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We have a pivotal fight in the Light Heavyweight division, as Magomed Ankalaev takes on Anthony Smith. A winner of eight straight, which ties Lyoto Machida for the second longest win streak of all-time at 205 pounds, Ankalaev is closing in on a title shot. Checking in at fourth in the rankings and having defeated back-to-back former title challengers, Ankalaev will look to add a third in Smith to the resume. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Smith comes into this bout on a three-fight win streak. Having stopped all three foes during the streak, Smith has made it known that he is still a contender. Should he be able to put a halt to Ankalaev, there is no doubt that he will find himself in a number one contender’s fight next.

This is a big fight to kick off the main card. Since being submitted with one second left to Paul Craig, Ankalaev has rattled off eight straight. A striker, who is calm and composed, Ankalaev has often lulled fighters on the feet. A tactic, that has seen the Russian land with precision. In fact, Ankalaev’s 54.3% striking accuracy is the tenth highest all-time at 205 pounds. Boasting excellent takedown defense, Ankalaev has only been taken down once in the last eight fights. Which will likely stay that way, as Smith, while dangerous on the ground, has lacked the wrestling necessary to get the fight to mat. However, Smith is no slouch on the feet. Dropping Ryan Spann twice in his last fight, as well winning six fights via knockout inside the octagon, Smith has the power to put away anyone. What’s most impressive about Smith though, is his ability to weather storms and comeback. Of late though, Smith has broken that slow start notion and has brought about his own early storm.

In what is an important fight for the division, I have Ankalaev winning. While things could get interesting should this hit the mat, given Ankalaev’s takedown defense, I don’t see that happening. On the feet, Ankalaev is too technical and cerebral. He is also excellent with distance management and should be able to pick apart Smith. With that said, I predict that Ankalaev win his ninth straight via decision.

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