Rarely will you see a fighter with 13 losses on his record have the opportunity to stand in front of Jon Jones for the world title and only after just three fights in the light heavyweight division. Anthony Smith has endured the sport’s natural ups and downs but finally sees himself one step away from his lifetime goal.
“Lionheart” Smith started his career the same way many other fighters do, by competing at local MMA organizations, building a name for himself. He eventually got his break in 2011 by receiving a call from the then popular MMA organization, “Strikeforce”. His luck was in, a fighter had to pull out due to injury and Smith stepped up on short notice, winning by second round knockout. He continued his Strikeforce career for three more fights until the organization was forever closed.
This would subsequently lead him on to his UFC Debut in 2013. Unfortunately, Smith was unable to secure the win, losing by submission, leading to his release from the UFC. In between his return to the UFC, “Lionheart” fought in other organizations such as Bellator and RFA.
In 2016, Anthony Smith had a stroke of good luck for the second time in his career. The UFC required him as replacement for an injured fighter. As he did previously, Smith stepped into the UFC octagon for the second time with no hesitation and came away with the win.
He would continue to compete in the UFC’s middleweight division five more times, winning three out of five bouts before deciding to move up to the light heavyweight division.
Smith then turned his sights set on the UFC light heavyweight title and needed to prove he is worthy of a title shot! What better way than to take on a former UFC champion and Ultimate Fighter winner Rashad Evans? A true veteran with a wealth of experience and an impressive résumé would be the toughest test of Smith’s career. What does Smith do? Knocks Rashad out with a savage knee in the very first round. What a statement he made and would continue to cement his position in the division by making short work of another UFC legend and former Champion Shogun Rua months later. Smith put on a dominating performance against serious opposition left him screaming for his title shot.
Two fights were not enough. Smith was about to face his toughest test to date with the up and coming, super hyped fighter Volkan Oezdemir. Smith showed true heart and grit in this competitive bout with Volkan. Bloodied and battered, Smith displayed his submission game by defeating Volkan in the third round via rear-naked choke.
So, three wins over tough, top opposition whilst obtaining two performance awards for his incredible display against both Volkan and Shogun? Two headlining bouts at that.
Many may say he is not entitled to a title shot yet until it is earned. With the division not looking so stacked as it has done in previous years, who else would be next? Daniel Cormier is the obvious choice, but I sadly have to say I feel he will not be returning to the light heavyweight division.
Anthony “The LionHeart” Smith, in my opinion, has persevered through the highs and lows of his career, luck being on his side returned him to the UFC octagon where he showed his experience and training is paying off. Smith will meet Jones at UFC 235 on March 2 as a huge underdog and should undoubtedly not be counted out!