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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Vegas 15: Smith vs. Clark - Main card preview

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Get the scoop on the all the hard-hitting main card action of UFC Vegas 15, now headlined by light heavyweights Anthony Smith and Devin Clark.

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Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

UPDATE: Blaydes vs. Lewis has been cancelled due to Blaydes testing positive for COVID-19, is is presumed Anthony Smith vs Devin Clark will be elevated from the Co-Main and become the new headliner for the event.

Given we still don’t have a date set for when Stipe Miocic and Francis N’Gannou will be fighting for the UFC heavyweight title – or if Jon Jones will sneak in for the shot – it’s hard to know what the implications are for the main event of Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes at UFC VEGAS 15 this weekend. Actually we still won’t know, because the main event is now cancelled.

The newly promoted main event between Anthony Smith and Devin Clark is about the only other contest that might have some sort of public interest, but few would prioritize having their eyes on that contest. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any fights that appear to be worth tuning into – Spike Carlyle doesn’t know how to be in a boring fight – but the name value just isn’t there.

Anthony Smith vs. Devin Clark, Light Heavyweight

Given what we’ve seen out of Smith over the last five-plus rounds of his career, it’s fair to question if he’s near the end of the line. Given the heavier weight classes tend to age with more grace than the lighter weight divisions, that might sound preposterous as Smith is only 32. However, Smith has put a LOT of mileage on his body. Not only does he have 49 career contests under his belt, Smith has never been a defensive savant and he also spent most of his career making debilitating weight cuts down to 185. Smith hasn’t exactly been dwarfed over since making the move up to light heavyweight. The dude has put his body through an incredible amount.

If Smith still has something left in his tank – and it would be a precipitous drop if he doesn’t – he should still be one of the most consistently fun action fighters at 205. In fact, Smith typically is losing his fights until he isn’t, generally capitalizing on some sort of a mistake until he can get the fight to the mat where his underrated grappling can shine. It isn’t so much that he’s a technical savant on the level of Demian Maia, though there isn’t anything wrong with Smith’s technique. It’s that he has a sixth sense of finding the available submission and using it to end the fight.

Of course, everyone knows Clark is a wrestler first and foremost, meaning there’s a strong belief Clark could be walking right into the hands of Smith. However, a quick look at Clark’s record reveals something very telling: every UFC fight of his career that went to decision he won; every fight that ended before the final bell, he lost. When Clark focuses on using his physical tools to control as opposed to looking for a finish, he’s proven to be more than a handful. When he starts looking for bonus, he tends to get sloppy and exhaust himself in the process, leading to him being finished.

To be fair to Clark, it is a surprise his physical talents haven’t led to at least one finish in the UFC. He’s a strong athlete and appears to have solid power. It’s been his technique that has suffered. Even if Smith has a return to form from his recent down performances, this contest is more dependent on the approach Clark takes. If he remains disciplined – which will mean a lot of clinch fighting against the cage — he could score the biggest win of his career. Throw in that Smith is taking this on short notice and I’m leaning even more towards Clark. That’s less of Smith not sufficiently preparing and more because it smells like he’s desperate to get back on the winning track. Desperation can be good. I don’t think it is in this case. Clark via decision

  • There were many well-known names in the MMA community rooting for longtime regional veteran Parker Porter to find success in his UFC debut. It wasn’t a huge surprise when he was unable to take the W. While Porter is strong as hell and difficult to move, he’s also a short heavyweight with little speed and quickness. Unless he can barrel into his opponent and get them to the mat – where his stout frame is difficult to get out from underneath – he’s going to be facing a HUGE uphill climb. He’s fortunate Josh Parisian isn’t much quicker on his feet – if he is quicker – but Parisian is almost as thick as Porter and his height gives him a hell of a lot more range than Porter. Given Porter is at least as slow as Parisian, there’s a good chance we’ll see a spinning attack or two out of Parisian. What is of concern for Parisian is his takedown defense has been questionable in the past. Nonetheless, given that seems to be Porter’s only path to victory, I’d favor the fighter with the more well-rounded attack and that’s Parisian all the way. Parisian via TKO of RD1
  • There’s no doubt Miguel Baeza showed a lot of resiliency when he delivered a KO blow to Matt Brown earlier this year after falling behind early on. However, getting outworked by Brown prior to that does indicate the youngster still has a way to go in his development. Despite being larger and more athletic than Brown, Baeza allowed the experienced – and diminished – veteran to outwork him. That hardly means Baeza’s star should be dimmed. Defense – his biggest issue – is usually the last thing to come around for fighters and he’s already proven to be efficient at mixing his strikes to all levels with continued improvement. Plus, his natural power makes up for his technical deficiencies, and those aren’t all that glaring. A lot of those characteristics could be used to describe Takashi Sato. A good athlete with poor defense and solid power, Sato has also had the benefit of facing opponents with questionable chins. Then again, given Brown’s advanced age, the same could be said about Baeza. Regardless of who emerges victorious, this contest has to be one of the favorites for a FOTN bonus given the lack of attention to defense from both competitors. Given his power has shown itself more consistently in addition to a slight size and athletic advantage, I’m favoring Baeza to emerge victorious. Baeza via TKO of RD2
  • There’s a small – but growing – cult surrounding Spike Carlyle. Typically, those type of cults emerge from a fighter possessing a strong personality, which Carlyle certainly has. However, part of that can be attributed to his hard-charging style in the cage. A colossus of a man at 145, Carlyle is overpowering in the early stages of a fight, bullying his opponent around the cage. He does lose a lot of zip as the fight progresses, but his effort doesn’t flag the same way his strength does. He’ll need the effort to be there as Bill Algeo won’t slow down in the same way. At 6’0”, he’ll have about 4-inches on Carlyle and hasn’t had any issues pushing a hard pace. However, the biggest road block in his way will be his overall defense, something that has been virtually nonexistent in all areas thus far. Carlyle has his own defensive issues too, but he’s the better athlete and hits harder. Even if he doesn’t get the early finish, there’s a strong likelihood he can at least maintain enough control over the first couple of rounds with his wrestling to take a decision. Regardless, there’s a good chance this contest will kick the card off right. Carlyle via submission of RD1