Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is gearing up to end the month of August with a bang as UFC Vegas 8 goes down later tonight (Sat., Aug. 29, 2020), featuring a Light Heavyweight bout between former title contender, Anthony Smith, and hard-hitting contender, Aleksandar Rakic. In the co-headlining act, Robbie Lawler makes his long-awaited return to face Neil Magny in a pivotal Welterweight collision.
Jon Jones is no longer the UFC Light Heavyweight champion of the world, which means that for the first time in nearly a decade UFC will have someone other than “Bones” or Daniel Cormier as its 205-pound king. That is good news for everyone in the Top 10, as they no longer have to worry about running into Jones, leaving the division wide open and for the taking. While Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will get first crack at winning the title, Anthony Smith — ranked No. 5 — has a chance to make a move. He has championship experience — losing to Jones over a year ago — and has taken on the best the division has to offer. While he is just 1-2 in his last three fights, he is still as dangerous as ever. Still, “Lionheart” simply wants to get back into the win column at this point after suffering a brutal (and painful) loss to Glover Teixeira in his last outing, which saw him lose a couple of his teeth.
Rakic, meanwhile, recently suffered his first loss in seven years after coming up short against Volkan Oezdemir. Many felt “Rocket” should’ve gotten the split-decision, which would have given him his 13th straight win. But since one judge saw it differently Rakic finds himself in the loss column. He is ranked No. 8 so he isn’t completely out of the picture. A win over Smith would get him closer to the Top 5 and that much closer to a shot at the title. I fully expect a striking battle here, and I am curious to see if “Lionheart” will be a bit gun shy following his one-sided beatdown at the hands of Teixeira. I’m also keen on seeing just how Rakic will bounce back and react to his first loss in a long time.
I can’t complain too much here. The card is well-balanced and the promotion has been putting on shows left and right in the midst of COVID-19. And despite suffering several setbacks along the way, Dana White and Co. have done their best to keep the ball rolling.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Robbie Lawler stepped in to face Neil Magny on short notice after Magny’s original opponent, Geoff Neal, was forced out of the event with pneumonia. A Light Heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cuțelaba was not on this card originally, but after it was canceled at UFC 252 due to Cutelaba testing positive for COVID-19, it was a late addition to the party. Alex Caceres was to face Giga Chikadze on the undercard, but after Chikadze bowed out, he was replaced by Kevin Croom. Just two days later, Croom was cut by the promotion just 24 hours after being signed and replaced by Austin Springer.
Other than Neal’s unfortunate health setbacks, the sole injury reported for this event was Ryan Hall’s hiccup, which forced him out of his fight against Ricardo Lamas. In his place, UFC newcomer Bill Algeo agreed to take the Featherweight fight.
The aforementioned Algeo has a huge opportunity in front of him as he gets set to make his UFC debut on short notice against long-time veteran, Ricardo Lamas. Algeo came up short on Dana White’s “Contender Series,” but bounced back nicely with a win under the Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) banner against Tim Dooling. He is 5-1 overall over his last six bouts but he will have a tough night against “The Bully,” who is in search of a big win after getting knocked out by Calvin Kattar in his previous outing.
Impa Kasanganay will bring his 7-0 record to the Octagon for the first time after earning his way in via “Contender Series.” But it wasn’t all that easy for Impa since he didn’t get an invite the first time around after a win on the show in Aug. 2019. One year later, he was right back on it and scored a unanimous decision win over Anthony Adams, finally stamping his ticket to the big dance. He will be facing Maki Pitolo, another “Contender Series” alum who is just 1-2 in his first three tries inside the Octagon.
Austin Springer got the late call up to face Alex Caceres after “Bruce Leeroy” lost not one, but two opponents during fight week. Interestingly enough, Springer’s last win came against Giga Chikadze — the man Caceres was originally set to face.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The undercard won’t exactly light the combat world on fire, but there are some interesting matchups to get you ready for the main course. Alex Caceres — who at one time looked like a potential star for the promotion — is looking for his first three-fight win streak inside the Octagon as he faces off against UFC newcomer, Austin Springer. Believe it or not, Caceres has been fighting for the promotion for nearly 10 years now, so it is high time to finally make a move and earn his first-ever three fight win streak inside the Octagon.
Zak Cummings will look to get back in the win column after losing to Omari Akhemedov in his previous bout. That’s how drastically things change in the blink of an eye in MMA: Had Cummings won that fight, he could have very well been the one facing Chris Weidman a few weeks ago in a co-main event slot. Instead, he gets Alessio Di Chirico on the “Prelims.”
Polyana Viana is in desperate need of a win after losing her last three, bringing her UFC record to just 1-3. That simply isn’t going to cut it and she could be on the chopping block once the promotion starts making the next round of cuts. She’ll be battling Emily Whitmire, who is coming off a loss to rising sensation, Amanda Ribas.
Kicking off all the action is a battle of two talented Welterweight combatants as Sean Brady will look to remain undefeated (12-0, 2-0 UFC) when he takes on Christian Aguilera, winner of three straight. Both men have shown to have nice, well-rounded attacks so this is a hard one to pick. Regardless, this fight has the chance to open up some eyes and give the victor a nice boost up.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Lawler is entertaining as all hell and is one of the most revered fighters of all time. That’s why it’s hard to suggest that perhaps his best fighting days are behind him. But that may very well be the case since “Ruthless” has lost three in a row, four of five overall, with his lone win during that span coming against another struggling veteran, Donald Cerrone. Lawler hasn’t won consecutive bouts in four years, so a win here is crucial in order to avoid losing four in a row, which would be the longest losing streak of his near 20-year professional career. And it’s not going to be an easy night at the office for the former Welterweight champion, as Magny is as game as they come and facing him on short notice only makes the task a bit tougher. Whether or not the promotion takes that into consideration should Lawler lose, remains to be seen. That being said, while the promotion did promise future cuts I highly doubt UFC would get rid of “Ruthless” and allow him to reunite with Scott Coker over at Bellator MMA.
Interest Level: 6.5 of 10
It’s a decent card to end the month. Smith has a chance to make a move in the 205-pound division which is suddenly wide open following the departure of Jon Jones. As for Rakic, he wants to get back on track after tasting defeat for the first time in seven years, and taking out Smith is a good way to get on a roll. Robbie Lawler has his chance to right his sinking ship before it starts taking on more water, while Magny can pick up one of the biggest wins of his career over a fan-favorite and former world champion.
Alexa Grasso was once considered to be a rising star and possible title contender. But the Mexican-born combatant has been rather inconsistent as of late, going just 3-3 since 2017 after starting her career off at 9-0. She is coming off a loss to Carla Esparza, so a win here is crucial to avoid suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in her career. Ji Yeon Kim, meanwhile, is just 3-2 so far in her UFC career and hasn’t really wowed anyone, She is talented, of course, but has also shown inconsistency. A win is big for both ladies if they want to make a move in the women’s Flyweight division.
Lamas needs a win pretty badly after going a paltry 1-3 in his last four contests, which includes his most recent first-round knockout loss to Calvin Kattar at UFC 238 (see it HERE). He had a big opportunity to get a win over Ryan Hall, but he will have to settle for newcomer Bill Algeo instead. But it behooves “The Bully” to not take the fight lightly or he could find himself in a much deeper hole.
Kicking off the main card is a highly-anticipated rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba. The two men initially threw down at UFC Fight Night 168 this past February which ended in controversial fashion after “The Hulk’s” rope-a-dope strategy confused the referee, who ultimately put an end to the fight. The two were set to run it back at UFC 249, then UFC 252, and now at UFC Vegas 8. While it lasted, the bout was bananas and I fully expect both men to come out swinging once again to prove their respective points.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 8 Main Event on ESPN+:
205 lbs.: Anthony Smith vs. Aleksandar Rakic
UFC Vegas 8 Main Card on ESPN+ (9 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Robbie Lawler vs. Neil Magny
115 lbs.: Alexa Grasso vs. Ji Yeon Kim
145 lbs.: Ricardo Lamas vs. Bill Algeo
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba
UFC Vegas 8 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Maki Pitolo vs. Impa Kasanganay
125 lbs.: Mallory Martin vs. Hannah Cifers
185 lbs.: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Zak Cummings
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Austin Springer
115 lbs.: Polyana Viana vs. Emily Whitmire
170 lbs.: Sean Brady vs. Christian Aguilera
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.
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