It doesn’t hold title implications, and only one of the fighters is ranked. But the light heavyweight clash between Anthony “Lionheart” Smith and Devin Clark should still entertain fans when it serves as a replacement main event for UFC on ESPN 18 on Saturday night.
Smith and Clark moved into the main event position after heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Focused Smith Ready to Bounce Back vs. Clark
That forced the cancellation of the fight between Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, both of whom were top five heavyweights. With two high profile contenders who hold title aspirations, the fight may have attracted one of the largest audiences for a cable television UFC card this year.
But the former co-main event contains just enough star power to give fans a satisfactory replacement. The 32-year-old Smith (33-16) ranks sixth in the UFC light heavyweight rankings, and is a former championship challenger. He managed to last five rounds against Jon Jones at UFC 235, though Jones dominated the fight from start to finish.
|UFC on ESPN 18 Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Anthony Smith: -134||Devin Clark: +116|
|Miguel Baeza: -188||Takashi Sato: +158|
|Josh Parisian: -210||Parker Porter: +176|
|Spike Carlyle: -184||Bill Algeo: +154|
|Ashlee Evans-Smith: -138||Norma Dumont Viana: +118|
|Jonathan Pearce: +260||Kai Kamaka III: -320|
While he’s lost three of his last four fights, Smith remains one of the most active and beloved fighters in the UFC. Heading into his fight with Clark, he also sounds like a man who wants to focus on one more run at the 205-pound title.
“I did a lot of things this training camp differently,” Smith told reporters. “And maybe the average person, it wouldn’t seem that much different but you guys didn’t see me working the analyst desk this entire training camp. If you’re a listener to my radio show, I only did one hour, once a week on my radio show. I cut way back on my show. I didn’t do any episodes of my podcast with Laura Sanko.”
Fighters Request Five-Round Main Event
The 30-year-old Clark (12-4) sees his fight against Smith as an opportunity to break into the light heavyweight rankings. Clark has traded wins and losses for much of his time in the UFC, but has now won three of his last four bouts. A victory over Smith would provide him with a signature win that could change the course of his career.
“Anthony Smith is competitive, he’s a good fighter, he has had a lot of fights, but with that being said I have seen his weak spots and where he can be broken at,” Clark told KRQE in Albuquerque. “One of the things that I am good at is breaking people.”
Smith enters the fight as a -134 pick over Clark (+116), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The UFC changed the fight to a five-round affair – customary for main events – based on requests from both fighters, despite the fact that they had trained for a three-round bout.
Anthony Smith told me when he was asked to main event, he texted Dana White directly to say he wanted it to be five rounds. Said a big part of that is for the fans, main event should be five rounds. So, both guys say they preferred five, even though they trained for three.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) November 27, 2020
But it may not matter how many rounds the fight could go. If Smith takes control of the fight, he’ll likely look for a finish, and many of his fights have ended well before the championship rounds.
In the co-main event, heavyweight Josh Parisian (13-3) faces off against Parker Porter (9-6) in a battle of big men with little UFC experience. Parisian comes into the fight as a -210 favorite over Porter (+176).