Blaydes Tests Positive for COVID-19, Smith-Clark Elevated to UFC on ESPN 18 Main Event

By: Jay Pettry
Nov 27, 2020

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Editor's note: The article has been updated at 1:25 p.m. on Nov. 27 to reflect the new status of the new main event.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship headliner on the latest ESPN showcase is off the day before it was set to go down.

ESPN first announced on Friday that Curtis Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19. This news pulls him out of his UFC on ESPN 18 heavyweight main event with Derrick Lewis. ESPN noted that the UFC is intending to re-book the event for a December card, but given the length of quarantine for standard coronavirus cases, it would likely be headed to the already stacked UFC Fight Night 183 card on Dec. 19. Shifting to the headliner place will be a light heavyweight matchup of Anthony Smith (33-16) vs. Devin Clark (12-4), which, according to MMA Junkie, will be a five-round affair. ESPN has since confirmed that the contest has now been booked for five rounds.

This will be Smith’s seventh consecutive bout as a main event, although like his match with Aleksandar Rakic, it will be on short notice. Smith vs. Rakic served atop UFC Fight Night 175 in August when the Zabit Magomedsharipov-Yair Rodriguez scrap fell through again. Entering his 50th career bout, Smith is on his first losing streak since 2013, when a trio of submission defeats led to his exodus from the UFC. The losses both came in 2020, when Glover Teixeira pounded him out in May and Rakic outworked him to a one-sided decision loss. “Lionheart” does sport a 91 percent finish rate in victory, with each of his last seven triumphs coming inside the distance.

Clark will be thrust into his first marquee matchup against Smith after 10 prior trips to the Octagon. “Brown Bear” has beaten six opponents inside the UFC to date, all by unanimous verdict. On the other hand, each of his four defeats came by stoppage within two frames. The Jackson-Wink MMA fighter is currently riding a two-fight win streak with decisions over Alonzo Menifield and Dequan Townsend. This is his longest winning stretch since he rattled off wins in 2016 and 2017 over Josh Stansbury and Jake Collier.

UFC on ESPN 18 is scheduled for Nov. 28 for now at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. With the headliner now Smith vs. Clark at light heavyweight, the new co-main sees the unbeaten Miguel Baeza square off with the hard-hitting Takashi Sato at welterweight. Also on the main card is a fun heavyweight collision between the debuting Josh Parisian and heavy-handed Parker Porter.

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