There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. For Anthony Smith, the place is the light heavyweight division, and the time is now.
The longtime middleweight action-fighter came to the UFC with a reputation for living (and dying) by the sword. In his 44 professional fights, stretching all the way back to his pro debut as a 19-year-old in 2008, Smith has only seen the judges 3 times – win or lose. And he seemed more or less settled in to the role of mid-card attraction up until early this year when he made jump from 185 to 205, following a defeat at the hands of Thiago Santos.
Since that loss, Smith has gone 3-0, defeating former champions Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua, and now former contender Volkan Oezdemir. It’s that most recent win that has Smith suddenly at the front of the line as a potential title challenger himself, and seems to have ‘Lionheart’ feeling that his most “dangerous” fight may already be behind him.
“I think that Volkan is one of the tougher matchups for me in the entire division,” Smith said in a recent interview with the MMA Hour (transcript via MMA Fighting), “just because of the way that he fights. I think that Jon Jones is less dangerous than Volkan is — Jon Jones isn’t one-punch knocking out anybody. It’s just, that’s not his style.
He’s super crafty, he’s dynamic, I think he has a high fight IQ, but I think that he’s hittable, and I think that I match up with him size-wise pretty well. Obviously he’s got a longer reach than everybody in the entire UFC, but I think that Jon Jones beats a lot of people in that short range with the elbows and stuff. And I think that I’m just as dangerous in that elbow fighting range as anybody in the division.”
Smith added that out of the three potential options in the immediate title picture (Jones, Gustafsson, and Cormier) he’d rather face Jones than either of the other two men. If for no other reason than Jones’ relatively unblemished record, and the opportunity to make history by beating him. And, even if he has to wait for his opportunity, it sounds like Smith could use the time off.
“I would imagine that [title] fight would have to be on a pretty big card, so maybe May or June,” Smith said. “I’d be fine with waiting until July for International Fight Week or something like that, I think that’d be a lot of fun. But I definitely need a break. I need to sit back and I need to be a dad for a little while. I think I had five fights in 13 months, and that’s just a lot of traveling, and I missed out on a couple vacations I was supposed to take my kids on, so I’ve got a lot of making up to do.”
Jones vs. Gustafsson is booked to go down at UFC 232 on December 29th in Las Vegas, NV. Once both men step in the Octagon, the will officially be for the then-vacated light heavyweight title currently around Daniel Cormier’s waist. A superfight between Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes has been set for the co-main event. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates as fight night approaches.