In what seems like ages ago, “Lionheart” (35-16-0) unsuccessfully challenged then champion Jon Jones for the title in 2019. Jones was deducted two points for an illegal knee in that fight, but an honorable Smith continued rather than win the title on a potential disqualification.
Smith came back strong to submit Alexander Gustafsson, then was bullied by Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. Just when we thought Smith was washed up, he bounced back with big wins over Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute. Now, ranked No. 6, Smith needs at least two big wins to get another shot at the title while needing to protect his spot against No.11 Ryan Spann Saturday.
Spann (19-6-0), 30, is a Dana White Contenders Series alum and at 6’5”, is a big, athletic specimen, worthy of his “Superman” moniker. He trains at Fortis MMA in Texas and has won nine of his last 10 bouts, many with a formidable guillotine choke. A big win will have Spann knocking on the door of the top 5.
This is where the experience of Smith should kick in. He’s taken down big names like Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, and Gustafsson before. He knows what it takes to earn a title shot. Despite a five-inch reach disadvantage, Smith at 6’4” is only one inch shorter than Spann.
With Kryptonite being in short supply, a little grappling and clinching could take some of the starch out of Spann.
Spann has said in interviews that he doesn’t like Smith. I guess that wouldn’t be the first time a fighter disliked his opponent going into a contest.
Smith seemed to have some fun with it, while being careful not to tug too hard on Superman’s cape.
UFC Fight Night 192 will tell the tale.
In the Clinch – Anthony Smith needs to protect his neck at UFC Fight Night 192 – More Resources
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