Elton John was on to something 47 years ago when he sang that Saturday night is alright for fighting. One certain we have in these uncertain times is when Saturday rolls around, we’ll have some UFC action to watch. And bet on, of course.
This Saturday the UFC brings us UFC Fight Night: Smith vs Rakic from their home gym, the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card is full of debuting fighters and prospects, with a few ‘name’ veterans sprinkled in the mix.
The main event pits two light heavyweight fighters looking to move up to the top of the rankings – one of them for the first time, the other trying to claw his way back to the top. This is especially important now that the ruler of the division – all-time great Jon Jones – has relinquished his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship to challenge the heavyweights of the promotion. A win on Saturday could put the victor on the fast track to a title shot.
Smith v Rakic: Best Bet
So, who are these two fighters I’m beating around the bush about? First up, Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith. The journeyman middleweight fighter went on an improbable run once moving up to the 205-pound weight class in 2018, winning three-straight fights to earn himself a shot at Jones’s title. He, of course, lost that fight, but did beat top contender Alexander Gustafsson shortly thereafter. However, he was absolutely destroyed in May of this year by Glover Teixeira, in a fight most viewers decried for not being stopped before Smith was almost beaten to death.
In the other corner on Saturday night – Aleksandar Rakic. The 28-year-old striker also lost his last time in the octagon, to Volkan Oedzemir. Before that fight he had run off 12 straight wins, moving his pro record to 12-2. He also is a knockout machine, finishing nine of those 12 victims via strikes.
While I’m picking the younger, bigger, harder hitting Rakic to win, I think the betting lines are a bit off. Rakic is currently at
10/31, Smith at
21/10. There’s a good chance that Rakic overwhelms Smith with his power and finishes him off with strikes, especially if Smith is still damaged, physically and/or mentally, from his last fight. But Smith is a more well rounded fighter than Rakic, and has fought – and beat – a much higher level of competition, making him a very live dog in my eyes.
Lawlor v Magny in Co-Main Event
The co-main event sees former UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler jump in on late notice to face top 15 contender Neil Magny. The 38-year-old Lawler certainly appears to be on his way out, with losses in his last three and four of his last five. His 21 finishes out of 28 career wins is also misleading, as he hasn’t finished a fight in over five years.
His opponent, Magny, is five years his junior, is four inches taller, and has a six-inch reach advantage on Lawler. He’s also a superior grappler and has been in less wars than Lawler has over the years. Which all adds up to Magny at
10/27 probably the wise way to go if you want to bet on this one.
As for underdogs fighting on Saturday night, I like Polyana Viana at
23/20. ‘Dama de Ferro’ (aka Iron Maiden or Lady of Steel) has lost her last three fights, which is a red flag, but I like her in her matchup with Emily Whitmire. She’s bigger and has much more finishing ability than her foe, making her worth a look perhaps. Other than that, it’s pretty much chalk for the rest of the night.
*All odds correct at time of writing.