After 43 professional fights, Anthony Smith has arrived.
The well-traveled 29-year-old continued his transition from onetime journeyman to unlikely Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, as he obliterated former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 134 headliner on Sunday at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. An unconscious Rua hit the deck 1:29 into Round 1, the future hall-of-famer having met a most unfortunate fate.
A fill-in for the repurposed and now injured Volkan Oezdemir, Smith clipped the Brazilian with a front kick to the face, lured him forward and slammed a right cross into his temple. Rua stumbled backward and attempted to cover up, but it was no use. Smith swarmed with punches and delivered a devastating standing elbow to the side of the head that had the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner out on his feet while propped up against the cage. Two more punches connected before Rua slumped to the canvas.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Rua vs. Smith,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
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Anthony Smith vs. Alexander Gustafsson: In two appearances at 205 pounds, Smith has made his presence known in the clearest possible terms and done so at the expense of Rua and Rashad Evans. He needed a little more than two minutes combined to dispatch the two all-time greats. Options now abound for Smith, who has rattled off 13 wins across his last 15 appearances. Because of Oezdemir’s injury, Gustafsson finds himself in need of an opponent for UFC 227 on Aug. 4, and Smith made it clear he would be more than willing to step up to the plate.
Corey Anderson vs. Ilir Latifi: Serving as a short-notice replacement for Latifi, Anderson made the most of his opportunity in the co-main event and captured a unanimous decision from perennial contender Glover Teixeira. “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner rocked Teixeira with a right hand in the second round and pestered him with repeated takedowns, ground-and-pound and positional advances. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Anderson, who has rebounded from knockout losses to Jimi Manuwa and Ovince St. Preux with back-to-back victories. Latifi, who withdrew from UFC Fight Night 134 with an undisclosed injury, owns a 7-3 record in the UFC and finds himself on a modest two-fight winning streak.
Marcin Tybura vs. Tai Tuivasa: While Tybura did not wow the crowd with his performance, he was undeniably effective in earning a unanimous verdict over Stefan Struve in their three-round heavyweight showcase. The former M-1 Global champion withstood a narrowing exchange in the middle stanza -- it was touched off by a front kick to the face from the “Skyscraper” -- and kept Struve off-balance with clinches and takedowns. Tybura split open the Dutchman below the lip with an elbow strike and stayed busy enough from top position to satisfy referee Marc Goddard. The undefeated Tuivasa moved to 8-0 with a unanimous decision over Andrei Arlovski at UFC 225 on June 9.
Aleksandar Rakic vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov-Ion Cutelaba winner: Rakic outclassed the previously unbeaten Justin Ledet to a lopsided unanimous decision on the undercard and asserted himself as a star on the rise at 205 pounds. Scores were 30-25, 30-24 and 30-24. Rakic took out the Texan’s base with damaging low kicks, secured takedowns in all three rounds and mauled Ledet with ground-and-pound, as he posted his 10th consecutive victory. The beatdown could not have been more thorough. Antigulov and Cutelaba on July 28 in Calgary, Alberta, will lock horns at UFC on Fox 30.