In Las Vegas, Nevada, inside the APEX, UFC Vegas 37 will pit Ryan “Superman” Spann against the scrappy and charismatic Anthony Smith.
Smith will fight down in the rankings once again to remind the light heavyweight division that sometimes the best talking you do is with your hands. It’s safe to say that Smith is familiar with that phenomenon, as “Lionheart” is a 51-fight veteran with 18 knockouts of his thirty-five wins.
In his eventual move up to 205-pounds, there were some skeptics, but Smith was steadfast in his approach. It only took one violent night to convince the world that he was sticking around and he did it against the former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
In his 205 pound debut, the performance only lasted 53 seconds, as sharp knees up the middle pierced through the former champ. After catching fire, Smith bottled it and poured gasoline on himself until reaching the final boss in Jon “Bones” Jones. While he couldn’t steal gold from Jones, Smith is ready to carve a new path towards a light heavyweight title. The American believes his streak of violence continues with Ryan Spann this Saturday.
Looking to play spoiler to Smith’s second LHW title run, is the powerhouse known as “Superman.” Spann has legitimate stopping power on the feet, but his top pressure is also a useful weapon he implements at times. Spann establishes at least one takedown per fifteen minutes (TD Avg.: 1.72). With grappling sequences leading to finishing sequences, Spann sports a very impressive 84.2% finishing rate (16 finishes/19 wins).
One of Spann’s strengths is his unparalleled ability to tire opponents out while forcing them to engage in clinch battles. This technique was utilized to great effect in Spann’s fight with the Latvian-born Misha Cirkunov. Early in round one, the work paid off, and Spann delivered a heater of a right hand that sat the 205-pound Cirkunov down. While the right hook and ground-and-pound follow-up were academic, it certainly highlighted Spann’s tremendous power.
Spann’s ability to overwhelm opponents is what often causes them to shoot in for a sloppy takedown against him. Of his eleven submission victories, a whopping seven come by way of guillotine choke. Without a doubt, this serves as one of his most dangerous weapons as he enters UFC Vegas 37 against Anthony Smith.
Smith will have to be mindful of Spann’s guillotine choke. Though Smith’s Jui-Jitsu is top-notch as the light heavyweight has only been submitted three times in a career that dates back to 2007.
In Smith’s last outing at UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2, he faced Australia’s, Jimmy Crute. This fight highlighted the two weapons that Smith has been using to great success: a low calf kick and a powerful lead jab. While Smith’s kick landed more on the joint of the knee, we have seen how powerful oblique kicks can be. So much so, that a committee has decided to take a closer look at the damaging kick.
Smith’s bullish tendencies have vanished and he’s developed into a methodical fighter. If there is an inkling that his standup is not up to par with his opponent, his veteran savvy takes him into a snatch single leg without thinking too extensively. His versatility by virtue of his cage experience is what makes each one of his fights so exciting to watch. MMA fans have witnessed the maturation of Anthony Smith. Starting his career in 2007, 51 fights later, and “Lionheart” is still clawing his way to the top.
Since the two are built physically similar, the jab will be less useful for Smith than it was in his last bout against Crute. Smith’s striking output is slightly lower than Spann’s, and not being able to keep Spann at bay by pumping jabs could be problematic for the former title challenger.
Ahead of the UFC Vegas 37 main event, things are heating up between the two. The #6-ranked Smith will look to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s gunning for the title as Spann looks to pursue the perfect finish.
Prediction: Ryan Spann def. Anthony Smith by TKO Round 2
Who do you think will come out on top in the UFC Vegas 37 main event?