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Light heavyweights looking to bounce back

A losing streak will come to an end this Saturday night when the UFC presents a showdown in the light heavyweight division.

Former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith will be looking to bounce back from a devasting loss when he faces prospect Aleksandar “Rocket” Rakic, who is also looking to get back in the win column.

Smith, currently ranked No. 5 in the light heavyweight division, is coming off a surprising fifth-round TKO loss to 40-year-old former title challenger Glover Teixeira, who was beating on Smith for so long he actually knocked some of Smith’s actual teeth out. Despite the loss, Smith is still one of the best light heavyweights in the world. He moved up from middleweight to light heavyweight in 2018 and had one of the best career resurgences in recent memory.

In Smith’s first fight, Smith was welcomed by former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and knocked out Evans in just 53 seconds. Smith then took a short-notice fight a month later against former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a main event. Smith knocked out Rua in under two minutes.

Smith’s toughest test saw him go up against former title challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir just a few months later. Smith faced some adversity as expected as both knockout artists went to war, but Smith was able to get Oezdemir down and submit him in the third round to put himself in a position for a title shot. Smith would get his wish and face Jon Jones but was ultimately dominated the whole fight and lost by decision.

Smith, not wanting to waste any time, accepted a fight against three-time title challenger Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson and submitted Gustafsson in the fourth round in front of Gustafsson’s home country Sweden.

Smith has knockout power and will rush forward to knock out his opponents. If the fight hits the ground, Smith isn’t shy to show off his underrated Jiu Jitsu to submit his opponents. No matter how much time is left, Smith is always looking for the finish which makes him a dangerous opponent.

Rakic, currently ranked No. 8 in the light heavyweight division, has been in the UFC since 2017 but just recently gained popularity by first knocking out perennial light heavyweight contender Jimi Manuwa in 42 seconds with a beautiful head kick - considered by many the Knock Out of the Year in 2019. Most recently, Rakic fought former Oezdemir and the two competed in a very close and entertaining fight. The close split decision went in favor of Volkan. Even though he lost, Rakic never once seemed to give up even though he had an injured leg early in the fight and many people believe Rakic should have been deemed the winner.

With a background in kickboxing, Rakic works on different ways to hide him throwing kicks, especially head kicks because it has brought him success in his career so far.

Rakic, just 28, is only getting better with age. Rakic is very well rounded and carries a lot of power in every punch and kick he throws. Rakic only has one submission win, but he does have a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which makes his opponents think twice about taking the fight to the ground.

While it would probably be easier to flip a coin to choose a winner, I’m going to give the slight edge to Rakic to win by decision. Catch all of the fights this Saturday on ESPN!

Tidwell’s picking record: 2-2 (Correctly chose Frankie Edgar to defeat Munhoz by decision last week)

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