The light heavyweight division can’t get rid of one of their top contenders just yet, after Anthony Smith got a quick and impressive win over Devin Clark in the UFC Vegas 15 main event.
Smith and Clark stepped into the main event slot on a day’s notice, changing their fight to a five-rounder in the process, after Curtis Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 forcing his bout with Derrick Lewis to be scrapped.
The extra two rounds never came into play however, after Smith got rocked early on and decided to implement his wrestling and jiu-jitsu game to lock up a triangle choke from his back for a first round submission.
It was Smith’s first win of the year following back-to-back defeats against Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, with the former title challenger admitting that he wasn’t sure what he’d do with his future going forward.
The fight against Clark was a way for Smith to measure himself, to see if he still had it and just had bad performances or if he was really done. He said in the post-fight press conference that he was happy with his performance, but it wasn’t more than he expected.
“I did to Devin Clark what I’m supposed to do to Devin Clark. I’m not saying that I’m not happy with that win but if anything other than that happened, then we have a problem. I’m not going to be the guy who says ‘I’m next in line’. If I have to stay around the bottom of the rankings for a while and fight my way back up to fight those top five guys then that’s what I’ll do.“
When asked what was next, Smith picked out someone who came off an impressive win themselves just last week – Scotsman Paul Craig.
“I think I saw that Paul Craig dropped my name or something, thats a fun match-up. That would be a fun, grappling match up with Paul Craig. I love his style, I could listen to his interviews forever, he seems like a good dude.
“As far as a timeline, as long as I have enough time to get ready then I’m good.”
It seems like a sensible route that Smith is taking, just trying to get back into a flow and a rhythm of fighting regularly and winning again. The Teixiera fight he was winning for the first two rounds, so he knows he has the ability but it’s about getting the momentum now.
He is currently ranked sixth, so fighting the No.14 in Paul Craig next is a risk for him but more wins are all he cares about and that’s a positive.
It was a card of not much else in terms of storyline with the main event being cancelled at the last minute but Smith showed he can still deliver at the top of the card with his seventh consecutive main event appearance.