UFC Fight Night in focus

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Just one particular 12 months ago, UFC gentle heavyweight Anthony Smith’s career was in jeopardy. At least which is absolutely how it felt.

At this time in 2020, Smith (35-16) was coming off back again-to-back again losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. The losses arrived just three months apart, which was amazing taking into consideration the volume of injury Smith absorbed in the initial one.

Smith, who faces Ryan Spann (19-6) in the main celebration of UFC Fight Evening on Saturday in Las Vegas, is only 33. By comparison, 205-pound winner Jan Blachowicz is 38 and the No. 1 contender, Teixeira, is 41. But individuals two losses experienced Smith at a true crossroads.

Anthony Smith looks for his third straight acquire, as he normally takes on Ryan Spann, who’s 5-1 in the UFC, in a clash of gentle heavyweights looking to climb into the title photo.

UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Spann
Saturday, Sept. 18, UFC Apex, Las Vegas
• Principal card: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+
• Prelims: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+

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He took a about amount of hurt in a TKO decline to Teixeira in Might 2020, like a moment in which he complained of his “enamel falling out.” And following he misplaced all over again, convincingly, to Rakic at the close of August, Smith demanded a good sum of soul hunting all-around if and why he even now wanted to proceed in this activity.

Fortuitously for him, the final results have been terrific considering that. Smith, who fought Jon Jones for the UFC championship in March 2019, has concluded his previous two opponents, Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute.

Smith is regarded as a person of the hardest, smartest athletes in the activity — but that two-struggle skid does however observe him, in a way. As great as he has seemed in his past two, the memory of a disappointing effort and hard work towards Jones in 2019 and two lousy losses in 2020 lingers. It does. Smith is a trustworthy headliner for the UFC, and a staple of the 205-pound rankings, but he’s not close to title contention ideal now.

The fact he’s fighting Spann this weekend is proof of that. This is not a title eliminator for Smith, not even shut. It is a matchup in which he’s staying tasked to protect his spot against a rising contender with fifty percent as several professional bouts on his record. Spann is 5-1 in the UFC, and a acquire in excess of Smith does a full whole lot much more for Spann than a gain in excess of Spann does for Smith.

But that is the location Smith set himself in final calendar year, and he understands he is continue to coming out of it. In actuality, he wished to get on the young, up-and-coming generation — just after some followers criticized the path he took to a title shot mainly because it featured a couple names previous their primes.

This principal party will produce possibly a more resurgence by Smith or the emergence of a opportunity new title contender in Spann.

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

The choosing aspect?

ESPN Stats & Information

5: Ryan Spann will come into his to start with principal occasion profitable 5 of his initial 6 UFC fights, together with a 61-2nd knockout of Misha Cirkunov in his last battle in March.

4: Spann has the fourth-optimum knockdown charge for each 15 minutes amongst active gentle heavyweights, scoring 4 knockdowns and never ever being knocked down. Spann has an 84% complete price 16 finishes in 19 wins 11 by submission, 5 by knockout.

91: Finish amount for Smith, who has accumulated 32 finishes in 35 wins, 19 by KO and 13 by submission.

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

Sources: ESPN Stats & Info and UFC Stats

And the winner is …

ESPN Stats & Information and facts

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UFC light-weight heavyweight Devin Clark has fought both Smith and Spann by submission and he believes Smith’s experience could be the distinction in this battle.

“I consider Anthony will edge him out, for the reason that of his experience,” Clark stated. “At the exact same time, Spann has extra ability. He’s stronger. That will counter Anthony’s floor game. When I fought Anthony, I type of countered his initial assault with my strength. But I think Anthony’s total knowledge and currently being a veteran, he should really be able to edge it out.”

Check out out additional struggle predictions here.

How to watch the fights

Watch on ESPN+. Download the ESPN App

Don’t have ESPN+? Get it below.

There is also FightCenter, which features dwell updates for every single UFC card.

Saturday’s struggle card

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

…and one thing else you should really know

Raquel Pennington, remaining, will be preventing in a division-record 14 bout when she faces Pannie Kianzad on Saturday. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

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  • Raquel Pennington fights on the prelim card against Pannie Kianzad at women’s bantamweight. When the fight begins, Pennington will have the most fights in division background with 14, breaking a tie with Marion Reneau. Pennington has eight wins at 135 pounds, second only to Amanda Nunes, who has 11.

  • The only undefeated fighter on this card is flyweight Mandy Bohm, who is generating her UFC debut and enters her struggle with Ariane Lipski with a document of 7-. Bohm fights out of SBG Ireland and most a short while ago fought in Bellator in Oct. 2020.

  • Ion Cutelaba fights in the co-principal event versus Devin Clark, looking for his to start with win considering that September 2019. Cutelaba landed nine takedowns in his attract towards Dustin Jacoby, supplying him 19 for his UFC vocation. His 57.6% takedown precision is tied for the 2nd-optimum level in light heavyweight heritage.

Resources: ESPN Stats & Info and UFC Stats

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this battle preview.