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UFC Vegas 37 preview, ‘Smith vs Spann’ predictions

UFC 235: Open Workouts Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Longtime light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith, no stranger to headlining duties, will take center stage for a whopping eighth time this Sat. night (Sept. 18, 2021) on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Standing across the Octagon from “Lionheart” in the UFC Vegas 37 main event is resurgent 205-pound “Superman” Ryan Spann, who looks to continue his march toward division relevancy.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 40 On ESPN+

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Oct. 16, 2021, with an exciting women’s Featherweight bout that will see No. 3-ranked Bantamweight contender, Aspen Ladd, step in for injured Holly Holm to face Norma Dumont. In UFC Vegas 40’s co-main event, former UFC Heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, will take on rising prospect Carlos Felipe.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the light heavyweight brouhaha between Ion Cutelaba and Devin Clark, head over to the UFC Vegas 37 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by effervescent analyst Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 37 main card right here.

For the latest “Smith vs. Spann” odds and betting lines be sure to check out the updated numbers right here.

Let’s break it down ...

205 lbs.: Anthony Smith vs. Ryan Spann

Anthony “Lionheart”Smith

Record: 35-16 | Age: 33 | Betting line: -170
Wins: 15 KO/TKO, 13 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 9 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.00 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.36 | Striking Defense: 42%
Takedown Average: 0.47 (28% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 47%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Jimmy Crute

Ryan “Superman” Spann

Record: 19-6 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 11 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’5“ | Reach: 79” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.55 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.45 | Striking Defense: 47%
Takedown Average: 1.72 (41% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: No. 11 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Misha Cirkunov

Anthony Smith made his first Octagon appearance after UFC inherited his Strikeforce contract back in early 2013. It was a quick and rather unceremonious exit — courtesy of a Antonio Braga Neto kneebar — but “Lionheart” managed to win seven of his next eight fights to earn another shot with the world’s preeminent fight promotion. The result has been a 10-5 record, eight main events, and one light heavyweight title fight. Of those 10 wins, the biggest have come over shopworn ex-champions like Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. Former No. 1 title contenders like Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir have also fallen to Smith, which is impressive on paper, but one thing “Lionheart” has failed to do is capture a victory over anyone currently ranked in the Top 10. More troubling is that three of the division’s Top 5 fighters have handily defeated him and that’s before we include his loss to former 205-pound kingpin Jon Jones.

That’s not to suggest that Ryan Spann has been styling on the division. The towering Texan has put up better numbers than Smith dating back to his loss on Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in late 2017, but only because “Superman” has been flying high against the lowest common denominators. Sorry, I’m not popping any bubbly for a technical knockout victory over Misha Cirkunov, who’s been knocked out in four of his last six. Other victories include Sam Alvey, who hasn’t won a fight in seven trips to the cage, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who is so old and so brittle his UFC profile pic looks like a tomography scan of Tutankhamun. On the plus side, Spann is a versatile combatant with a well-rounded offense — and his guillotine choke might be the sneakiest in the division. I also don’t want to go crazy over his loss to Johnny Walker because it’s not enough to invalidate his other six wins, which came after his “Contender Series” redemption in Season 2.

Smith and Spann are separated by five spots in the 205-pound rankings and that’s due to strength of schedule. “Lionheart” has faced some of the most dangerous fighters in the division and you can’t get that kind of experience or learn certain things about yourself as a fighter (and as a man) until you’ve been dragged to hell — and crawled your way back. Smith does have a bad habit of keeping his offense in first gear and Spann has enough tools in the shed to capitalize on it. The more likely scenario is that Smith uses his unorthodox attack to frustrate Spann and keep him guessing. The pessimist in me expects this contest to last all 25 minutes with a few pockets of high-octane action. If that’s the case, plan for Smith to turn in a safe, workmanlike performance to narrowly edge Spann on the judges’ scorecards.

Prediction: Smith def. Spann by unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Ion Cutelaba vs. Devin Clark

Ion “The Hulk” Cutelaba

Record: 15-6-1, 1 NC | Age: 27 | Betting line: -145
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.03 | Striking accuracy: 40%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.80 | Striking Defense: 47%
Takedown Average: 3.69 (57% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 78%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split draw against Dustin Jacoby

Devin “Brown Bear” Clark

Record: 12-5 | Age: 31 | Betting line: +125
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.33 | Striking accuracy: 57%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.43 | Striking Defense: 48%
Takedown Average: 2.70 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 76%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission loss to Anthony Smith

It’s never a good sign when the best thing you can say about a fighter is that he paints himself green and hulks up at the pre-fight weigh ins, which probably would be more entertaining if Tom Lawlor did it, but I do recognize the sincerity of the effort. Unfortunately, Cutelaba has been more like Bruce Banner inside the cage, sporting a losing record of 4-5 with a split draw since joining the promotion back in June 2016. His impressive first-round destruction of Khalil Rountree looked to be a turning point in his career but then Cutelaba went winless in his next three fights. Not to be a dour Danny but if the unranked “Hulk” can’t get the job done against Devin Clark this weekend in “Sin City,” he may be done with the promotion for the foreseeable future.

Clark has also seen his fair share of struggles under the UFC banner after signing with the Endeavor-owned fight promotion just a month after Spann. “Brown Bear” is a mediocre 6-5 for Dana White and Co. with zero finishes. In fact, you have to rewind to the hand injury suffered by Rafael Viana at RFA 37 to find a win that didn’t require the judges’ assistance. We’re not talking about a rough patch ... this goes back 11 fights across a span of six years. Conversely, Clark has been stopped in all five losses, which does not give me much optimism against an offense-first fighter like Cutelaba. You can also make the same argument about “Brown Bear” that we did for “The Hulk” — this might be a “loser leaves town” match, based on what each combatant has been able to do thus far in UFC.

Clark is not a finisher — but has a habit of getting finished. That could put him in serious peril against a fighter like Cutelaba, who’s only gone to the scorecards three times in 23 fights. It will be interesting to see how much wrestling comes into play in this three-round affair. Clark is a two-time NJCAA All-American with a national title in 2009 but those accolades did little to keep him from getting finished by Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann, who headline this weekend’s fight card. Unless Cutelaba gets a little too reckless or does something monumentally stupid, he’s likely to come out guns blazing and end this one early.

Prediction: Cutelaba def. Clark by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 37 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 37 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 37 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here. For the updated and finalized “Smith vs. Spann” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.