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UFC Fight Night in focus


Only one 12 months in the past, UFC mild heavyweight Anthony Smith’s profession was in jeopardy. At the very least that is absolutely the way it felt.

Presently in 2020, Smith (35-16) was coming off back-to-back losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. The losses got here simply three months aside, which was outstanding contemplating the quantity of injury Smith absorbed within the first one.

Smith, who faces Ryan Spann (19-6) in the principle occasion of UFC Battle Night time on Saturday in Las Vegas, is just 33. By comparability, 205-pound champion Jan Blachowicz is 38 and the No. 1 contender, Teixeira, is 41. However these two losses had Smith at an actual crossroads.

He took a regarding quantity of injury in a TKO loss to Teixeira in Could 2020, together with a second wherein he complained of his “enamel falling out.” And after he misplaced once more, convincingly, to Rakic on the finish of August, Smith required a superb quantity of soul looking round if and why he nonetheless wished to proceed on this sport.

Fortuitously for him, the outcomes have been nice since. Smith, who fought Jon Jones for the UFC championship in March 2019, has completed his previous two opponents, Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute.

Smith is considered one of many hardest, smartest athletes within the sport — however that two-fight skid does nonetheless comply with him, in a method. Pretty much as good as he has appeared in his final two, the reminiscence of a disappointing effort in opposition to Jones in 2019 and two dangerous losses in 2020 lingers. It does. Smith is a dependable headliner for the UFC, and a staple of the 205-pound rankings, however he is not near title rivalry proper now.

The very fact he is combating Spann this weekend is proof of that. This isn’t a title eliminator for Smith, not even shut. It is a matchup wherein he is being tasked to defend his spot in opposition to a rising contender with half as {many professional} bouts on his document. Spann is 5-1 within the UFC, and a win over Smith does an entire lot extra for Spann than a win over Spann does for Smith.

However that is the spot Smith put himself in final 12 months, and he understands he is nonetheless popping out of it. The truth is, he wished to tackle the youthful, up-and-coming technology — after some followers criticized the trail he took to a title shot as a result of it featured a couple of names previous their primes.

This foremost occasion will produce both an additional resurgence by Smith or the emergence of a possible new title contender in Spann.

Saturday’s UFC Battle Night time is on ESPN+, with the principle card beginning at 7 p.m. ET and the prelims at 4 p.m.


The deciding issue?

5: Ryan Spann comes into his first foremost occasion successful 5 of his first six UFC fights, together with a 61-second knockout of Misha Cirkunov in his final combat in March.

4: Spann has the fourth-highest knockdown charge per quarter-hour amongst energetic mild heavyweights, scoring 4 knockdowns and by no means being knocked down. Spann has an 84% end charge; 16 finishes in 19 wins; 11 by submission, 5 by knockout.

91: End charge for Smith, who has gathered 32 finishes in 35 wins, 19 by KO and 13 by submission.

6: Smith’s six finishes at mild heavyweight is tied for many since 2018 (3 by knockout, 3 by submission).

Sources: ESPN Stats & Data and UFC Stats


And the winner is …

UFC mild heavyweight Devin Clark has fought each Smith and Spann by submission and he believes Smith’s expertise could possibly be the distinction on this combat.

“I feel Anthony will edge him out, due to his expertise,” Clark mentioned. “On the similar time, Spann has extra energy. He is stronger. That can counter Anthony’s floor recreation. Once I fought Anthony, I type of countered his first assault with my power. However I feel Anthony’s total information and being a veteran, he ought to be capable to edge it out.”

Try extra combat predictions right here.


Tips on how to watch the fights

Watch on ESPN+. Obtain the ESPN App

Do not have ESPN+? Get it right here.

There’s additionally FightCenter, which affords reside updates for each UFC card.


Saturday’s combat card

ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Mild heavyweight: Anthony Smith vs. Ryan Spann
Mild heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Devin Clark
Girls’s flyweight: Ariane Lipski vs. Mandy Bohm
Light-weight: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos
Males’s bantamweight: Nate Maness vs. Tony Gravely
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley vs. Antonio Arroyo
ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET
Mild heavyweight: Mike Rodriguez vs. Tafon Nchukwi
Girls’s bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad vs. Raquel Pennington
Light-weight: Brandon Jenkins vs. Rong Zhu
Males’s bantamweight: Montel Jackson vs. JP Buys
Girls’s flyweight: Erin Blanchfield vs. Sarah Alpar
Welterweight: Impa Kasanganay vs. Carlston Harris
Males’s bantamweight: Gustavo Lopez vs. Heili Alateng
Girls’s flyweight: Emily Whitmire vs. Hannah Goldy


…and one thing else you need to know

  • Raquel Pennington fights on the prelim card in opposition to Pannie Kianzad at girls’s bantamweight. When the combat begins, Pennington may have essentially the most fights in division historical past with 14, breaking a tie with Marion Reneau. Pennington has eight wins at 135 kilos, second solely to Amanda Nunes, who has 11.

  • The one undefeated fighter on this card is flyweight Mandy Bohm, who’s making her UFC debut and enters her combat with Ariane Lipski with a document of 7-0. Bohm fights out of SBG Eire and most lately fought in Bellator in Oct. 2020.

  • Ion Cutelaba fights within the co-main occasion in opposition to Devin Clark, in search of his first win since September 2019. Cutelaba landed 9 takedowns in his draw in opposition to Dustin Jacoby, giving him 19 for his UFC profession. His 57.6% takedown accuracy is tied for the second-highest charge in mild heavyweight historical past.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Data and UFC Stats

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this combat preview.



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