UFC Apex in Vegas and SAP Center in San Jose
Coming into their main event fights, both Anthony Smith and Phil Davis had some questions. And impressively, they both answered them. In the way they did, both light heavyweights sent messages that they are not just “gatekeepers”.
Smith, the 6th ranked 205er in the UFC had some bad blood leading into his battle with Ryan Spann. And that was more than enough for the former title challenger to stay laser focused. In his opening round submission win he picked up his 19th in that frame (including a 3-fight win streak now).
“Lionheart” proved at 33-years old he’s nowhere near an empty gas tank. Post fight when asked about what’s next he told Michael Bisping:
Rakic then tweeted he was free in December, to which Smith replied:
“Merry Christmas to me”
Meanwhile, the long awaited debut for Yoel Romero went down at Bellator 266. Without having to cut another 20-pounds he’d feel better physically. It was just a matter would it be the full force “Soldier Of God” like against Paulo Costa, or the overly cautious one against Israel Adesanya. What we saw was glimpses of both.
The fight went from be extremely measured, to a high pace, to Davis taking a dominating control thanks to his 5-takedowns. Then in what seems to be a gaff, Romero complained he didn’t realize the Bellator main event was only three-rounds. Which one would assume, he was told before leaving the locker room.
And what should have been an easy white wash on the scorecards, Davis had to sweat it out, but took a split decision win.
Light Heavyweights Sent Messages, Will They Be Heard
If Smith and Rakic happen, it could set up to be a title eliminator fight. And the same can be said in Bellator. But the champion, Vadim Nemkov, along with Corey Anderson and Ryan Bader (the only people ahead of him) are tied up in the tournament. So he may need to face the loser of Anderson and Bader, as the winner will continue.
When questioned about fighting Romero, he told Big John McCarthy:
“Yoel’s a monster, I felt that power”.
Davis’ game did improve as the fight went on. But against Anderson, or Bader (who he’s lost to twice, like to Nemkov); it’s a tall order to see a pathway to victory. Yes if he uses his striking smart, and relies on his wrestling he can be effective. But those three ahead of him are all better.
Will either one wear gold? That’s tough to answer, but unlikely. Despite a 50-plus fight career, Blachowicz might have too much power in his hands for Smith. And Davis absolutely has a much harder path to get there. Not that Jan Blachowicz is a walk over. Nemkov has a devastating kicking game, is just as good on the ground, and equal “pop” in his hands. So looking in the short-term future the safe bet says both 205 titles stay right where they are.