The Curious Case of Anthony Smith
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
Anthony Smith is possibly the strangest fighter in the UFC today. Taking a look at his career and what he has done just leaves fans and bettors scratching their heads. Smith is a former 185er who outgrew his division and moved up to 205 in search of greener pastures and so far hasn’t looked out of place. Smith is 2-2 at Light Heavyweight and is still trying to adjust to his new division and the size he has put on to be competitive there.
Lionheart is only 32 years old and has a TON of MMA experience. With 48 professional MMA fights, he has seen everything you can throw at him once the cage door closes. Smith is a long lanky striker who I honestly have no idea how he made 185 in the past. Now that Smith is at 205 he has packed on some muscle and looks very well sized against these larger men, but has had some troubles getting used to his new frame.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) May 13, 2020
When Smith first made it to the UFC, he impressed with a 4-1 run with his only loss coming to the dark horse Cezar Ferreira. After that, Anthony Smith took a step up and dipped his toe into the deep end at 185 and faced Thiago Santos. We know Thiago today as an absolute destroyer. Thiago went on a legendary KO run and moved from 185 to 205 himself and gave Jon Jones one of the closest fights of his life. This was just a bit too much for Anthony. It seems, and he suffered the fate of many others after Thiago landed a bomb.
Anthony Smith vs Thiago Santos pic.twitter.com/iqCTZNNjNc
— MMA Gone Wild 🅙 (@mmagonewild) May 30, 2019
Even in his KO loss to Santos, Smith showed off his willingness to never give up and his insane chin. Many men have been knocked dead by Thiago, but Smith was able to survive and was rescued by the referee. I can honestly not think of a better nickname for this man than Lionheart, and we have seen him show that heart off time and time again in his career.
After the loss to Santos, Anthony Smith decided that he was stunting his growth by sucking himself out to get down to 185 and made his way up to 205. Smith was a new man at 205 but faced less than stellar competition. Smith won the lottery and faced former Lightheavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, in his last fight at 205 and destroyed him. Smith went on to steamroll Shogun Rua and was finally given a challenge in Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir. Volkan had established himself as a contender, and even though Smith had beaten two aging fighters who belonged at 185, the list of contenders was short.
Smith came into the Volkan fight as a +135 underdog and fought through 2 hard rounds with the newest power puncher on the block, eating every shot Volkan had to offer. Finally, in Round 3, Smith decided to show off that gas tank and BJJ black belt he had tucked in his back pocket and submitted Oezdemir, earning himself a shot at Jon Jones. Smith gave everything he had and had to be carried by his team after the war with Oezdemir, but he got it done.
Anthony Smith needed the help of his team to get out of the octagon and to the back after his submission of Volkan Oezdemir. pic.twitter.com/7x4LpNJNet
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) October 28, 2018
Smith was destroyed by Jon Jones and was a +450 underdog that night, but things get interesting after that. Smith was then matched up with the man who gave Jon Jones his toughest fight ever in Alexander Gustafsson and was again disrespected by the books. Smith was a +255 underdog and again dug deep to come back and win by submission late and cash some tickets. After being underrated continuously in his career, Smith suddenly found himself a vindicated title challenger and somebody people were talking about who could dethrone Jon Jones if he was only given another opportunity.
Smith most recently fought Glover Teixeira and was a -225 favorite. If you were on Twitter or YouTube, Smith was being touted as the lock of the century against the aging Glover Teixeira. Smith came in harder and faster than night than he ever has in his career and set a personal record of significant strikes in round 1. Glover is another insanely durable fighter, however, and he was unable to survive the unusual early onslaught of Smith and gave Lionheart the beating of his life.
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) May 14, 2020
Now, after all this, Smith finds himself as a +250 underdog against an unproven Rakic, and all I am hearing about is how bad he is. It’s incredible how quickly fans and bettors will flip the script on a fighter based on their last performance. Smith packed on some muscle and came out too hard looking for a KO against an extremely durable fighter, and it bit him. He is a highly intelligent fighter who understands the mistake he made and, even in his loss, showed some good things we haven’t seen from him before in the past. Now he faces a fighter who has just 14 pro fights and struggles if he doesn’t land an early KO, and you are telling me he is a 2.5-1 underdog.
The market doesn’t understand Anthony Smith, and this is a perfect example. Smith was an underdog in 3 LightHeavyweight fights and cashed in 2 of them. Just three months ago, he was a -225 favorite, and now he is suddenly a +250 underdog. This is recency bias. The man was overrated in his last fight and is being underrated this fight. Smith is a high-level BJJ black belt, and if he takes the first round a bit easier and survives the knockout threat from Rakic, I believe he is life to take over in game two or even land a submission again when Rakic slows down in round 3. Simply put, you can’t trust Smith as a big favorite. But this? This is the spot where you can back Anthony Smith. Getting 2-1 on this man who is used to being the underdog and used to being counted out is exactly where I want him.
My pick for UFC Vegas 8’s main event is Anthony Smith.