Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute will go to war this weekend (Sat., April 24, 2021) at UFC 261 inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The 2020 fight season started off really, really poorly for “Lionheart.” His first match saw his teeth knocked out en route to a stoppage loss, and then Aleksandar Rakic pretty much manhandled him in his attempted rebound fight. Fortunately, Smith was able to recover in a step back in competition opposite Devin Clark, so hope is not yet lost. Meanwhile, Crute is one of Light Heavyweight’s most impressive prospects. The 25-year-old Australian is 4-1 inside the Octagon, and he’s finished each of his victories, earning a ranking in the process.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 138), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 153), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 134), Rashad Evans (UFC 225), Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 116), Devin Clark (UFC Vegas 15)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 235), Glover Teixeira (UFC Jacksonville), Aleksandar Rakic (UFC Vegas 8), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 125), Cezar Ferreira (TUF 23 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Smith is an aggressive Muay Thai fighter with a crafty submission game. His wrestling is historically hit-or-miss, but Smith is a definite finisher, and he’s always looking to end the fight.
In this match up, staying off his back is absolutely the top priority. There’s always a chance that Smith is able to throw up a triangle, but Crute was able to navigate the dangerous guard of Paul Craig without much issue. If Smith is on his back, he’s likely taking damage, and there’s a real chance he winds up on the wrong end of the submission battle.
As such, Smith has to force Crute to move through layers of offense. At distance, “Lionheart” should be jamming front kicks up the middle and ripping the calf whenever possible. As Crute tries to close distance, Smith’s jab and counter cross should be slowing him. Finally, Smith has quality knees and elbows in-close — he has to make use of them.
If Smith uses all his tools, he can really carve up his foe on the feet.
Key Wins: Michal Oleksiejczuk (UFC Fight Night 168), Paul Craig (UFC Fight Night 142), Sam Alvey (UFC 234), Modestas Bukauskas (UFC Fight Island 6)
Key Losses: Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 158)
Keys to Victory: Crute is the complete package. I’m not saying the young Aussie is ready to fight for the title, but he’s got technique and power in the kickboxing realm, and his wrestling/grappling attack is very much the real deal. There’s a reason he’s already progressing toward the top-tier at 205 pounds.
Nine of his victories come via stoppage.
Without being overly redundant, there’s a very clear path to victory for the wrestler, and it involves wrestling. Smith simply isn’t that difficult to take down, and Crute has the physicality and form to drag his foe to the mat.
Once in top position, Crute is very well-trained. He drops ground strikes and advances position smartly. If he’s able to secure enough time in dominant positions, Crute can wear down his foe, and he just might be able to lock his third kimura inside the Octagon — very likely a record of some kind.
This is a great veteran vs. prospect battle.
After his two losses last year, it’s become fairly clear that while Light Heavyweight is certainly a better division, Smith is not really in the immediate title mix. At the very least, he’ll need a serious win streak to erase the memory of those losses. Until that happens, he’s likely to serve as a gatekeeper to the division’s elite, and he really is the perfect test for Crute.
Speaking of “The Brute,” this is his second chance to really mix it up with a top-ranked Light Heavyweight. He fought well against Cirkunov, but it proved a case of too much, too soon, as the more experienced man rallied through bad positions to submit Crute. This do-over is Crute’s chance to prove that a little over a year of seasoning will make all the difference.
His future is still bright with a loss, but Crute can prove that his time is now with a victory on Saturday night.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 261 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 261, Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute will open the main card. Which man will earn the victory?