If his latest performance was any indication, Anthony Smith does not intend to fade into the background in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division anytime soon.
“Lionheart” put a two-fight losing streak in the rearview mirror, as he submitted former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Devin Clark with a triangle choke in the first round of their makeshift UFC on ESPN 18 main event—the original Curtis Blaydes-Derrick Lewis headliner was postponed due to COVID-19—on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Clark capitulated 2:34 into Round 1, suffering his first setback in three 2020 appearances.
Smith leaned on his experience and superior all-around skills, as he rebounded from back-to-back defeats to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. The 32-year-old Factory X representative surprised Clark with an early takedown, withstood a reversal and cinched the triangle from bottom position. It was Smith’s 31st finish in 34 career victories.
In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 18 “Smith vs. Clark,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Anthony Smith vs. Nikita Krylov: Smith remains a difficult hurdle to clear for everyone other than top-shelf light heavyweights. The former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder kept his place in line at 205 pounds and improved to 9-6 in the UFC by submitting Clark in the main event. It was a best-case scenario for Smith, who accepted the assignment on short notice and absorbed virtually no damage across a little more than half a round of action. That leaves open the possibility of a quick turnaround for the Nebraskan should such an opportunity present itself. Krylov last competed at UFC Fight Night 170, where the Ukrainian standout took a unanimous decision from Johnny Walker on March 14.
Miguel Baeza vs. Belal Muhammad-Dhiego Lima winner: The UFC may have a potential star on its hands with the undefeated Baeza, who submitted Takashi Sato with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their welterweight co-headliner. Having been thoroughly outclassed in all phases, Sato bowed out 4:28 into Round 2. Baeza used Season 3 of Dana White’s Contender Series as his springboard in 2019 and now owns a perfect 10-0 record that includes three straight victories inside the Octagon. The 28-year-old MMA Masters prospect appears to have all the necessary tools to move quickly at 170 pounds. Muhammad and Lima are scheduled to collide at UFC Fight Night 183 on Dec. 12.
Bill Algeo vs. Gabriel Benitez-Justin Jaynes winner: Fight IQ was perhaps Algeo’s most effective weapon against an overzealous Spike Carlyle, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision in their three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27. The former Ring of Combat and CFFC champion allowed Carlyle to burn through his cardio, then proceeded to outstrike him by a staggering 82-15 margin in the second and third rounds. Algeo has won six of his last eight fights, decision losses to Ricardo Lamas and Brendan Loughnane his only missteps. Benitez will tangle with Jaynes at UFC on ESPN 19 on Dec. 5.
Su Mudaerji vs. Matt Schnell-Tyson Nam winner: Shares in Mudaerji stock soared after he knocked out former TKO Major League MMA titleholder Malcolm Gordon less than a minute into their undercard encounter at 125 pounds. An accurate volley of punches, punctuated by a pair of concussive left hands, melted Gordon 44 seconds into Round 1 and gave the Tibetan prospect his second win in as many outings since he relocated to the flyweight division. Mudaerji, 24, has begun to show signs of rapid development and continues to distance himself from a November 2018 submission defeat to Louis Smolka in his promotional debut as a bantamweight. Schnell and Nam have been booked opposite one another at UFC Fight Night 183 on Dec. 19.