UFC Vegas 8: Aleksandar Rakic enhances growing reputation with impressive win over former title challenger Anthony Smith (VIDEO)

Austria’s Aleksandar Rakic has announced his title candidacy in a UFC light heavyweight division now shorn of former champion Jon Jones, as he eased to a unanimous decision win against former world title challenger Anthony Smith.

Twenty-eight-year-old Vienna native Rakic used a varied arsenal of kicks to flummox the veteran fighter Smith, while also dominating on the ground to claim a one-sided decision win after three rounds in the UFC main event at the organization’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. 

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The win takes Rakic’s career record to an impressive 13-2 and will, in part at least, remove the memories of the close split-decision defeat in his last Octagon outing against Volkan Oezdemir last December. 

A salvo of vicious leg kicks set the tone for Rakic in the opening frame, with Smith eventually getting sent to the canvas after taking two scything kicks in succession.

Smith almost found a way into the fight in the second, landing a powerful overhand right which connected flush to Rakic’s jaw – but the Austrian was able to recover and re-establish his dominance.

The third round followed a similar blueprint, with Rakic nearly earning a finish after more impressive striking. When the judges scores were announced, there was little mystery as to who had won.

I’m happy with my performance against a veteran and a former title challenger,” Rakic said afterward.

Everybody underestimates my wrestling and my grappling. I showed the world and I showed the division that I’m not only a dangerous striker, I can wrestle, I can grapple, I can dominate on the ground. These guys need to take me serious ’cause I’m in the Top 5 now.”

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Jon Jones’ recent announcement that he is moving to heavyweight has left a void in the UFC’s light heavyweight frame, with Rakic being one of those who want to fill it – and he laid bare his aspirations in the 205lbs fold in his post-fight interview.

You know what’s next. The belt is next,” Rakic said as he called for the first shot at the winner of the upcoming title fight between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.

Reyes-Blachowicz winner, it’s me. This is the next for Aleksandar Rakic.”