LAS VEGAS – Aleksandar Rakic thinks he’s now right in the title mix in the UFC’s light heavyweight division after his lop-sided decision win over Anthony Smith.

Rakic (13-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) bounced back from his split-decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir last December with a dominant display against former title challenger Smith (33-15 MMA, in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 33 at the UFC Apex. Now he says he’s ready for a crack at the title.

Rakic said he wanted to lay a marker down with his performance against Smith and, after dominating much of the action through his 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 victory, he said he achieved his aim, even though he didn’t get the finish.

“I feel very good. I told in my interviews this week I need to make a statement. I’m not going to rush a finish, if the finish comes, it comes. If not, my goal is to make a great performance and this is what happened,” he told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage after his victory. “In the third, I think I dropped him. I followed up, but I knew Anthony’s a tough guy. He can take a beating and I didn’t want to spend all my energy. I was was secured and that was the gameplan, to get the dominant victory.”

Rakic’s bout with Smith was promoted to the main event slot after the planned main event between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez was scrapped due to the Mexican featherweight contender suffering an injury. However, while the bout was promoted up the card, the fight itself remained set as a three-round bout. Rakic said he was more than ready to go the full five rounds, if required, and said that if he needs to prove that in his next fight to cement top contender status, he’s ready to do so.

“I made a great performance tonight and I think I’m next for the title, but if the UFC want to see me in a five-round fight, they can do it,” he said. “I was preparing for a three-round fight, but I could go another two rounds with no problems, so I was ready for five. Can you imagine (a fight) with me getting ready for a five-round fight at this pace? It’s going to be amazing.”

Rakic’s dominant performance looks set to put him right in the mix at the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, and with Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes set to do battle for the belt recently vacated by Jon Jones, Rakic is ready to step up and take his shot when the time is right.

“We’re going to see what the UFC has planned for me next,” he said. “I’m gonna be ready, it’s getting very interesting right now. Jan-Reyes, Thiago-Glover. We’re gonna see what happens.”