Anthony Smith Survives Knockdown, Eye Damage from Ryan Spann, Edges Split Decision at UFC Singapore

Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann, UFC Singapore
Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann, UFC Singapore weigh-in Credit: Youtube/UFC

Ranked UFC light-heavyweights Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann rematched in Singapore only two years after their last bout.

Smith, who won the last fight with ease in the first round, had gone on to be dominated in two straight fights against top contenders in Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker before circling back to Spann. Spann, meanwhile, won two fights in the first round before losing his last one to Nikita Krylov. The way their first fight went made this rematch a fight of questionable competitiveness, but the bookmakers thought enough had changed to make Ryan Spann a favorite again.

Smith pressed forward, raising his lead leg repeatedly like a Thai boxer to preempt potential leg kicks. They were both patient, Smith landed the first clean punch with a lead hook. Spann pressed forward and backed smith against the fence. Smith then landed two big right hands and took Spann off his feet for a moment with a calf kick. After a while he did it again, twice. Usually being a victim of leg kicks, Smith had added it to his game and was hurting Spann with it. However Spann caught the next one and countered to the chin of Anthony with a straight right hand. Smith needed to start setting them up or Spann would see it coming. When Spann rushed in Smith changed levels for a takedown. Instead of defending it, Ryan Spann went for a guillotine which failed quickly. Smith settled in top half-guard with a crossface. He soon stepped over to mount but Spann used the opportunity to explode to his feet. A few more leg kicks from Smith were the only real action in the final minute of the round.

The second round opened with both men swinging big early. Spann landed a big left hook that hurt Smith, who retreated in a shell and dropped to his back. Spann jumped on him and rained down ground strikes. He stood back up but Smith did not follow him and looked really hurt so Spann got back on top. Smith tried for a kneebar but opened himself up for ground and pound. Spann then stood back up and Smith followed him, reluctantly. Anthony’s eye looked really badly swollen, almost shut and getting worse by the minute. The pace slowed, however, giving Smith time to recover, though the doctor could potentially stop the fight between rounds due to the eye swelling shut. Neither man really landed any massive blows in the latter half of the round except one big right hand from Smith with ten seconds left. The round ended with the score presumably tied up.

The swelling seemed to stop and Smith’s left eye was still partially open as the third round started. The doctor came in to check on him but he passed her check. The fighters embraced to start the round and got down to action. The pace started slow, like the first, with Smith targeting calf kicks and Spann trying to counter. Ryan landed one good left hook in the first minute of the round. Smith mostly shelled up behind a static high guard, being conservative, but he dropped his hands when he threw kicks. He began to edge his way out from behind that guard slowly as the round went on. The fight was cagey as both men just had trouble landing the big, clean strikes that they had sometimes connected with in the first two rounds. At the halfway point Smith landed a good straight right on a retreating Ryan Spann, the best shot to that point of the round. As the last minute rolled around they began to open up a little bit more. Smith had a bad visual for the judges when he tripped around that point and staggered back, but it did not seem that a punch actually landed. Smith cross-countered Spann with thirty seconds left but Spann did the forward movement and had higher volume, though most of his punches missed.

When the scorecards were read no one really knew who would get the nod. The last round was close, with neither fighter doing anything to run away with it and make it clear after the easily scored first two rounds.

Official Result: Anthony Smith def. Ryan Spann by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)