Anthony Smith is the kind of competitor followers have been aching to see arrive within the light-heavyweight division for plenty of years.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old has already logged 42 appearances in his profession and nearly all of them have been action-packed affairs. Of his 29 victories, 26 have come by the use of stoppage, as have 12 of his 13 losses. After plying his commerce within the middleweight division for the primary 10 years of his profession, “Lionheart” moved as much as gentle heavyweight for his final outing and satisfied Rashad Evans that it was time to hold up his gloves for good in 53 seconds, felling the previous champion with a pinpoint knee within the clinch at UFC 225 in Chicago.
A pair weeks later, the harmful divisional newcomer jumped on the probability to interchange Volkan Oezdemir in the primary occasion of this weekend’s UFC Combat Night time occasion in Hamburg, Germany reverse Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. If all goes properly, it is going to imply Smith can have dispatched two males who as soon as dominated the division in lower than two months.
Somebody with that form of skill and upside is what the stale weight class has been craving and followers have been calling for repeatedly as the previous marquee division has turn into slowed down with veteran names and a warring duo atop the rankings who’ve confirmed they’re considerably higher than everybody else.
However as a lot as Smith’s debut ought to make his sophomore look within the 205-pound weight class a must-see occasion, I don’t suppose it is going to find yourself getting the eye it deserves for plenty of causes.
First, that is the fourth occasion in three weeks, with greater and extra strong struggle playing cards scheduled for the next two weeks as properly. If you add within the World Cup that simply wrapped, The Open Championship going down this weekend and the truth that it’s summer time, followers might be selective about which exhibits they absorb, and this one is sadly the best to skip.
Secondly, mauling Evans doesn’t imply what it could have a number of years in the past and so despite the fact that it was an impressive efficiency, persons are giving Smith practically as a lot credit score as he deserves for that victory. He seemed excellent and walked Evans proper into the end — the announcers even known as the sequence earlier than it occurred as a result of they may see the way it was about to play out — and whereas “Suga” was very a lot in decline and opted to name it a profession following the loss, it was nonetheless an amazing displaying for the intriguing new gentle heavyweight.
And the very fact he’s dealing with one other fading former champion this weekend performs into that as properly.
Although he’s on a three-fight successful streak and has two-division champion Daniel Cormier saying he’d be fascinated with preventing him, only a few folks view “Shogun” as a contender today. He’s merely amassed too many miles and been in too many epic encounters for folks to examine him truly making a run on the title he as soon as held, which is why Smith is the betting favorite this weekend.
Whereas the potential of beating a pair of former light-heavyweight champions within the span of two months needs to be the form of factor that makes folks concentrate, everybody simply sees it as Smith crushing a pair of outdated dudes who nonetheless have a reputation and ignore every part else in regards to the performances.
It’s not proper, but it surely’s the best way issues go.
What sucks about it’s that skipping this card and spinning Smith’s preliminary victory over Evans and potential win over “Shogun” as nothing greater than a youthful, extra harmful fighter beating up a pair worn-out veterans is that posting back-to-back wins within the division would carry the Nebraska native into the Prime 10 and make him a reputable issue within the division going ahead.
With Oezdemir simply falling out of his struggle with Alexander Gustafsson in a pair weeks at UFC 227 in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t be shocked to listen to Smith foyer for the possibility to face the previous title challenger at Staples Middle on Aug. four if he rolls by Rua in comparable vogue to how he beat Evans final month in Chicago.
At which level the “Who is that this man?” cries would begin coming from the phase of the viewers that downplayed his dominant win at UFC 225 and handed on this card as a result of it wasn’t deep sufficient and there have been too many different issues occurring.
I perceive it, however that is how the UFC ecosystem works and the one technique to get acquainted with the brand new names getting dropped into outstanding positions and marquee fights is to concentrate to them on their method up.
Typically meaning spending a Sunday night wading by a dozen different bouts of various significance and intrigue earlier than attending to the perfect of the bunch.
Or, on the very least, catching up with the highlights on Twitter and doing all your finest to maintain observe of who’s on the rise.
Smith is a late bloomer of types, a man who has been round for awhile, however is simply now beginning to put all of it collectively and struggle to his full potential. He might not be a contender in the mean time, however he might be very quickly and this weekend provides an opportunity to get on the “Lionheart” bandwagon earlier than anybody else.
E. Spencer Kyte is a contract journalist who covers MMA for Fansided and The Province. Comply with him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.
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