UFC Vegas 8: Matchup By Matchup

#5 Anthony Smith vs #9 Aleksandar Rakic

In a marquee matchup between two top tier light heavyweights, we get an interesting pairing between Lionheart and Rakic. 

Based on him being the underdog, bettors must have forgotten just how good Anthony Smith is. C’mon, he’s a former title challenger who is basically 50 fights deep as a pro. 

Yes, the last fight with Glover did not end the way he would have liked and he did take some damage. However, if you take a look at his career’s history, you will see that quick turnarounds and staying busy is on-brand for the midwest-tough Lionheart. His nickname is Lionheart for a reason, and he would have fought sooner if he could have. 

Rakic is explosively dangerous, there is no denying that whatsoever. What we can take a look at though is, how will that power hold up throughout the fight when you have someone as durable as Lionheart? Also, psychology has to be a factor here because we have seen how it can play with power strikers’ heads when they are unable to land their shot. Again, Rakic is dangerous, but in all fairness, so is everyone in the top 10. He has not shown a diverse arsenal yet, but the basic combinations he does throw, he throws very well.

Lionheart is coming into this fight very clear-headed, and free from outside noise. If you can recall, just a couple weeks before the Texeira fight, Smith had to fight for his family’s life fending off an intruder during a home invasion. Right now, he is happy. And, a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter.

He’s also now had the crowdless venue experience and this may be an advantage to know how it feels to hit the curtain and not hear an arena full of fans. 

Most of Rakic’s fights have ended on the feet, so we may see a strong push from the BJJ blackbelt Smith and his Factory X camp to get it to the ground. Smith has won two of his last four fights by Rear Naked Choke, including Alexander Gustaffson and their one common opponent.Ready for the first example of MMA math for the day? Smith finished Volkan Oezdemir, Rakic lost a split decision. 

According to the line, it’s not the popular choice. However, no chance I’m not taking the guy who has as many fights in the UFC as the other guy has total while never having back-to-back losses in his UFC tenure. You guessed it, I’m taking the comeback on the underdog Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. 

#13 Robbie Lawler vs #14 Neil Magny 

Elevation Fight Team captain Neil Magny takes on former UFC champion Robbie Lawler. Magny has been surging while Lawler is certainly on the back 9 of his career at 38-years-old on the heels of three straight losses. Yes, one of these was the controversial Ben Askren fight, but at the end of the day, it is still an official loss.

Magny has been a model of efficiency in his last two fights where he picked Anthony Rocco Martin and JingLiang Li apart. Depending on which Robbie we see, Neil is a tough matchup based on the volume, accuracy, and pressure of his offense and his length and movement changes the math on the defensive front. 

Lawler had trouble with Colby Covington’s volume and pressure in his last outing more than a year ago. It was almost as if Robbie was waiting for Colby to fade, or just take a breather for that matter, before he shot his shot and went after it. The problem was, Covington is so well-conditioned that he never let his foot off the gas and Lawler never got his offense going. Now, we did see Robbie throw a couple of those soul-snatching power punches, they just did not find their mark and there was not enough volume or blended combos to cause any trouble.

Magny has to fight the smart fight by using his movement and range to avoid the spark shot, no human on earth should ever want to stand in front of the Ruthless One for a rock ‘em sock ‘em robots matchup.

Magny’s fight IQ wins this. He is too smart to go in a phone booth with Lawler, and his length will create some issues for Robbie on his striking entries. If you’re feeling bold enough to wager a fight outcome, weigh the line on the decision for Magny.

#14 Ji Yeon Kim vs Alexa Grasso

Technically this is a #14 vs #14, but Grasso’s #14 was at strawweight before she moved up to flyweight after issues at the scale forced the move.

While Kim does have skill, Grasso has the sauce. She has the look, she’s tougher than hell, and you can tell that the UFC would like to push her brand. She was on track with the UFC marketing machine already, but her disastrous weight cut situation for the Claudia Gadelha fight put those plans on hold for the time being.

On paper, Grasso still looks to be the better fighter, but carrying the extra weight is something to consider. The overall percentage of mass is obviously more significant when looking at a 115 lb. to 125 lb. jump as opposed to moving up divisions in larger weight classes.

Even with that unknown variable, Grasso is coming in at a -315 favorite. I’m not going against the grain here.

Ricardo Lamas vs Bill Algeo

Bill Algeo is a UFC newcomer who made his rise in the Northeast circuit. He took a loss on the Contender Series in 2019, but recorded a follow-up win to put him back on the UFC radar. He was scheduled to fight 8/13 against Pat Sabatini, but Sabatini withdrew for illness and the near-weight Algeo got the call.

In his first UFC fight, he will face a game veteran in Ricardo Lamas. Lamas has fallen on hard times recently falling to the sizzling Calvin Kattar most recently on a skid that has seen him drop three of four. Lamas may not be the same animal that went toe-to-toe slugging it out with Max Holloway for one of the most iconic in-fight-moments of UFC history, but he is still dangerous.

Lamas takes it.

#13 Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba

Ahh, finally the rematch is here. Let’s start off by saying that Ion Cutelaba is batshit crazy, just look up any YouTube video with his name and crazy in the search. His wild antics are actually what caused the first fight to end so controversially.

Cutelaba was doing his own version of the Anderson Silva ‘act like your hurt’ routine, and the referee actually stopped the fight despite Cutelaba being fine. Make no mistake, Ankalaev is tough as nails and there is a reason he has only tasted defeat once in his career.

I will be thoroughly shocked to see this go the distance. In general, these guys are finishers who ‘go for it’ and will take risks to land their shots. Add to it that there is so much hype around the rematch between the two personally, and you have a recipe for fireworks inside a 25’ octagon.

Flip a coin on who, it doesn’t go the distance.

Maki Pitolo vs Impa Kasanganay

I love watching Maki “Coconut Bombz” Pitolo fight because he just gets after it. We’ve discussed him here before, and he embodies that Hawaiian warrior spirit. He takes on the debutant Impa Kasangany fresh off of a win on the Contender Series at the beginning of the month. 

Impa is solid, but Maki is violent. The Hawaiian will be taking the octagon for the third time in three months. His last fight was August 8, but he did not take much damage at all in a first round submission loss. In true “scrappah” style, he is turning around quick to get the taste of the loss out of his mouth and will likely be coming with a head full of steam. 

Placing a wager on the fight outcome is always a higher risk scenario than the moneyline, but with high risk comes high reward. Pitolo by KO/TKO and he gives Impa his first loss.

Alessio Di Chirico vs Zak Cummings

Zak Cummings is silently one of the toughest fighters on the roster. He’s been in the UFC for 7 years and has fought the who’s who of the 170 and 185 lb. division throughout his tenure in the promotion following his time on The Ultimate Fighter.

Coming into this fight, Cummings has double the pro fight experience that Di Chirico has. Di Chirico has went 3-4 in the UFC and is currently coming off of two losses. He has also yet to face a veteran like Cummings.

On the flipside, Cummings has a strength of schedule that will make your eyes pop. When you take a look at his 23-7 record, do not be discouraged by the 7. Why? This list of names is all you need to see: Tim Kennedy, Omari Ahkmedov, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Gunnar Nelson, and the robot dancing viral sensation Ryan Jimmo. 

Cummings of Factory X gets back in the winner’s circle.

Alex Caceres vs Austin Springer

Alex “Bruce LeeRoy” Caceres is a 22-fight veteran in the UFC and welcomes Austin Springer for his debut. Fight week for Caceres has certainly been nuts, as this is now his third opponent inside that timeframe. Oddly enough, his originally scheduled opponent, Giga Chikadze, lost to Springer on the Contender Series.

Springer missed weight by more than five pounds and Caceres is a high-motor guy with some crazy movement. If Springer’s body reacts in a similar fashion as Herbert Burns’ body did after missing by a similar margin, that’s trouble.

Caceres is a vet, don’t be surprised if he drags him into deep water and tests Springer’s will after the missed weight. I like the idea of the over the most, and am leaning toward Caceres on the moneyline.

Sean Brady vs Christian Aguilera

Sean Brady is undefeated after a dozen pro fights, but that can change in one punch Saturday against the hard-hitting Christian Aguilera. Brady comes from the Renzo Gracie schooling system, so you know he’s going to look to use his jiu-jitsu to neutralize the thunderous Aguilera.

Brady has a win against Court McGee, which indicates that not only does he have skill, he’s also tough with solid conditioning.

All of that being said in favor of the massive favorite, Brady, I am going to go against the grain here and take Aguilera. Aguilera fights with bad intentions and goes for the finish as evidenced in his UFC debut earlier this summer in which he recorded a KO in just 0:59 of the first round. Fortune favors the bold, at +900 odds currently, I’ve got some money on the KO/TKO for Aguilera.

Polyana Viana vs Emily Whitmire

This matchup features two fighters coming off of losses. Viana (10-4) may have lost three straight, but look for her to bounce back big in this matchup. Keep in mind, she is the only person to record a win against top prospect Amanda Ribas. “Spitfire” Whitmire was submitted via RNC by Ribas, but you know, MMA math…

This fight was originally scheduled for UFC 248, but Whitmire fell ill after missing weight and was forced to pull out of the fight at the last minute. If I’m Viana, this adds fuel to my fire and I’m looking to make a statement for having to wait more than five months for a paycheck.

If it was not crystal clear already, Viana here.

Mallory Martin vs Hannah Cifers

It has been a tough go in the UFC for Cifers, and it is not going to get any easier on Saturday night when she faces one of the most menacing women’s MMA prospects in the entire sport, Mallory Martin. To start, Cifers missed weight. To be fair, this was her fourth time weighing in this year, which is certainly not easy on the body. 

Mallory Martin is a savage who will rip your face off and will verbally let you know she’s doing it in the process. The Elevation Fight Team product has gone viral on multiple occasions for letting her opponent know, “No one can save you!” while she thunders down ground and pound. 

Martin will finish Cifers on the ground, the question is whether it is due to the GNP or does she force Cifers to give up a submission.

-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303

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