UFC Fight Night: Anthony Smith vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
Anthony Smith +225 vs. Aleksandar Rakic -245
Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic will headline the latest event at UFC Apex in Las Vegas Saturday. Smith is a UFC veteran striker with 12 UFC contests under his belt--most recently a KO loss at the hands of Glover Teixeira just over three months ago. Teixeira was decisively better in rounds two, three and four, before ending Smith's night in the fifth. The multiple 10-8 rounds for the seasoned Brazilian on the official scorecard (shown below) drive home the extent to which Teixeira was dominant that evening.
Aleksandar Rakic, another striker, will be making his sixth walk into the Octagon Saturday, after tasting defeat for the first time under the promotion's banner in December. The Austrian-born mixed martial artist is looking to rebound after a close split-decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir.
By the numbers, Rakic boasts several advantages that matter. Aleksandar is the younger, fresher fighter (32 year old Anthony Smith has averaged better than 2 1/2 fights per year since turning pro in 2008, while Rakic has been involved in roughly 1 1/2 scraps per year over this pro career, which spans back to 2011). The age/punishment differential matters because the body's ability to absorb punishment is finite. Per FightNomics, less effort is generally required to produce knockdowns against aged fighters.
Additionally, Rakic is the more voluminous puncher. Aleksandar gets off around ten significant strikes per minute on average (and lands about half of them), while Lionheart has averaged a more moderate seven strike attempts per minute (which Smith lands with similar accuracy).
Worth mentioning, Teixeira employed a prolific work rate similar to Rakic's in his definitive win over Smith, throwing almost 11 significant strikes per minute in their meeting. Moreover, Thiago Santos averaged close to 14 significant strikes per minute in his 2018 TKO win over Smith.
Jonny "Bones" Jones is the third UFC fighter to best Anthony Smith. And while Jones' success came with a lower absolute strike rate (Jones finished the evening with around seven attempted significant strikes per minute), this output still vastly exceeded Smith's less than three significant strikes thrown per minute. Thus, Smith might exhibit a vulnerability to high output fighters (relative to this own level of productivity)...such as the man he will face this afternoon.
The Action Network's Sean Zerillo's crowdsourced odds suggest the moneyline numbers are pretty close to accurate for this fight. The crowd makes Rakic a favorite to the tune of -233, while Smith's implied moneyline is +233. This is to say that there is not much value evident on picking a side.
However, we find a play on the o1.5 rounds compelling. Reed Kuhn's Uber Tale of the Tape for this bout (shown below) summarizes Rakic's numerous advantages, including those detailed above. One area where the favorite does not boast an edge though is in the beard department. Kuhn estimates that while both men are extremely durable, Anthony Smith can take a punch with the best of 'em.
And if "Lionheart's" nickname does not convince you, his resume does seem to validate this claim. For instance, while, Santos made quick work of Smith, Thiago is among the hardest punchers in not just the light heavyweight division, but in all of the UFC, by a metric that evaluates KOs and TKOs relative to total significant strikes landed (Smith also earned a stoppage win over "Shogun" Rua from this list of heaviest punchers, but Rua was finished before ever getting anything off in that instance).
From a somewhat less scientific tilt, we find additional support for the idea that Smith's chin is pretty elite. In aggregate, a bit over 40% of light heavyweight UFC fights end by KO/TKO. We indicate below Anthony Smith's last five opponents, along with their the career KO/TKO rates and the number of significant strikes each landed on Smith. Save Jon Jones, all have exhibited an above average finish rate. Thus, it appears reasonable to conclude that the underdog's ability to endure has been fairly thoroughly vetted.
And while Rakic has collected two first round finishes since joining the UFC, we are not impressed by the caliber of competition in either event. Rakic stopped Jimi Manuwa early in the UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Smith proceedings back in June 2019. But Manuwa was 39 years old that that point, and was already on a three fight skid (including two early finishes). Rakic also finished Devin Clark early in their UFC 231 get-together a year earlier. And though "Brown Bear" looked good in his most recent upset win over Alonzo Menifield, Clark too has shown vulnerability to the big punchers--a la the aforementioned Rakic KO and a stoppage by Alex Nicholson (a lackluster fighter overall, with heavy hands).
Bottom line: We think Anthony Smith is overmatched. We estimate Rakic is the better striker and grappler, and he is the younger man with fewer miles on the chassis. As such, we do not look for a happy ending for Anthony Smith when the dust ultimately settles. However, with betting odds reflecting the degree of this mismatch reasonably well, we are passing on taking a side here. Instead, we are willing to bet on Anthony Smith's heart to carry him past the 6:30 marker. Supporting our preferred play, we note Smith's proven durability and that while Rakic is a powerful KO-artist, we think his two recent stoppage wins are somewhat overhyped.