Preview: UFC Fight Night 192 ‘Smith vs. Spann’ - Smith vs. Spann

By: Tom Feely
Sep 17, 2021

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns from a week off with a typical UFC Apex show that may be light on star power but provides some clear entertainment potential. Light heavyweights will take center stage at UFC Fight Night 192, where Anthony Smith suits up for his seventh UFC headliner opposite Ryan Spann and Ion Cutelaba faces Devin Clark in the co-feature. The rest of the main card offers some intrigue, as Arman Tsarukyan looks to establish himself as the best young lightweight prospect on the roster and viral knockout artist Joaquin Buckley tries to rebound against Antonio Arroyo.

Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Smith vs. Spann” main card:

Light Heavyweights

#6 LHW | Anthony Smith (35-16, 10-6 UFC) vs. #11 LHW | Ryan Spann (19-6, 5-1 UFC)

ODDS: Smith (-162), Spann (+142)

Smith might be in the midst of a second rise through the light heavyweight ranks, which might be just as surprising as the first. Smith’s first stint in the UFC essentially did not count—he came over as part of Strikeforce, lost quickly and was immediately cut—but “Lionheart” eventually went on a winning streak that earned him another UFC shot in 2016. Smith’s first two fights upon his return were unremarkable, but then came a three-fight tear that established him as an author of comebacks. Elvis Mutapcic, Andrew Sanchez and Hector Lombard all had early success against him, but Smith found a late finish each time and became a middleweight worth watching. After kicking off 2018 with a loss in a fun fight against Thiago Santos, Smith announced his move up to 205 pounds; and shockingly, it took Smith less than a year to become the light heavyweight division’s top contender. Smith’s relative spryness allowed him to run over late-career versions of Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua, and after one more comeback victory against Volkan Oezdemir, he was suddenly next in line for Jon Jones. Unsurprisingly, Smith was outclassed by the light heavyweight champion, but a rebound win against the old guard of the division—in this case a comeback victory over Alexander Gustafsson—provided some hope that the Corpus Christi, Texas, native could stay relevant at light heavyweight. However, after a long layoff due to injuries and the coronavirus pandemic, those hopes seemed to be dashed. Smith’s loss to Glover Teixeira was horrific in nature, particularly in an empty arena. After surviving Smith’s early start, Teixeira laid such a beating on the Factory X rep that the he was audibly talking about his teeth being knocked out over the course of the fight. After getting outwrestled by Aleksandar Rakic in another main event spot, it seemed like Smith was getting passed over by the latest wave of light heavyweight talent. However, that once again gave way to another wild swing in Smith’s career momentum. A late-notice main event spot against Devin Clark ended in a quick Smith submission victory, and he followed it with an injury stoppage win over Jimmy Crute. Smith is a flawed fighter who also has the advantage of being in a flawed division, so there is a chance that he can keep this momentum going enough to find his way back near the top of the 205-pound class. He gets a dangerous opponent in this main event spot against Spann.

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Spann has some obvious physical talent, but even after a successful six-fight run in the UFC, it remains difficult to entirely pin down his game. Over the course of his fights—if they go any length of time— “Superman” can show a lot of offensive skill, whether it is the ability to outwrestle his opponents or take them apart on the feet. However, there is not much in the way of a defined approach. Spann moves forward, but past that, there does not seem to be a plan, as he keeps trying things until something works; and even then, he may still pivot to something else entirely. Against some opponents, such as late-career Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or the perpetually chinny Misha Cirkunov, Spann can turn out the lights without much trouble. Then there are performances like his 2020 win over Sam Alvey, as Spann decided to take a wrestling-heavy approach that made the fight as difficult and ugly as possible. In a division with athletes and knockout artists, there is always a chance that Spann finds himself purely outgunned: He lost to Karl Roberson in just 15 seconds on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series, and his lone UFC loss saw him eat a knockout in an absolute mess of a fight against Johnny Walker roughly a year ago. Like Smith, Spann has enough offensive firepower in a flawed division that he can beat most opponents on most nights, and he could turn that into a run at contender status with his biggest win yet.

This should be an entertaining fight, intentionally or not, as these two men are both dangerous and wildly inconsistent. Smith tends to have one of two speeds: Either he can run over his opponent immediately, or he tends to eat a ton of offense before eventually steeling himself for a comeback. This feels like it will be the latter fight, and from there, it is a bit of a coinflip as to whether or not Spann can finish Smith before the comeback happens. Spann certainly has knockout power, but his approach is aimless and Smith has proven surprisingly durable in the early stages of his fights. Smith will probably get cracked, and it seems likelier that Spann tries a bunch of bad ideas while hunting for a finish rather than knocking out “Lionheart” cleanly. That probably includes some wrestling and grappling, where Smith is surprisingly effective. This all lines up for a Smith comeback win, albeit a bit quicker than usual. The pick is Smith via second-round submission.

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