A year ago, Anthony Smith appeared to be done as a factor in the 205-pound title picture. He had lost three of his last four, dating back to his fight with then-champ Jon Jones in March of 2019. All three of the losses had been one-sided, and his fight with Glover Teixeira was one of the most brutal beatings ever seen in the Octagon.
However, “Lionheart” has quietly bounced back, recording back-to-back wins over younger up-and-comers Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute, both by finish. Those wins have kept Smith in the rankings, serving notice that the 33-year-old isn’t quite done yet, and “UFC Vegas 37” will be his eighth main event in his last nine appearances.
Squaring off against the resurgent Nebraskan will be Fortis MMA’s Ryan Spann, one of the division’s most intriguing prospects. The rangy 6-foot-5 Texan is 5-1 in the UFC, with the lone setback coming in a wild — and somewhat controversial — fight with Johnny Walker. “Superman” got back on track after that loss with a 71-second smashing of Misha Cirkunov in March.
With current champion Jan Blachowicz set to defend his title against the ageless Glover Teixeira on Oct. 30, the winner of this Saturday’s main event may be deceptively close to a title shot — though if Smith prevails, he should be hoping Teixeira doesn’t become the new champ, because that rematch would be a tough sell.
However, there's a bit of a queue forming for a title shot in the post-Jones light heavyweight division. Also watching the Blachowicz-Teixeira fight with interest will be Jiri Prochazka, the odds-on favorite to meet the winner; Aleksandar Rakic, whose back-to-back wins over Smith and Thiago Santos likely place him next in line; and Walker and Santos, who meet two weeks from Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 193.
Ben Duffy/Sherdog.com illustration