Rakic (12-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) faces Smith (33-15 MMA, 8-5 UFC) in a three-round main event clash Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 33 in Las Vegas.
The Austrian will look to rebound from his first UFC loss, a split-decision defeat to Volkan Oezdemir last December. However, the loss didn’t prove a huge setback for Rakic, who signed a new six-fight deal with the promotion shortly after, and drew former title challenger Smith for his next assignment.
Prior to his loss to Oezdemir, Rakic was coming off back-to-back first-round finishes of Devin Clark and Jimi Manuwa. But, despite that, he isn’t necessarily expecting a quick finish this time around.
He knows in a matchup with the far more experienced “Lionheart,” the fight could wind up being a back-and-forth battle that goes the full duration of their three-round main event.
“I’m ready for 15 minutes of hell, and I don’t want to predict I’m gonna knock him out in the first or the second or submit him,” Rakic told MMA Junkie. “A fight is a fight – you never know. I’m ready for everything. I’ve been training my striking, my wrestling and my grappling, putting on a new level and also my cardio. So if it goes to the distance, I’m happy. If it’s a knockout or a submission, I’m also happy. … I want to perform at the best and you’re gonna see Saturday what I’ve been doing the past two months.”
In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Smith gave Rakic props for being a dangerous opponent, but dubbed him a “one-trick pony.” When asked his thoughts on Smith’s comments, Rakic said Smith had clearly never watched any of his fights.
“He says I’m one-dimensional so this gives me information that he didn’t check out my fights,” Rakic said. “Because if he checked all my fights out, he’d know that I’m not a one-dimensional fighter. In my second fight against Justin Ledet, he was at the time unbeaten 9-0 and he was ranked No. 15 in the heavyweights. I wrestled him, and I grappled him and put a UFC record in the most difference in the strikes on the ground – I mean the whole fight, but the whole fight was on the ground.
“I showed a little bit of my ground skills, my wrestling. Against Jimi (Manuwa), I showed my knockout power. It’s good for him to think I’m one-dimensional and he’s gonna feel it on Saturday. It doesn’t matter where the fight goes – standup or ground, wrestling – I’m ready for everything.”