Anthony Smith is trying to understand the hype around Magomed Ankalaev.
Smith heads into his fight against Ankalaev at UFC 277 on Saturday as a 4-1 underdog. That is ‘criminal’ to ‘Lionheart’, who wonders what everyone else sees from his upcoming opponent to warrant those odds.
“I guess my question is, ‘What are they seeing that I don’t?,’” said Smith (video provided by MMA Fighting). “Listen, he is good. He is very, very good. I want to be very clear about that. I don’t for a second discredit his skills in the cage. I just don’t see anything super special. And you don’t have to be super special to win fights at the highest levels. Basics wins fights, and he’s very, very basic. His approach is very simple. He makes no mistakes. He’s never out of position, but he doesn’t always necessarily do a lot to make a lot of mistakes.
“A guy like that, you got to get him outside of his box,” continued Smith. “The mistakes are going to be made when he’s panicking, trying to get back in his box. And I think that’s what I do best, you know what I mean? I create chaos. I get people out of their comfort zones. I take them to places they don’t like to be. To be fair, I don’t necessarily like being there but that’s where I’m most successful. So we’ve got to do it anyway. I just think that he’s shut people down, and I think that’s really nerve-racking for a lot of guys in the division. I just couldn’t care less. I’ll go in there and I’m going to do my thing. I can fairly confidently say we’re going to see Ankalev in a way that we’ve never seen him before.”
Ankalev is on an eight-fight win streak that includes decisions over former challengers like Volkan Oezdemir and Thiago Santos. His performances have not only seen him skyrocket to the No. 4 spot in the light heavyweight division but also earned him the distinction of being a future champion. A win over his third consecutive challenger could lend credence to that, but Smith has no intention of being added to his resume.
Should he win against Ankalaev, Smith would prefer a championship opportunity against Jiří Procházka for his next appearance. UFC president Dana White previously said on the The Spinnin Backfist MMA Show that Smith vs. Ankalaev ‘would be’ a No. 1 contender fight, so if that is still true, the Factory X product is calling his shot.
“I think this is the one where it’s good enough for a title shot,” said Smith. “I really do. I don’t want to continue to sound like I’m sh**ting on Jan Blachowicz, but he’s coming off of a loss from the title and then not a fight that you can necessarily call a win. Is it a win? For sure. Did he beat him? I don’t think you can really say that. If Glover gets the rematch, I would have to yield because I have so much respect for Glover. You know, maybe there’s an argument to be made somewhere there, but I’m not willing to kind of s**t on Glover to make it. I think that’s the problem. If it’s definitely Glover that they want, then I’ll have to sit there and shut up. Anything else, I’ll argue for a title shot.”
UFC 277 is headlined by a championship rematch between Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes. Smith vs. Ankalaev serves as the opener for the pay-per-view portion.