The UFC announced the fight Saturday during the UFC 252 broadcast, adding the bout will be contested over three rounds. Usually, main events and title bouts are five rounds.
The event takes place at UFC APEX and will air on ESPN and ESPN+.
Both light heavyweights hope to rebound after recent setbacks. Smith’s most recent octagon appearance came in May at UFC Jacksonville and ended in a brutal fifth-round TKO loss to fellow one-time title challenger Glover Teixeira. The bout ignited a firestorm of controversy over the performances of Smith’s corners and referee Jason Herzog. Smith defended his team and said he would have fired his coaches if they’d thrown in the towel. Herzog appeared to apologize over the timing of his stoppage and promised to improve his skills.
Rakic rocketed up the 205-pound ranks with four straight wins including a highlight-reel knockout of Jimi Manuwa. He ran into a roadblock in his previous performance, however, losing a split decision to one-time title challenger Volkan Oezdemir.
UFC Vegas 8 was originally scheduled to feature a long-awaited featherweight showdown between Zair Rodriguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov. But for the second time in his career, Rodriguez withdrew from the planned matchup, and the promotion was unsuccessful finding a replacement for Magomedsharipov.