Anthony Smith is UFC’s Mr. Reliable.
The UFC light heavyweight contender is a trusted studio analyst on broadcasts and always there when the promotion needs him in a big spot. Smith was called upon again Friday.
With the heavyweight contender main event between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test, the UFC tabbed Smith for the headlining spot. Smith was scheduled for the co-main event against Devin Clark at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas. Now, Smith vs. Clark will be the headliner.
This will be Smith’s seventh consecutive UFC main event. He is the only fighter to never win a UFC title who has done that. In addition, this is the second straight time Smith has been asked to move up to the main event. In August, Smith’s bout against Aleksandar Rakic was elevated after the cancellation of Yair Rodriguez vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov.
How much of a stalwart is Smith? He asked the UFC to make his fight against Clark five rounds, even though he had been training for only a three-round co-main event. And so it is, and it will be a huge opportunity for both men.
Smith (33-16) has lost two straight and is trying to get back on track. The Omaha, Nebraska, native fought then-champion Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title in a losing effort at UFC 235 in March 2019. Smith, 32, has fallen out of ESPN’s top-10 light heavyweight rankings but is still just a short winning streak away from being a contender again.
Clark (12-4), meanwhile, has never had this kind of platform. The South Dakota native has won two in a row but has never even fought as high as a co-main event in the UFC. Clark, 30, should be well-prepared for Smith, though. Clark is a longtime teammate of Jones at Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In a bout now acting as the co-main event, a pair of rising welterweights in Miguel Baeza and Takashi Sato will square off. Baeza (9-0), a training partner of Colby Covington, is a legitimate prospect and coming off a knockout of veteran Matt Brown in May. Sato (16-3) knocked out Jason Witt in just 48 seconds in his last bout in June.
Also on the card, heavyweight prospects Josh Parisian and Parker Porter match up, featherweight prospects Jonathan Pearce and Kai Kamaka clash and popular women’s flyweight Rachael Ostovich tries to snap a two-fight losing streak against Gina Mazany.
Fight in progress:
Recap to come.
No, it wasn’t always pretty. But Porter got the job done in a workmanlike performance.
Porter rallied from an early deficit to beat Parisian via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28) in an entertaining heavyweight brawl. Parisian was the aggressor early, landing hard shots. But as both men tired, Porter was the fresher fighter late and put it on Parisian in the waning minutes of the second round.
Congratulations Parker Porter
— BONY (@JonnyBones) November 29, 2020
Parisian landed hard combinations to start the fight and caught Porter with a spinning back fist. The pace both men kept early was more than could be expected from two fighters their size. By the second round, both Parisian and Porter were tired, but still coming forward and throwing. Porter took over late in the second. He had a guillotine attempt with Parisian sitting against the cage and worked a keylock submission as time ticked off the clock. In the third, Porter again seemed like the fighter who was less weathered, landing combinations against the cage during a sloppy final frame.
Porter, 35, picked up his first UFC victory with the win. The Connecticut native has won three of four overall. Parisian, a 31-year-old Michigan resident, had a six-fight winning streak snapped.
Porter and Parisian combined for 240 significant strikes landed — a record for a three-round UFC heavyweight fight, according to UFC Stats.
Algeo used poise and precision to earn his first UFC victory, allowing Carlyle to tire himself out and then calmly punishing him on the way to getting the 30-27 nod from all three judges.
Algeo, 31, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, did not allow himself to get sucked into a firefight by the all-out aggression of Carlyle, who at one point in Round 1 began yelling at the top of his lungs to try to unnerve his opponent. It did not work.
Carlyle did find some advantageous positions early, but by the end of Round 1, Algeo had escaped all trouble and was finding his range connecting with strikes practically every time Carlyle advanced.
Algeo, who won a decision for the fifth time in his career, had dropped his debut in August to former title challenger Ricardo Lamas.
Carlyle, 27, of Del Mar, California, was a ball of aggression even after he looked gassed out in Round 2. But all it earned him was a second straight loss after winning his UFC debut to extend a winning streak to five. He is 1-3 in fights that go to decision and 8-0 in fights with finishes.
No UFC division is more in need of new blood than women’s bantamweight. Provided she can make the weight consistently, Dumont can perhaps fill that role.
Dumont dominated Evans-Smith via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26), beating her opponent to the punch throughout the bout, countering well with left hands and nearly finishing in the third.
“I have a lot of power for my division,” Dumont said in her postfight interview through a translator. … “I’ve never felt so good in that Octagon. Everyone is going to see what Norma is capable of doing.”
The difference on the feet was clear early on. Every time Evans-Smith waded in to throw a punch or leg kick, Dumont, who trains in the Chinese striking discipline of Sanda, countered with power. By the end of the first, Evans-Smith was cut on her nose. Evans-Smith, an accomplished wrestler, took Dumont down in the second, but Dumont was able to scramble to her feet. In the third round, Dumont cracked Evans-Smith and dropped her with a combination. Evans-Smith survived, but Dumont held on for a one-sided decision.
Dumont, 30, missed weight by 3.5 pounds on Friday, coming in at 139.5. This was the Brazil native’s debut at bantamweight after debuting in a losing effort to Megan Anderson at featherweight in February. In her postfight interview, Dumont said “women’s issues” caused her to miss the mark on the scale.
“Next time I will be on the dot,” Dumont said. “I can guarantee it.”
Evans-Smith, a 33-year-old California resident, has lost two in a row and four of her past five.
Pearce appeared to be on the verge of winning early in Round 2. He had Kamaka flattened out on the canvas, lying prone with Pearce on top, arms snaking around the neck, seemingly moments from a tapout.
However, the submission did not come. Kamaka toughed it out, defended ably and gradually worked his way back to his feet. When Pearce came at him for a takedown, Kamaka secured his arms around the neck in a guillotine. The choke looked deep. Was this going to be a stupendous turnaround?
Yes, but with one more twist. Pearce escaped the choke and found himself on top of Kamaka, from where Pearce attacked with a vengeance. Kamaka gave up his back and rolled over, and Pearce rained down punches until referee Dan Miragliotta had seen enough at 4:28 of the round.
Good win for Pearce. Kamaka is a strong wrestler with some heavy hands and I thought that would be the difference. #UFCVegas15
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) November 29, 2020
For Pearce, 28, of Tennessee, it was a bounce back after he lost his UFC debut in October 2019 to Joe Lauzon in Boston. That had been a tough assignment, and it ended his five-fight winning streak.
Kamaka, 35 and from Hawaii, lost for the first time in the UFC, ending a six-fight winning streak.
“I was looking for that takedown,” Pearce said. “It wasn’t working as I’d planned on the feet, so I was just like, ‘Let’s try the wrestling.’ I shot for the takedown and it was my night from there. I heard the ref say he had to do something, so I really cranked it up.
“I was calm in there with no crowd. It was a calmer fight. I could place my shots a lot better and conserve my energy more.”
Dos Santos is well-traveled. In nine years as a pro MMA fighter, he has fought on regional shows in places like Kazakhstan and Ontario, California, and in his native Brazil. On Saturday, he finally achieved a major career milestone: his first UFC victory.
Dos Santos finished Day via submission (guillotine choke) at 4:35 of the first round in a bantamweight bout. Dos Santos landed a big slam to ground Day, then worked his way to his opponent’s neck in a scramble, showing off his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt bona fides.
Afterward, dos Santos said he would be ready to go again as soon as possible following an unfortunate year during which he dealt with a shoulder injury and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ll fight next week,” dos Santos said in his postfight interview. “Just give me another fight.”
Dos Santos, 35, was 0-2 in the UFC coming in. The Sao Paulo native now has 12 career submission victories and 12 first-round finishes. Day, a 32-year-old Hawaii resident, has dropped three straight and is still searching for his first UFC win.
Often a high-intensity fight breaks out because there’s a championship on the line. In this case, the high-intensity action came about because there were jobs on the line.
Mazany, 32, came into the bout 0-1 in her second stint in the UFC. She was reinventing herself, recently moving her training to Kansas City, Missouri. A longtime bantamweight, she was making her flyweight debut — two fights after competing as a lightweight in a different promotion. She was looking to make changes.
So freaking proud of Gina!!! So glad she’s part of the Glory fam now and all her hard work is paying off!! #UFCVegas15
— Megan Anderson (@MeganA_mma) November 29, 2020
Both fighters came out with aggression, and while Mazany got the better of the action for much of the way, Ostovich showed toughness and an ability to counterpunch effectively and escape trouble — until the end came fairly suddenly. Midway through the final round, Mazany landed a front kick to the liver that bent Ostovich over and sent her into retreat. And when Mazany placed a second kick to the same area moments later, Ostovich folded to the canvas and referee Mark Smith jumped in to end it at 4:10 of the round.
It was Mazany’s first UFC win since 2017 and her first knockout since 2016. And it was the third-latest stoppage in UFC women’s flyweight history. Mazany landed a career-high seven takedowns to take a lot of steam out of her opponent, allowing for the late aggressiveness that finished the job.
Ostovich, 29, of Waianae, Hawaii, has lost three in a row and five of her past seven.
The UFC might have a new name to watch at 125 pounds.
Mudaerji looked excellent in his flyweight debut, stopping Gordon via TKO at 44 seconds of the first round. Mudaerji made it look easy. He sniped Gordon with precision straight left hands until Gordon basically had enough, flopping to the mat. Mudaerji followed him to the canvas and landed more blows until referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to stop it.
FASTEST FLYWEIGHT FINISHES – @UFC History
— UFC News (@UFCNews) November 29, 2020
The stoppage is tied for the third fastest finish in UFC flyweight history, per ESPN Stats & Information.
“That was my plan,” Mudaerji said in his postfight interview. “I didn’t want to fight in the second round.”
Mudaerji, just 24 years old, showed uncommon power for a 125-pound fighter. The Tibet native has won two straight after losing his UFC debut to Louis Smolka in 2018. Gordon, a 30-year-old Canadian, has dropped both of his UFC fights thus far.
After just one fight at flyweight, Mudaerji said he is ready for the elite of the division.
“I want to fight next someone with a top-10 ranking,” he said.
The exchanges of punches came fast and with a fury, both men throwing heavy leather for extended spurts of violence. Sanders appeared to land more frequently, but on two occasions in Round 2 his knees buckled when a Maness shot connected. The next time they came together, Maness landed a straight left hand, followed by a right that put Sanders down, and Maness pounced to sink in a rear-naked choke at 2:29 of the round.
Wow what a comeback sanders blew the lead
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) November 29, 2020
It was an exhilarating way to get the night started, with two Southern gentlemen throwing caution to the wind and going for it, full force.
Maness, 29, out of Henderson, Kentucky, has won three in a row, including his UFC debut, a decision win over Johnny Munoz in August. The victory was Maness’ third submission, all three by choke.
For Sanders, 34, of Clarksville, Tennessee, three of his four losses have been by submission. He hadn’t fought since February 2019, when he knocked out former champion Renan Barao. Prior to that, he had lost three of four.
“I felt like he was fading a little bit,” Maness said. “He’d been out a long time. I realized after the clinch break that he was keeping his hands down and just trying to find me. We came out of the break, I let one fly and it connected.
“I think I made a big statement. He had six fights in the UFC and just knocked out Renan Barao. I put him away. I’m ready for that push. I think I’m right there edging into that top 15. I’m ready. Adrian Yanez would be a fun fight and Nathaniel Wood would be a fun fight. Respect to both those guys, I just think they’d be good scraps.”