Five for Fighting: UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Spann

UFC Vegas 37 goes down this Saturday night at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. I take a deep dive into five fights on the card and break down how they might play out. Here is the latest edition of Five for Fighting.

Anthony Smith (36-16) vs. Ryan Spann (16-6)

Speaking realistically on the main event, there isn’t all that much on the line for either fighter, that’s apart from the chance of moving slightly up the rankings. Anthony Smith has settled into his gatekeeper roll in recent times. The former title challenger at light-heavyweight has recent wins over Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute, both fights did not make the final bell. ‘Lionheart’ is such a well rounded fighter, he possesses devastating power and has the ability to submit his opponents when given the opportunity. He has a ferocious leg kick and that may be a weapon we see him use in this fight. The question that remains for Smith is does he really think he has another title run in him, or is he happy to fight up and coming fighters for the remainder of his career?

Ryan Spann will be the lastest up and comer to challenge Smith. In his last bout the Texan took out Misha Cirkunov with a lovely right straight and followed up with vicious ground and pound. It’s was Ryan Spann’s best performance inside the octagon and he will be looking to build on that in this main event. For Spann, this is a huge opportunity to put himself into the top 10 in the 205-pound rankings. I expect that he will want this fight to stay on the feet and he will have the belief to land big shots and bring the fight to a halt in the early stages of the fight.

Deep waters is not something than Spann has too much experience in. The majority of his fights are finished early with only three wins coming by decision. Smith may want to fight on the outside and bide his time in this fight, we have seen a lot more of the grappling game from ‘Lionheart’ but it’s easier said than done to get Spann to the mat. On the feet you would expect Smith to have the speed advantage. If he has the cardio to stay away from the power of his rival and land quick combinations and big leg kicks,

that may well be the ingredients for him to get his hands raised once more inside the octagon. It’s hard to gauge the outcome of this fight, Spann may rise up to the challenge and he may seize his big opportunity. Experience on the big stage is super important and Anthony Smith has that in abundance which may very well be enough to get the job done on Saturday night.

Nate Maness (13-1) vs. Tony Gravely (21-6)

Tony Gravely made the move to American Top Team a few years ago and we seen the fruits of that labour in his last fight with Anthony Birchak. The Virginia native landed a huge left hook and followed up with some ground and pound to pick up a second round victory. It was Gravely’s first finish inside the UFC but the ninth of his career. Not only does Gravely have dynamite in his hands, he also has some slick wrestling skills which seen him appear in two NCAA Tournaments, winning a Southern Conference Tournament Championship in the process. The confidence in Tony’s striking comes from him not having to worry about the takedown and it will be interesting to see if the ATT standout will choose to stand and bang or work for some takedowns.

Nate Maness will be on the other side of the octagon, he was forced to pull out of this scheduled fight which was was supposed to be Gravely at UFC Vegas 24. Maness has only been defeated once in 14 fights and comes into this encounter on a three fight win-streak. The Kentucky native also has a solid wrestling base and slick submission skills which were on show in his last trip to the cage when he submitted Luke Sanders in the second round. Four of Maness wins were by way of knockout and another three by submission. Both of these bantamweights have yet to taste defeat inside the octagon, both will be hungry to stake their claim and whoever gets their hands raised will be looking at ranked opponents in future fights. I spoke with Tony Gravely earlier this week about this exact fight. You can check out that in it entirety right here.

Ariane Lipski (13-7) vs. Mandy Böhm (7-0)

After three failed attempts Mandy Böhm will finally make her UFC debut when she faces off against Ariane Lipski in her promotional debut. The German flyweight has concocted an seven fight undefeated record under the tutelage of SGBHQ head coach John Kavanagh. Böhm has a good reach advantage on most of her opponents. She has also developed a solid jab in which she uses to keep her rivals at bay so she can dictate her fights. Bölm is tenacious in the clinch and like to dirty box and throw some knees when she is in control. With two submissions on her record she is by no means a slouch on the ground and being an SBG athlete will only help her in that regard.

Standing across the cage from Bölm will be former KSW flyweight champion Ariane Lipski. The Brazilian has has somewhat of a topsy-turvy UFC tenue to date. Having lost her opening two bouts under the UFC banner, Lipski went on to win her next two. The “Queen of Violence” could not keep that momentum going and was defeated in her last two encounters and really can not afford any more slip-ups if she is to remain with the promotion. I can see this fight play out mainly on the feet with lots of scrambling in the clinch at times. I’m super interested in see how the fight plays out on the mat to see which woman will have the advantage. If the fight does remain on the feet for the entire 15 minutes this will be a toss up. Bölm will be looking to make an impact on her UFC debut and Lipski will be desperate not to lose three on the bounce. Those facets should make this fight a highly entertaining battle.

Arman Tsarukyan (16-2) vs. Christos Giagos (19-8)

For me, one of the hottest prospects inside the lightweight division is Armenian born Arman Tsarukyan. Khabarovsk MMA in Russia is where Tsarukyan is based ahead of this fight. He was welcomed into the UFC by now top contender Islam Makhachev, a fight in which Arman was defeated by decision. Since that disappointment Tsarukyan has won three straight, picking up wins over Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Davi Ramos and Matt Frevola with all fight being a comfortable one-sided decisions. The Armenian standout mixes his striking and wrestling up very well. When you think he’s going to strike, he shoots for the takedown and vice-versa. His ability to do this keeps his rivals guessing and creates opening for attacks.

Christos Giagos is next in line to try a solve that puzzle. His confidence will be sky high after pulling off an impressive second round submission victory over Sean Soriano. Gigos himself did not have an easy UFC debut being matched now lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, a fight in which he lost by submission. Since then the Californian has gone 4-1 inside the octagon picking up solid wins over Mizuto Hirota, Damir Hadžović, Carlton Minus and Soriano. Giagos is a powerful striker with the ability to hurt his opponents with either hand and loves to come in with flashy flying knees. He also has slick grappling skills with numerous submissions under his belt. This is a very well matched fight between two guys who are also looking to break into the top-15 of the division. This should be a cracking fight.

Pannie Kianzad (15-5) vs. Raquel Pennington (11-8)

If Pannie Kianzad picks up a win over Raquel Pennington it will be her fifth win straight. The bantamweight was a losing finalist of the 28 Season of TUF and currently stands at 4-1 inside the UFC. The Swede has some tidy boxing and normally sits behind a stiff jab but has shown higher levels of dominance when the fight hits the mat. She picked up decision victories over Jessica-Rose Clark, Bethe Correia, Sijara Eubanks, Alexis Davis and hasn’t been in any trouble in her UFC tenure so far. I’m curious to see if she can go up another level and perhaps grab a few finishes and one over Raquel Pennington would be a fantastic start and would see her move into the top ten in the 135-pound division.

Former title challenger, Pennington has the experience of being in the cage with with some of the best fighters the UFC has to offer. “rocky” fell short in her title challenge when she tried to dethrone Amanda Nunes at UFC 224. Although she was left disappointed on that occasion, Pennington has gotten her hand raised over such fighter like Miesha Tate,Irene Aldana, Marion Reneau and Jessica Andrade. Any time she has been defeated it has been against elite level opponents and a win against Kianzad here would see Raquel jump right back into the the top 15 in the women’s bantamweight rankings. This will be a contest between a veteran of the game and a younger lioness trying to progress to the top of the division.

So there you have it. Not a lot of recognisable name this saturday night but we are in a transitional period of UFC talent. We could have a few future stars on show yet and I expect to see a few finishes along the was this Saturday night. Check out the official fight card below. The card will be broadcast on BT Sports and can be streamed on ESPN+.

Main Card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Light Heavyweight: Anthony Smith (36-16) vs. Ryan Spann (16-6)

Light Heavyweight: Ion Cuțelaba (15-6-1) vs. Devin Clark (12-5)

Women’s Flyweight: Ariane Lipski (13-7) vs. Mandy Böhm (7-0)

Lightweight: Arman Tsarukyan (16-2) vs. Christos Giagos (19-8)

Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley (12-4) vs. Antônio Arroyo (9-4)

Lightweight: Nikolas Motta (12-3) vs. Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1)

Preliminary card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Light Heavyweight: Mike Rodríguez (11-6) vs. Tafon Nchukwi (5-1)

Women’s Bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad (15-5) vs. Raquel Pennington (11-8)

Bantamweight: Nate Maness (13-1) vs. Tony Gravely (21-6)

Lightweight: Brandon Jenkins (15-7) vs. Zhu Rong (17-4)

Bantamweight: Montel Jackson (10-2) vs. JP Buys (9-3)

Women’s Flyweight: Erin Blanchfield (6-1) vs. Sarah Alpar (9-5)

Welterweight: Impa Kasanganay (9-1) vs. Carlston Harris (16-4)

Bantamweight: Gustavo Lopez (12-6) vs. Heili Alateng (14-8-1)

Women’s Flyweight: Emily Whitmire (4-4) vs. Hannah Goldy (5-2)

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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