In just his second fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division, Anthony Smith stepped up on short notice to meet MMA legend Mauricio Rua in the UFC Fight Night 134 main event on Sunday in Hamburg, Germany. The opportunity proved to be fruitful for Smith, who finished “Shogun” a little more than a minute into the first round and announced his arrival as a potential contender in a weight class thirsting for new blood.
Smith and Rua raced out to a fast-and-furious start, looking to take the center of the Octagon while firing heavy shots. “Lionheart” landed the first significant blow of the fight, as he whipped a front kick through Rua’s guard and planted his heel directly on the Brazilian’s chin. “Shogun” remained steadfast in his approached and closed the distance with hard, heavy hooks. On cue, Smith delivered a sharp combination that had the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner on his heels. He smelled blood in the water and charged forward against the dazed Rua, teeing off with six to seven shots until he had him pinned to the fence. Smith then landed the fight-ending elbow that had the former UFC champion out cold on his feet. Two follow-up punches sent “Shogun” crashing to the mat, the more than 7,000 fans in attendance erupting with applause.
Afterward, Smith thanked Rua for the opportunity and then used his moment in the spotlight to call out Alexander Gustafsson, though the Swede recently withdrew from UFC 227 with an undisclosed minor injury.
Corey Anderson, another short-notice replacement, capitalized on an injury to Ilir Latifi and stepped in to face Glover Teixeira in the co-main event. It was an advantageous move for Anderson, who picked up his second straight win with a lopsided unanimous decision and re-stablished himself as a contender at 205 pounds.
The game plan for Anderson was clear from the start, as he looked to exploit his reach advantage, get inside and work through grappling exchanges to dominant positions. More often than not, he found himself on top of Teixeira -- a position from which he postured and rained punches. The scene played out across all three rounds, as the Brazilian could not stay upright and Anderson controlled the action with his wrestling.
Humble in victory, Anderson seemed reluctant to call out a future opponent but stated he would accept a fight with anyone who moves him closer to a title shot.
World Series of Fighting alum and European regional standout Abu Azaitar made his long-awaited UFC debut against Brazilian striking specialist Vitor Miranda. Azaitar was successful, taking home a unanimous decision while becoming the first Moroccan to compete inside the Octagon. He proved superior in the standup exchanges, where he managed to overwhelm Miranda with fast, heavy combinations.
The fight played out over three rounds, as Azaitar stayed on his feet and Miranda more often than not tried to get it to the ground to hunt for submissions. Miranda had a brief window of opportunity in the second round, where he mounted his 32-year-old counterpart and attempted to position himself for an arm-triangle choke. Those efforts failed. Azaitar turned the tide in his favor late in the round, moved to a dominant position and nearly finished it, raining punches as the horn sounded.
In the immediate aftermath, the victorious Azaitar was elated and thanked the king of Morocco for taking a personal interest in him. He owns a 9-0-1 mark over his past 10 appearances.
Marcin Tybura took home a unanimous decision over Stefan Struve. Tybura dominated throughout the majority of the fight thanks to an advantage in the grappling department, as he managed to ground Struve early and often. The 6-foot-11 Dutchman set Tybura on rubbery legs in the second round, where he connected with a front kick to the jaw that had the former M-1 Global champion shooting for takedowns. The win snapped Tybura’s two-fight losing streak … Danny Roberts eked out a split decision against short-notice fill-in David Zawada. The three-round bout was heavy on grappling and saw Roberts earn his second straight victory … Nasrat Haqparast picked up a unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Marc Diakiese, securing his first win since joining the UFC in 2017. The entire fight was contested on the feet, with Haqparast pushing forward and refusing to give Diakiese the space to set up his kicks and punches. By the end of the fight, Diakiese’s face was a swollen and bloody mess.