Fresh from a rather one-sided unanimous decision win over one-time light heavyweight title challenger, Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith – emerging contender, Aleksandar Rakić has called for his premier title opportunity in the UFC.
The 28-year-old Austrian born challenger utilised a series of debilitating calf kicks early and often throughout the opening two rounds of his short-notice three-round headliner with Smith on his way to a 30-27 (x2), and a 30-26 unanimous judging win. To many’s surprise, Rakić also had the better of the lengthy grappling exchanges, holding top control over the Nebraska native for over twelve minutes in the headlining affair.
Now firmly back in the win-column and potentially slotting in at #5 which was resided by Smith prior to tonight – Rakić called for his shot at either Dominick Reyes or Jan Błachowicz, during his post-fight interview with lightweight striker, Paul Felder.
“You know what’s next, the belt is next,” Rakić said. “(Dominick) Reyes, (Jan) Błachowicz – winner is [next for] me. It’s the next one. This is the next one for Aleksandar Rakić.“
Doubling down on his claim to light heavyweight gold in the post-fight press conference, Rakić also noted his willingness to compete in his first five-round headliner under the UFC’s banner, if the promotion so wished.
“I made a great performance tonight, you know, and I think I’m next for the title,” Rakić explained. “But, if the UFC wants to see me in a five-round fight they can do it. I was preparing for a three-round fight but put (sic) this great performance tonight, and I could go another two-rounds with no problems. So, I was ready for five (rounds). Can you imagine when I get ready for a five-round fight which pays this is (sic)? It’s amazing, you know, and we’re going to see what the UFC plans for me next, I’m going to be ready, it’s going to get very interesting right now – Jan, Reyes, Thiago (Santos), and Glover (Teixeira), we’re gonna see what happens.“
Rakić certainly isn’t the only contender hopeful of a light heavyweight title opportunity ahead of their next outing, with the aforementioned, Santos and Teixeira set to headline UFC Fight Night Vegas 9 next Saturday night. Minas Gerais veteran, Teixeira, like Rakić – also holds his most recent win over Smith, while recent title challenger, Santos looks to bounce back from knee surgery after his close loss to Jon Jones.
In the meantime, the vacant light heavyweight crown is up for grabs in the co-main event of UFC 253 on September 26th. – with most recent challenger, Reyes battling former KSW 205-pound kingpin, Błachowicz for undisputed spoils. Following tonight’s proceedings, it’s safe to say the first contender to the throne will come from a trio of Teixeira, Santos, and Rakić.
Does Aleksandar Rakić deserve a shot at light heavyweight gold following his win over Anthony Smith?