Anthony Smith said two years ago after a title loss to all-time great Jon Jones that maybe he'd never get another chance to beat Jones. But that was OK, Smith said, because he'd simply outlast Jones -- and the rest of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Those comments have aged pretty well.
Smith took out another up-and-comer Saturday night, submitting Ryan Spann with a rear-naked choke at 3:47 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. Smith dropped Spann twice with punches and then finished the job on the ground with his grappling acumen in an outstanding performance. Smith has five first-round finishes since 2018, tied with Vicente Luque for the most in the UFC during that stretch, per ESPN Stats & Info.
"He's got the skills," Smith said in his postfight interview. "I think I'm better."
After referee Herb Dean stopped the fight following Spann's tap, Smith started jawing at Spann. The two men had to be separated by security and their teams. Smith took umbrage with some of the trash talk coming from Spann and his team leading up to this bout. But cooler heads prevailed and the two ended up embracing and exchanging pleasantries.
Smith said after the bout he wants another streaking prospect next: Aleksandar Rakic. The two fought in August 2020 with Rakic winning by unanimous decision.
"He's just sitting around," Smith said. "He's not next in line for the title. Either I want that fight or I skip it."
Rakic tweeted seconds later that he was free in December. To that, Smith responded: "Merry Christmas to me."
"Merry Christmas to me" - Anthony Smith— Morning Kombat (@morningkombat) September 19, 2021
Smith clipped Spann with a left hand behind the ear that dropped him early in the first round during an exchange. Spann was able to get back to his feet after escaping an armbar attempt. When the two got into another striking exchange, Smith was able to land a big left followed by a right hand that hurt Spann. Another right put Spann down; Smith took his back in a scramble and then cinched in the choke that ended things.
Smith (36-16) has won three straight -- all by finish -- and was coming off a first-round TKO win over prospect Jimmy Crute.
The Nebraska native lost to Jones, who has since vacated the belt and left the division, at UFC 235 in March 2019. He is 4-2 since then. Smith, 33, has been very solid since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2018, going 7-3 with wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, as well as former multiple-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.
Spann (19-7) was seeking his first real signature win against a top light heavyweight. The Texas resident was coming off a first-round TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March. Spann, 30, has won nine of his last 11 fights and is a former LFA light heavyweight champion.