I won’t condone Anthony Smith’s outburst after his win over Ryan Spann, but I understand it.
Smith had one UFC fight in 2013, a loss to Antonio Braga Neto. He then spent the next three years fighting for five different promotions before getting another shot with the UFC.
Upon his return to the promotion, Smith went on a 7-2 run and earned a shot at Jon Jones and his light heavyweight title. Jones won that fight. Smith then went 1-2 in his next three fights. That stretch left Smith with his fair share of doubters. What those doubters forgot was the quality of competition Smith faced between September 2017 and August 2020.
Smith’s wins during that time came against former UFC champions (Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua), a former Bellator champ (Hector Lombard) and former UFC title challengers (Volkan Oezdemir, Alexander Gustafsson). His losses were to Jones, a future title challenger (Thiago Santos), a former UFC title challenger (Glover Teixeira) and a highly touted up-and-comer (Aleksandar Rakic.)
With that, it’s easy to understand why Smith lost his cool after his first-round submission win over Ryan Spann. The win gave Smith a three-fight winning streak — all first round finishes — and a possible rematch against Rakic, who is currently the No. 3 ranked fighter in the UFC official light heavyweight rankings.
So, like I said, I understand why Smith was emotional after his win over Spann.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 37, which took place at UFC Apex.
Anthony Smith: Anthony Smith dominated Ryan Spann. In the short time the light heavyweight main event lasted, Smith hurt Spann with strikes, threatened with an armbar and then finished with a rear-naked choke. This was a huge statement win for Smith, who often seems to get overlooked as a potential title challenger in the light heavyweight division.
Ion Cutelaba: Ion Cutelaba was impressive on Saturday night in defeating Devin Clark. Cutelaba, who has the reputation as a bit of a wild man, ended a three-fight winless skid with a calculated performance. Cutelaba never overextended himself and stayed out of danger for most of the 15-minute battle. When he was in control in mount, Cutelaba did not waste energy pursuing a finish that wasn’t there, but when had the opportunity and openings to pursue the finish he did.
Devin Clark: Devin Clark earned himself some respect for hanging with Ion Cutelaba for 15 minutes, but he is going to pay for that in the dental chair.
Ariane Lipski: The odds for Ariane Lipski’s fight against Mandy Bohm favored Lipski, but Bohm, who made her UFC debut on Saturday, was not a huge underdog. Lipski was in the -130 range at the start of the fight. According to the broadcast, by the time the third round began, Lipski was a -4000 favorite. Bohm could not overcome those odds and Lipski cruised to victory. The win put Lipski back in the win column following two second-round TKO losses.
Arman Tsarukyan: Arman Tsarukyan was the biggest favorite on the card and he made quick work of Christos Giagos, scoring an impressive first-round knockout via ground strikes. Tsarukyan, who is just 24, is now 4-1 in the UFC. In his post-fight interview, Tsarukyan noted matchmaker Sean Shelby told him he needed a finish in order to move up. He got that finish and now it’s on Shelby to get Tsarukyan a scrap against a ranked opponen
Nate Maness vs. Tony Gravely: This fight was a rollercoaster. The first round ended with Nate Maness getting dropped for the first time in his MMA career. That knockdown happened in the closing moments of the stanza and the bell might have saved Maness from a loss. Maness recovered well from that knockdown and turned the tables in the second stanza when he became the first man to finish Tony Gravely via strikes.
Joaquin Buckley: Joaquin Buckley looked like he was on his way to a second straight loss when he landed two head strikes to finish his matchup opposite Antonio Arroyo. Buckley has not gone the distance in his past seven outings. The good thing for him is that he’s been on the winning side of five of those scraps.
Rong Zhu: If you are on the UFC’s lightweight roster and near the top 20, you might want to call out Rong Zhu, who is the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, right now. Zhu looked absolutely fantastic in dismantling late replacement Brandon Jenkins. Zhu showed no gaps in his skill set in earning the stoppage win and he looked scarily confident as well. I know we love to jump on the bandwagon of fighters after a single excellent performance, but Zhu looks like he has that something special. Keep an eye on this young man.
Montel Jackson: A huge favorite over JP Buys, Montel Jackson set a UFC bantamweight record in scoring four knockdowns during this matchup, which seemed more like a glorified sparring session for Jackson, who was never in danger in this scrap.
Erin Blanchfield: Erin Blanchfield made her UFC debut on the strength of two fight-night bonus winning efforts in Invicta FC. The 22-year-old overwhelmed Sarah Alpar to get a one-sided win on Saturday. Blanchfield looked very good against Alpar and that should earn her a big step up in competition in her next outing. I’m not sure this fight was the best to judge the upside of Blanchfield, but it was an effort that warrants keeping an eye out for her next UFC booking.
Carlston Harris: Carlston Harris earned himself an upset win on Saturday and he didn’t waste much time or energy in scoring that victory. Harris, who held his hands a bit too low for my taste against his opponent, Impa Kasanganay got a nice knockout win at the 2:38 mark of the first round. What was most impressive about Harris’ win was the way he controlled the wrist of his opponent on the mat. That control allowed him to keep Kasanganay on the mat while he fired shots at the head of the essentially defenseless fighter. A very nice win for Harris, who is 2-0 in the UFC and riding a run of five straight finishes.
Hannah Goldy: In a battle of two women who were likely fighting for their UFC careers, it was Hannah Goldy who ended her two-fight losing skid. Goldy, who was 0-2 in the UFC, scored a first-round submission win over Emily Whitmire. With the loss, Whitmire’s losing skid moved to three and her UFC record fell to 2-4.
Joaquin Buckley: In his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Michael Bisping, Joaquin Buckley warned him not to make a joke about him, before he referred to Bisping’s gators. The camera did not pan down to Bisping’s footwear, but the remark caused Bisping to pause and take a quick glance down at his shoes before continuing the interview.
UFC: For a promotion that tends to look forward and rarely backward, it was nice to see the UFC put together appreciation videos for the recently retired Carlos Condit and Joseph Benavidez.
Antonio Arroyo: In hindsight, Antonio Arroyo might regret how he approached his fight against Joaquin Buckley. Arroyo, who had a five-inch height advantage over Buckley, thought he could land a head kick knockout on Buckley. With that in his mind, Arroyo seemed to focus too much on style and not enough on output as he only attempted 46 significant strikes before Buckley finished things in the third stanza.
Heili Alateng: Heili Alateng was not very aggressive during his fight against Gustavo Lopez, but his output was high enough to earn himself the nod from the judges in the first two rounds. However, he cost himself the win by losing a point in the third stanza because of a fence grab. Alateng throws with power, but he really needs to be more active in throwing. With the draw, he fell to 2-1-1 in the UFC.
Gustavo Lopez: I was critical of Gustavo Lopez in his last outing because he lacked aggression and output. He followed that pattern in his fight against Heili Alateng on Saturday. Had Lopez been more aggressive in one of the first two rounds, Lopez might have earned himself a win. However, he more or less gave away those two rounds. Lopez did up his output in the final stanza, but it was too late. With the draw, Lopez fell to 1-2-1 in the UFC.
UFC: C’mon now… We found out that Raquel Pennington had been hospitalized for COVID-19 and spent time in the hospital on a ventilator as she walked to the cage for her fight? I know the UFC likes to act like COVID-19 is some minor inconvenience, but this was shocking, even by the UFC’s low standards.
JP Buys: I’m not sure JP Buys is what one would consider a “UFC caliber” fighter, but I am sure he’s a tough man who would be a great training partner for someone who is a top-level competitor who is looking to improve. Buys has showed good technical skills in his loss to Montel Jackson.
Sarah Alpar: Sarah Alpar took a thrashing from Erin Blanchfield. The one positive of this bout for Alpar was that she could keep her wits about her as Blanchfield beat her up over 15 minutes, but for the amount of abuse she took, I’m not sure that helped Alpar.