June 5, 2019

UFC on ESPN+ 11: Aleksandar Rakic Was the Breakthrough Fighter At UFC Stockholm

By Adam Martin

The UFC Stockholm card this past Saturday was full of standout performances that are worth talking about. In the main event, Anthony Smith retired Alexander Gustafsson with a vicious fourth-round submission to cement Smith's place as an elite light heavyweight. We also saw Makwan Amirkhani win a bonus for his anaconda choke submission over Chris Fishgold and Leonardo Santos return after a three-year layoff to KO Stevie Ray with one punch. It was a card full of tremendous individual performances, but one in particular stands out above the rest.

In the co-main event bout, light heavyweight prospect Aleksandar Rakic had a breakthrough performance with a brutal first-round KO via head kick over veteran Jimi Manuwa. Rakic needed just 47 seconds to put Manuwa out on the canvas stiff and knocked out cold in what was by far the biggest win of his career to date. The 27-year-old native of Austria is now 12-1 in his MMA career with a 4-0 record in the UFC alone. He hasn't lost a fight since losing his MMA debut back in 2011 by submission, a streak which includes victories over Manuwa, Devin Clark, Justin Ledet, and Francimar Barroso in the UFC. By all accounts, Rakic looks like a super prospect in a division that desperately needs fresh faces.

With Rakic, Johnny Walker, and Dominick Reyes, the UFC light heavyweight division has three young up-and-coming fighters who could soon challenge champion Jon Jones for the title. All three of these guys are undefeated in the UFC and have been mowing through their opponents for the most part. In a division that has seen Jones dominate the competition for the better part of a decade, its former champ Daniel Cormier move up a weight class, and former top contenders Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson retire, it's nice to see some fresh blood emerge from the shadows and turn heads with their performances inside the Octagon, and Rakic is at the forefront.

With the win over Manuwa, Rakic should find himself ranked in the Top 10 at 205 lbs, and he deserves to fight someone ranked above him. The fighter ranked right above Manuwa is Glover Teixeira, who is coming off of back-to-back finishes over Karl Roberson and Ion Cutelaba. Teixeira appears to be a prospect killer at this point of his career, so it makes sense for Rakic to fight him and try to improve his ranking against the division's top gatekeeper. Alternatively, Rakic could fight Corey Anderson, who needs an opponent, Volkan Oezdemir, whose fight against Ilir Latifi on the same card had to be scrapped, or even Smith if the UFC matchmakers feel like Rakic is ready for a title shot and want to test him.

Regardless of who the UFC matches Rakic up against next, it absolutely has to be someone in the Top 10. He deserves the chance to prove himself against a top fighter in the division after his breakthrough KO over Manuwa. Just 27, Rakic looks like he has all the tools to be a future champion in the UFC light heavyweight division. We have been waiting for years to see if someone can come in and compete with Jones, and it looks like Rakic could be that guy. He's looked amazing so far in the UFC, and now let's see how he fares when he fights a top guy at 205 lbs. With another win or two, don't be shocked to see Rakic fighting for the UFC light heavyweight title sooner than later.

UFC on ESPN+ 11: Gustafsson vs. Smith (formerly UFC on ESPN+ 10: Gustafsson vs. Smith) took place June 1, 2019 at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 11 Post-Fight Analysis


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