UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith has claimed that Magomed Ankalaev wasn’t on the level he was expecting at UFC 277.
At the Dallas-held pay-per-view on July 30, Smith looked to break the lengthy win streak and fast charge of Ankalaev. Ahead of the fight, the Dagestani had dismissed “Lionheart” as a threat to his rise towards the gold, whilst one-time title challenger Smith downplayed his opponent’s growing reputation as a dominant force in the division.
Come fight night, it was Ankalaev who left the Octagon one step closer to a date with the champion, capitalizing on Smith’s serious ankle injury to record a second-round TKO.
During a recent episode of the Believe You Me podcast with Michael Bisping, Smith reflected on his performance in round one versus and the subsequent injury that aided Ankalaev’s efforts.
Despite leaving the American Airlines Center with a defeat added to his record, Smith believes that everything was going his way prior to the ankle break. And with that in mind, “Lionheart” was left surprised by Ankalaev’s level.
“I stand behind everything I said. I was as good as I’ve ever been,” Smith said. “I felt like the fight was going well. Nothing he did surprised me. I think I expected him to be better. He wasn’t as good as I expected him to be. He wasn’t as big as I expected him to be either… The whole time (in the first round) I was like, ‘This is so f*cking easy.’
“I don’t wanna take anything from him… but it’s not like he did anything to me… He’s good, man, he’s good. But that fight didn’t prove anything I said before wrong. He’s not that f*cking guy, like I said he wasn’t,” Smith added. “He’s not the boogeyman in the division.”
Smith Understands Why Ankalaev Has “Lackluster Performances”
While Ankalaev’s victory over Smith marked his ninth consecutive success inside the Octagon — the second longest win streak in UFC light heavyweight history — the Dagestani’s performances prior to UFC 277 didn’t come without criticism.
After wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Thiago Santos, the latter of whom was finished by Jamahal Hill this past weekend, Ankalaev was accused of ‘point fighting’ and not pursuing a stoppage.
Having shared the Octagon with him last weekend, Smith believes that he now understands why Ankalaev finds himself in fights branded as “lackluster” by many.
“I thought he was gonna come at me a little more,” Smith said. “I get why he has lackluster performances. He won’t fight. Like, he only wants to counter. He’s trying to catch you on your way in or your way out. He didn’t land anything, I don’t think, punch-wise on the feet, at all.”
While his headlining victory over “Marreta” was considered underwhelming by many, it represented only his fourth decision win in the UFC. With his latest triumph, the Russian standout has amassed five knockouts inside the Octagon.
He’ll look to add the name of champion Jiří Procházka to his win column soon enough, having called for a title shot after emerging victorious at UFC 277.
What do you make of Anthony Smith’s take on Magomed Ankalaev?