakić landed two more leg kicks and Smith’s leg buckled out from under him. Smith welcomed the move to the ground, and did a good job of keeping Rakić from advancing position, and avoided damage for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Rakić.
Rakić nailed Smith with a pair of body kicks to begin the second. Both guys ate some big shots that landed clean, and Smith attempted to engage Rakić in the clinch. Rakić threw him down to the ground and began to work from top position once more. He spent the vast majority of the round in this position and was clearly up two rounds to nothing going into the third.
Rakić began the third round with a flurry of kicks and strikes, forcing Smith to retreat to the fence. Smith attempted to take him down, but Rakić ended up on top yet again. He spent the entire round on top and clearly won this fight.
WINNER: Aleksander Rakić by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Honestly, it felt like Rakić could have stood up and won this fight at any point after Smith went down from those leg kicks. Still, it’s tough to fault Rakić here when he beat his opponent in such convincing fashion. Smith is no slouch on the ground, and Rakić completely controlled him there throughout the fight. In his post-fight interview, Rakić called out the winner of Reyes/Błachowicz. A title shot is not out of the question, but I think the winner of Thiago Santos/Glover Teixeira is probably next in line for a title shot. Rakić is now 5-1 in the UFC.