Anthony Smith looks to continue his road back to the top of the division, but Ryan Spann is looking to have his own career breakthrough at UFC Vegas 37.
When @LionheartASmith fights, you knee-d to tune in 🦵
— UFC (@ufc) September 15, 2021
Things can change quickly in the world of mixed martial arts, and this year is quite different than the one prior for Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. Following his unsuccessful title bid in 2019, Smith was left in the same wake as the other victims of pound-for-pound great Jon Jones. He would go 1-2 following the bout, stumbling against top contenders Glover Teixeira and Aleksander Rakic. Previously a breath of fresh air in the title picture, the Factory X product was now firmly on the outside looking in after having blazed a trail to the top of the division.
But a new sheriff in town has changed things. Reigning champion Jan Blachowicz currently shows no signs of slowing down and Jones is nowhere to be found. While several contenders may be ahead of Smith, there is also plenty of jostling in the rankings that will be taking place in the coming months. Already one of the most recognized and highly regarded names in the division, Smith remains within striking distance of another shot at the belt after back-to-back wins against Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute. Though he has been fed a steady diet of rising contenders, he will likely have another shot at the upper-echelon if he is successful on Saturday.
That lead uppercut from @Superman_Spann was a thing of beauty 👊
— UFC (@ufc) September 16, 2021
Ryan Spann has earned a second chance to make his own mark in the division. Last year, he was seconds away from announcing himself to the division with a stoppage of Johnny Walker when the Brazilian snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. “Superman” was left to regroup, besting the durable veteran Misha Cirkunov this past March. Currently ranked eleventh, Spann will be looking to make a huge leap towards the top five at 205 pounds.
It should be noted, he has been building toward such a fight for a long time. A veteran of the LFA, Spann competed for the promotion’s title at both middleweight and light-heavyweight. He notably fought twice on Dana White’s Contender Series, coming up short in 2017 to Karl Roberson before finally winning a UFC contract with a stoppage of future PFL champion Emiliano Sordi. Since joining the UFC, he has posted a respectable 5-1 mark with the loss to Walker being his only setback.
The key for Spann will be to use his physicality to wear down Smith early in the fight. Smith is a well-rounded martial artist but has never been one of the more explosive athletes in the division. As such, Spann should look to use his wrestling to eat away at Smith’s early quickness. Spann should look to do his work at close range, while Smith should look to use his length and multi-faceted striking to keep the fight at a distance where he can slip and counter.
Top LHWs take center stage 💥
— UFC (@ufc) September 17, 2021
The winner of the bout will move up in the rankings and be in position for a higher stakes bout in their next outing. Looking at the division, the winner of the upcoming bout between Magomed Ankalaev and Volkan Oezdemir stands out as a future opponent with a chance to get into the title picture on the line.