The ESPN Panel of Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim rounds up the biggest stories from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night, including what next steps Anthony Smith took after his first-round win over Devin Clark. The bout was a replacement main event after the match between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis was canceled.
Wagenheim: Three rounds? Five rounds? Anthony Smith might as well have called for the replacement main event on Saturday night to be a 12-lap race. After finishing filing just 2 minutes and 34 seconds after his fight with Devin Clark, Smith was not asked to test his stamina – unless you take into account a man’s career stamina in his 50th professional fight.
Just last year Smith challenged Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title. He lost that night and began a downward spiral of three losses in four fights. The UFC had still somehow got him 6th, but he had fallen out of the ESPN rankings and others. Did he fade away at the age of 32?
Smith had an answer to that, which he provided not just in performance but in words – no, screamed – while he was still in the octagon. As he stormed around right after his victory, Smith called out to anyone who would listen, “I’m not going anywhere, mother!” Well, as Muhammad Ali once said, “It is not boastful when it is true.”
On Saturday night, Smith looked like a fighter just going upstairs. It wasn’t just that he found his way back to the Victory Column, although that in itself will make his trip home to Omaha, Nebraska, more comfortable. But look at how he called the “W.” He began by beating a former Junior College National wrestler. Then, when his first attempt at filing was rejected and Clark reversed his position on him, Smith was not in the least demoralized. He just clung to a triangular throttle from below to get close to the planned five-rounder early.
Anthony wasn’t lying when he said he was going to show that there are levels
– Belal Muhammad (@ bullyb170) November 29, 2020
It was Smith’s first win in over a year, but it again showed that he does it with gusto when he wins. His last eight wins from 2016 have all come to an end. Next?
It’s hard to say who will share the cage with Smith next. Declining to give a specific hint, he said his plan was to slowly build back up. He has already fought against several members of the top 10. So maybe Nikita Krylov? That sounds about right. I suspect Smith will get a booking to build on if he makes the UFC solid this weekend. And he deserved it for his performance on Saturday.
The only fighter from this map who will follow is Miguel Baeza
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 29, 2020
Okamoto: No one impressed me more on Saturday or the whole week than Baeza. He’s got off to a stunning start in the UFC. He is 3-0 with three finishes including an elimination to Matt Brown in May. His talent on the feet is evident, but he showed us a new wrinkle in this one and recorded the first submission win of his career.
The 28-year-old is unbeaten and although he has only had 10 fights behind him, he looks seasoned beyond his years. The win on Saturday was extremely impressive against an opponent with more than twice as many professional fights.
Baeza, not that this is absolutely necessary in martial arts, but the man has charisma. He called commentator and UFC lightweight Paul Felder “Mr. Felder” all week. He told a remarkable story about an unlicensed amateur fight against UFC welterweight Niko Price years ago. And had me hooked with a story about how he got his nickname “Caramel Thunder” – in short, he thinks his friend played a prank on him by feeding him a ring announcer during his amateur career. I don’t know how high Baeza will go in the end, but he has a lot of potential.
The best way to end the night belonged to Gina Mazany
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 29, 2020
Raimondi: Liver kick knockouts are rare enough in the UFC. Don’t worry if the front kicks the liver, resulting in a finish. But that’s exactly what Mazany did to Rachael Ostovich on Saturday night. She took a stuttering step ahead and landed a kick from left to front on Ostovich’s body, which Ostovich crumpled up. Referee Mark Smith had to step in to end the fight. Mazany landed the same kick earlier this round that injured Ostovich. It doubled in size, but Ostovich survived the shot. She couldn’t do it a second time.
So damn proud of Gina !!! I am so glad that she is now part of the Glory family and all of her hard work is paying off !! # UFCVegas15
– Megan Anderson (@MeganA_mma) November 29, 2020
The kick wasn’t just for Mazany’s highlight role. It resulted in her first UFC win in three years and possibly prevented a second publication of the promotion. For “Danger” it was much bigger – that their hard work paid off. Mazany moved to Missouri from Las Vegas this year with her fiancé Tim Elliott, a UFC flyweight. There she began to train under the respected trainer (and UFC fighter) James Krause and formed her body from bantamweight to flyweight. The big changes resulted in a huge success and possibly a run in a new division.