MMA expert Will Dean looks ahead to UFC Vegas 37 this weekend, where Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann won't go the distance.
3pts Anthony Smith vs Ryan Spann to last Under 2.5 Rounds at 5/6 (Sky Bet, Bet365)
2pts Nikolas Motta to win by KO or Submission at 6/5 (Bet365)
1pt Erin Blanchfield to win by KO or Submission at 21/10 (Bet365)
Saturday night’s main event is an intriguing test of experience against athleticism as 51 fight veteran Anthony Smith takes on hard-hitting prospect Ryan Spann. Both men have proven themselves to be skilled in multiple disciplines within mixed martial arts, as the duo hold a plethora of finishes by both knockout and submission throughout their careers.
The main event status stipulates that the fight will take place over five rounds, but few expect their collision to last that long. Smith has been notorious for engaging in chaotic fights, with a staggering 46 of his 51 bouts ending inside the distance. 28 of these have come by knockout, with a further 18 coming by submission. Wherever the fight takes place, Lionheart will never be too far from finding a finish, or being on the receiving end of one.
Spann’s MMA career may be half the length of his adversary, but he has proven to be just as volatile. Superman is the harder hitter of the two, and can wrap up opportunistic chokes in the blink of an eye if his opponent gives him half a chance. He too knows how to create chaos in his fights, having seen the scorecards just five times across 25 appearances, suffering his fair share of stoppage losses along the way.
76% of the duo’s collective fights have lasted UNDER 2.5 ROUNDS, and the clash of styles should see this one follow suit. Smith’s durability has come into question in recent years, and Spann has demonstrated a lack of defensive awareness when going in for the kill. Both men are dangerous with strikes and submissions, but both are also a danger to themselves when their fights descend into chaos. At 5/6, this feels like the appropriate wager for what promises to be a turbulent brawl.
Nikolas Motta’s original bout against Jim Miller fell through last week after the latter tested positive for COVID-19, presenting a late-notice opportunity for Cameron VanCamp. VanCamp comes into the bout on a four fight winning streak, finishing his last three via submission and wasting little time in doing so.
Motta will naturally have to make some adjustments fighting a taller, former Welterweight grappler, but the Brazilian has been preparing to face the record holder for most UFC appearances and third most submission finishes in Miller. No two opponents are the same, but the defensive grappling focus that Iron Motta has been working on in training should make this bout against VanCamp a walk in the park in comparison.
The oddsmakers seem to be in agreement, deeming the Brazilian a heavy favourite on Saturday night. With eight of his 12 career wins coming via knockout, Motta will be hunting for the finish every second this fight remains on the feet. The weight cut and lack of preparation should aid this, as VanCamp is likely to be frail and far from peak fitness, having had just eight days to prepare. Matters are made worse due to the American’s grappling style, as he will desperately be attempting takedowns in the opening round and sapping his already impeded cardio with each failed attempt.
Iron Motta is therefore viable for a finish at any moment, whether by sheer power in the early goings or by attrition towards the end. He may have never won via submission, but backing MOTTA TO WIN INSIDE THE DISTANCE at 6/5 is the safer bet when a tap out is always a possibility. However he gets it done, the Brazilian should find the finish at some point and look to reschedule the bout with Miller as soon as he can.
Erin Blanchfield makes her long-awaited walk to the UFC’s Octagon on Saturday night, having signed for the company nearly six months ago. The 22-year-old impressed many during her time at Invicta FC (a feeder promotion that showcases the best upcoming female talent in the sport), claiming victories over current UFC fighters Victoria Leonardo and Kay Hansen. Many believe Cold Blooded has the potential to be a future title challenger, and a big statement in her debut would put the rest of the division on notice.
Sarah Alpar earned her way into the UFC with a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series, but her subsequent debut within the company showed she will not be around for long if her cardio does not improve. Too Sweet came out with a grappling heavy gameplan in that loss, but she was exhausted midway through the second round and finished in the third.
This fight really seems like a ‘pick your poison’ predicament for Alpar, as it appears she is outmatched in every department. Blanchfield is the more defensively aware striker and will likely fight more economically than her opponent in the standup, but the two are worlds apart on the mat. Alpar should opt for the latter option and attempt to get her opponent to the ground and bleed the clock, but she will be at risk of facing submissions with every second that passes.
Blanchfield is a heavy favourite for a reason, but I think the chances of her finding a finish are actually being undervalued. Cold Blooded disguises her head kick perfectly, and used it to full effect in her knockout victory over Leonardo last year. If she lands the same attack on Alpar, it will likely result in another knockout, or will at least force the fight to the floor.
Should Blanchfield find herself on top at any point, her aggressive and seamless transitions will find her in a dominant position, where heavy ground strikes or an opportunistic submission will seal the deal. Half of the prospect’s wins have come by stoppage, but the defensive frailty and ever diminishing endurance of Alpar should see another finish in this fight. At 21/10, this seems like a great way to capitalise on a justifiably heavy favourite.
Posted at 0810 BST (17/09/21)
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