Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakic


The abdication of the light heavyweight title by Jon Jones leaves the division suddenly up for grabs. The first fighters to get a shot at the title in a post-Jones era have already been decided, yet the division suddenly feels refreshed with a pool of contenders ready to get in line before the year is over. That includes some who previously lost to Jones, such as Anthony Smith, as well as others who appeared to be on an early run toward a title shot, including Aleksandar Rakic.

Both men in Saturday's main event took a loss in their last appearance, but both are still clinging to a respectable top-10 ranking. That means whoever wins here will be waiting for the dust to settle among the top four ranked fighters (Dominick Reyes, Thiago Santos, Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira), all of whom compete against one another next month.

The lower-ranked fighter in the main event is also a clear betting favorite. Rakic opened -300 and immediately rose further. That's a little surprising given Smith is holding the No. 5 rank.

Prelims begin at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+, and the main card starts at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Light heavyweight main event: No. 5 Anthony Smith (+260) vs. No. 8 Aleksandar Rakic (-320)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Light heavyweight light heavyweight
Age 32 28
Height 76 77
Reach 76 78
Stance Orthodox Orrhodox
Analyzed minutes 144 50
Standup striking offense
Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 5:2 3:1
Distance knockdown rate 1.8% 6.0%
Head jab accuracy 34% 35%
Head power accuracy 36% 28%
Total standup strike ratio 1.0 1.6
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 69% 72%
Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 98% 97%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.15 0.39
Takedown accuracy 27% 29%
Advances per takedown/top control 1.0 1.0
Opponent takedown attempts 38 17
Takedown defense 50% 88%
Share of total ground time in control 23% 90%
Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.35 0.17
On paper, it's easy to see why Rakic is favored; he's younger, longer and has shown a dominant stand-up pace combined with strong grappling metrics. But he earned those metrics against much less impressive talent than Smith, who has faced only top opponents for as long as Rakic has even been on the UFC's roster.

Rakic does have deeper striking experience underlying his impressive metrics, having competed in boxing and kickboxing prior to MMA. Should the two stand and trade, Rakic should have an edge, pressing the action with a high pace. But he also has been known to attempt takedowns (more so than Smith), and Rakic has found success there despite his striking roots.

Smith was most recently dominated on the mat by Teixeira, but it's unclear if Rakic could do the same. Rakic still has the ground game to fall back on, or at least mix in with this striking attack.

E+ recommends: Slight money line lean on Rakic but only if it's under -300.

Best bets elsewhere on the card

Another clear favorite who should deliver is Alexa Grasso (-320), who faces Ji Yeon Kim (+260). Grasso is moving up 10 pounds to flyweight but faced stiff competition at strawweight, so she should not be phased by a rangier opponent.

Neither fighter utilizes much of a ground game, and Grasso's stand-up metrics are superior across the board. She should get the edge on the cards as long as she can close the distance on a long opponent.

E+ recommends: Money line play on Grasso.

A minor upset play could be Zak Cummings (-105) against Alessio Di Chirico (-115). Cummings brings a veteran's ground game. Cummings would be wise to close range for clinch work and grappling, and should it get to the ground, he'll be looking for submissions.

E+ recommends: Money line lean on Cummings at plus money.