LAS VEGAS — Ryan Spann has developed into a quality prospect in the UFC’s light heavyweight division over the last three-plus years. But as he prepares for his first main event, a five-rounder at Apex on Saturday against Anthony Smith, the question persists whether it is too much too soon.
Because while Spann is showing he has the talent to be a factor in the upper reaches of the 205-pound division, Smith is actually doing it.
Smith, who is a -165 favorite at BetMGM, is 10-5 in the UFC and pretty much only loses to the best of the best.
He’s vastly experienced and while it may be a stretch to say he has more tools than Spann, it’s not a stretch in the least to say that his tools are more developed and that he’s at his peak at this point.
Smith is coming off a victory over Jimmy Crute that never really got going, since Crute got injured early in the fight and couldn’t go past the first. But Smith’s five victories prior to that are over names you certainly have heard of: Devin Clark, Volkan Oezdemir, Shogun Rua, Rashad Evans and Hector Lombard.
Spann has a win over Clark, but his biggest victory was probably his most recent, a first-round KO of Misha Cirkunov on March 13 in Las Vegas.
This fight may turn into a kickboxing bout, and Smith’s striking has been on point. He’s been in with many elite strikers and usually holds his own, with the Glover Teixeira fight being the one notable exception.
Smith, though, is unquestionably a threat on the feet as well as on the ground, where his submission game is first-rate.
Smith still harbors visions of another championship shot and can’t afford a loss to Spann at this point. I think we’ll see Smith at his best and use his diversity and his experience to pull out a decision.
So I’m going to make a one-unit play on Smith at -165 to win over Spann. BetMGM doesn’t have its prop bets listed yet, but I will take the over in this fight. I think it will go to a decision, so I’ll recommend a play on the fight going the distance.
Other plays for UFC Vegas 37
• I will lay one unit on Raquel Pennington at -130 to win over Pannie Kianzad.
• I will take Gustavo Lopez at +110 to win over Heili Alateng.
• I like Impa Kasanganay at -130 to win over Carlston Harris.