Longtime UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith returns to action this Sat. night (Sept. 18, 2021) in a high-stakes showdown opposite 205-pound bruiser Ryan Spann. They’ll headline the UFC Vegas 37 MMA event on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Smith (35-16), currently sitting at No. 6 in the official rankings (see them here), understands that a “dominant performance” against Spann is unlikely to earn him the next light heavyweight title shot, but it could be enough to score a second go-round opposite division “Rocket” Aleksander Rakic.
“I think after this fight, if I go in and have a dominant performance, I don’t think I have to defend my position anymore and I can go back to climbing,” Smith told MMA Junkie. “That’s why the Rakic fight makes sense to me. I have to climb ahead of me. Thiago (Santos) already has a fight coming up; Jiri (Prochazka) has the title shot to fight the winner (of Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira); Reyes is coming off three losses – I don’t think that makes sense for me. There’s really just Rakic there and that’s the guy that makes sense for me.”
Rakic scored a three-round unanimous decision over Smith when they went to war in the UFC Vegas 8 headliner roughly one year back. That said, the Austrian’s performance wasn’t making anyone’s “Best of” lists for 2020. “Lionheart” is hoping that will be enough to open the door for a potential do-over.
“I know he wants to wait for the title fight, but I don’t think that makes any sense,” Smith said. “He hasn’t had any barn-burning performances. He’s done enough to win, which is essentially what you have to do. But he’s not wowing anybody and the UFC is not begging him to fight for the title. He’s in a position where he’s going to fight again or get skipped. If I have to be the guy to push that, I would be happy to do that.”
If Rakic (14-2) wants to wait for a 205-pound title shot after turning away Thiago Santos last March, he could be out of action for more than a year. The winner of Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC 267 on Oct. 30 is already booked to face Jiri Prochazka at some point in early 2022.