Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 18, 2021) at UFC Vegas 37 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Smith’s run as a Light Heavyweight title contender seemingly came to a disastrous end when Glover Teixeira knocked out his teeth and Alexander Rakic easily tossed him around. However, “Lionheart” once again proved his grit, dusting himself off with a pair of quality first-round finishes to return to relevance. On the other hand, Spann has rather effectively made the transition from “Contender Series” prospect to genuine top-ranked talent. Smith serves as another step up in competition, a chance to prove that “Superman” is ready for the division’s best right now.
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), Jimmy Crute (UFC 261), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 134), 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 has certainly seen it all in his 50+ professional fights. Despite the mileage, Smith remains gritty and tenacious as ever, and his long formidable kickboxing skills have seen considerable refinement in recent years.
Smith has several ways to win this fight, and to my mind, one real way to lose. “Lionheart” could conceivable find real success at distance with his jabs and superior kicking game, in the clinch with knees and elbows, or on the mat via submission. Meanwhile, the major risk here is that Spann plants Smith on the mat with an early bomb and then rides that wave to a finish or continued domination.
On that note specifically: no naked kicks are allowed from Smith, because Spann has a proven habit of countering them.
At any rate, this seems like one of those fights that favor Smith the longer it extends. If he doesn’t get hammered in round one, Smith’s skill and attrition-based style leave him poised to capitalize late similar to his wins over Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir.
Key Wins: Misha Cirkunov (UFC Vegas 21), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (UFC 237), Devin Clark (UFC Fight Night 161), Luis Henrique (UFC Fight Night 137), Sam Alvey (UFC 249)
Key Losses: Johnny Walker (UFC Fight Night 178), Karl Roberson (DWTNCS 2017)
Keys To Victory: Spann is historically a grappler, a man who used size and physicality to overwhelm many of his regional foes with submissions. It’s only recently that Spann has truly found the power in his hands, which has gone a long way in making “Superman” a three-dimensional threat.
As mentioned above, Spann can find real success in this match up with power punches and top control. The former is simple enough: Smith is not a defensive wizard, and Spann has the countering instincts, reach, and pop in his hands to make him pay. Ideally, that alone results in a dominant win for the up-and-comer.
The wrestling path is a bit more complicated. Both of Spann’s most recent defeats came when he drove forward into wrestling positions, only to eat elbows and hammer fists. Smith certainly has the punishing clinch work to score a similar stoppage (ask Rashad Evans). Plus, that’s an exhausting game to play, and Smith is more proven in hard-nosed five rounders.
Therefore, Spann has to walk the line with his wrestling carefully. If he can catch a kick or duck under a punch perfectly, it could mean a clean round of top control. However, grinding for the shot along the fence is generally not a great idea for him here.
It’s not the most pivotal main event of the year, but it’s a good match up that is important for either man.
Smith has an opportunity here to officially return to the title mix. If he is thrown three up-and-comers in a row and keeps winning, what other choice is there? The road will not get easier — not when upstarts like Magomed Ankalaev and Jiri Prochazka are now firmly in contention — but Smith has yet to face the champion, so he could be just a couple more wins from a second title shot.
Defeat, however, keeps him treading in place.
On the flip side, this bout was made as a chance for Spann to make a splash and break the Top 10. “Superman” has the physical gifts to be a top-tier challenger, and Smith is the perfect foe for him to prove that his skill set is up to the task as well. A win here earns Spann another high-profile fight, likely one even further up the ladder by a good margin.
If he comes up short, Spann hopefully at least will learn where further improvements are needed.
Remember that 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+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 37: “Smith vs. Spann” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Vegas 37, Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann will throw down in the main event. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?