Anthony Smith could feel the difference between himself and Aleksandar Rakic at UFC on ESPN+ 33, and that has him contemplating a change to his career.
On Saturday night, Smith simply could not get anything going as Rakic mostly had his way with the former light heavyweight title challenger, en route to a unanimous decision by scores of 30-26 and 30-27 twice in their three-round main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Smith spoke afterward about how strong Rakic was compared to and wondered about what to do next.
“I’ve never been one of the guys that’s out here pining and calling for more weight classes, but in these last couple of fights that’s kind of where my brain goes,” Smith said on the UFC on ESPN+ 33 post-fight show. “I’m just too big for 185, and you start getting into these bigger, stronger, taller, longer guys. They’re just so strong. … I think I got some big decisions to make in my career and figure out where we go from here. It’s super frustrating to lose to a guy you feel you can beat.”
Right from the start, Smith was behind the eight ball as leg kick after leg kick from Rakic went unchecked until Smith finally fell to the canvas. And while Smith never felt like he was in serious trouble, he admits there wasn’t anything he could do.
“Well, the first round I kind of stayed in kicking range at the beginning, which was obviously stupid now. He just beat on my lead leg, and then we got into clinch and grappling exchanges, which I felt OK in, but he was just so strong. He’s so big,” Smith said. “… He was so tight on top that I couldn’t make any space. I guess just my biggest takeaway is that he’s just so big and so strong.”
And that’s what has Smith wondering. He felt similarly about his prior loss to Glover Teixeira in May, when he was dominated in ugly fashion for five rounds.
Smith used to compete at middleweight before moving up to light heavyweight in June 2018. He made an immediate splash by winning three fights in a row – against former champions Rashad Evans and “Shogun” Rua, as well as Volkan Oezdemir – to earn a shot at Jon Jones’ title. Smith, however, fell short of gold with a lackluster performance against Jones.
Although Smith, 32, rebounded with a June 2019 win over Alexander Gustafsson, these last two fights against Teixeira and Rakic have been rough. Smith finds himself in a quandary when he considers how much he struggled to make middleweight.
“I don’t know. (One hundred and eighty-five pounds) is still really tough,” Smith said. “It’s a total lifestyle change, and that’s year-round. It’s not like one of those things where I can get into camp and change my diet and cut down. It’s a complete lifestyle change. I guess that’s one of the options. I guess the other option is to take some time off and get bigger. I don’t know. I’ve got some things to decide on.”