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Anthony Smith hoping for title shot with win over ‘very basic’ Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 277

UFC Fight Night: Smith v Spann Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Anthony Smith believes he’s on the cusp of another light heavyweight title shot if he’s able to defeat rising contender Magomed Ankalaev tomorrow night (Sat., July 30, 2022) at UFC 277 live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV)/ABC/ESPN from inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

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CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE-DIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, on Sat., July 30, 2022, for the first time in almost four years, headlined by a thrilling women’s Bantamweight championship rematch between division queenpin, Julianna Peña, attempt her first successful title defense against former titleholder and current women’s Featherweight champion, Amanda Nunes. In UFC 277’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, an interim Flyweight champion will be crowned when former titleholder, Brandon Moreno, runs it back with Kai Kara-France.

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Smith, who turned 34 earlier this month, has been riding a high since losing two-straight back in 2020. “Lionheart” has captured a finish in each of his last three Octagon appearances and looks to be headed towards another potential title shot at 205 pounds. After all, Smith has only lost to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, and Aleksandar Rakic since entering the division back in 2018.

Unfortunately for Smith, he’ll need to get past Ankalaev tomorrow night at UFC 277 in order to put himself in line for a title. Ankalaev is riding an eight-fight win streak as a member of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, but Smith doesn’t believe the Russian contender is as dangerous as some are making him out to be. In fact, “Lionheart” is looking at Ankalaev as a pretty basic fighter.

“I guess my question is, ‘What are they seeing that I don’t?,’” said Smith earlier this week (via MMA Fighting). “Listen, he is good. He is very, very good. I want to be very clear about that. I don’t for a second discredit his skills in the cage. I just don’t see anything super special. And you don’t have to be super special to win fights at the highest levels. Basics wins fights, and he’s very, very basic. His approach is very simple. He makes no mistakes. He’s never out of position, but he doesn’t always necessarily do a lot to make a lot of mistakes.

“A guy like that, you got to get him outside of his box,” continued Smith. “The mistakes are going to be made when he’s panicking, trying to get back in his box. And I think that’s what I do best, you know what I mean? I create chaos. I get people out of their comfort zones. I take them to places they don’t like to be. To be fair, I don’t necessarily like being there but that’s where I’m most successful. So we’ve got to do it anyway. I just think that he’s shut people down, and I think that’s really nerve-racking for a lot of guys in the division. I just couldn’t care less. I’ll go in there and I’m going to do my thing. I can fairly confidently say we’re going to see Ankalev in a way that we’ve never seen him before.”

As for another shot at light heavyweight gold, Smith believes a good performance against Ankalaev will get him there. The 205-pound division doesn’t have a large collection of contenders ready to fight current champion Jiri Prochazka so “Lionheart” might be as close as he thinks.

“I think this is the one where it’s good enough for a title shot,” said Smith. “I really do. I don’t want to continue to sound like I’m sh**ting on Jan Blachowicz, but he’s coming off of a loss from the title and then not a fight that you can necessarily call a win. Is it a win? For sure. Did he beat him? I don’t think you can really say that. If Glover gets the rematch, I would have to yield because I have so much respect for Glover. You know, maybe there’s an argument to be made somewhere there, but I’m not willing to kind of s**t on Glover to make it. I think that’s the problem. If it’s definitely Glover that they want, then I’ll have to sit there and shut up. Anything else, I’ll argue for a title shot.”

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 277 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 277: “Pena vs. Nunes 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC 277 fight card and PPV lineup click here.