Dubai: After the Covid virus forced a late cancellation of the main event at UFC on ESPN 18 on Saturday night (Sunday, UAE), it was left up to light heavyweights Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith and Devin Clark to rescue the Las Vegas starrer which saw just three of the 10 scheduled fights go the distance.
Smith duly obliged using his superior grappling skills to submit Clark at just 2:24 of the very first round to post his ninth victory in the division against a cagey opponent.
After Clarke made an aggressive start to the contest, which appeared to unsettle Smith, he resorted to his time-honoured ground game taking Clarke to the mat in the centre of the Octagon and working his way into a triangle choke.
Clarke had no option but to tape as referee Herb Dean rushed in to prevent any further damage.
Smith later acknowledged that the win was crucial for his career and told MMA commentator Paul Felder: “It’s been a long road. You think you make it to the title shot and things go well and things are supposed to go super good, but that’s life. I’m not going anywhere. Don’t sleep on me.”
If the fight night was robbed of a Curtis Blaydes vs Derrik Lewis heavyweight contest after the former tested positive for the virus, Miguel Baeza, Su Mudaerji and Nate Maness delivered some top-draw performances to ensure that the quality of action was at its very best. Together with Smith, the all pocketed UFC bonuses of $50,000 as “Performance of the Night” awards.
Perhaps the pick of the fights was the Baeza vs Takashi Soto welterweight contest where the Florida-based fighter streaked to his third win from as many fights with a second-round submission victory over his Japanese rival.
The victory was his 10th in MMA and his third post-night bonus, “When I got there, I was like, ‘OK, here comes the ride,’” Baeza said. “Then I jumped on his back and he turned and I was like, There it is. I’ve just got to conserve my energy here. I tried to go to the squeeze so hard, because he was fighting so hard to get out. But I sunk it in. There it is. The end.
“I feel like I’m doing the right things. I’m still winning and still getting better. I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.”
Parker Porter and Josh Parisian combined for 240 significant strikes landed – a record for a three-round UFC heavyweight fight, according to UFC statistics. “It’s incredible. This is something I’ve been chasing for almost 15 years,” said Porter via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28)
“To finally get here and feel like I’ve arrived – the only things I can compare it to are marrying my wife and the birth of my children. It’s right up there with those.”
Anthony Smith def. Devin Clark via submission (triangle choke) — Round 1, 2:34
Nate Maness def. Luke Sanders via submission (rear-naked choke) — Round 2, 2:29
Su Mudaerji def. Malcon Gordon via KO (punch) — Round 1, 0:44.
Gina Mazany def. Rachael Ostovich via TKO (front kick) — Round 3, 4:10
Anderson dos Santos def. Matin Day via submission (guillotine choke) — Round 1, 4:35
Jonathan Pearce def. Kai Kamaka III via TKO (punches) — Round 2, 4:28
Noma Dumont def. Ashlee Evans-Smith via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Bill Algeo def. Spike Carlyle via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Parker Porter def. Josh Parisian via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28)
Miguel Baeza def. Takashi Sato via submission (head-and-arm choke) — Round 2, 4:28