Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Spann

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The Apex again hosts this week’s UFC Vegas 37 event, with 15 bouts featuring fighters from 10 countries. Name recognition for the production is somewhat lacking outside the main event, but make no mistake that this card has several barnburners.

Two weeks ago, our parlay with Modestas Bukauskas as a slight favorite was decimated when he walked into a leg kick from Khalil Rountree Jr. and was incapacitated and unable to finish. Insight the Octagon profitability for the year therefore stands at 21-17 + 6.88u.

Anthony Smith (-165) vs. Ryan Spann (+ 145)

Light-heavyweight (205 pounds), main event

Spann, 30, is the 11th-ranked light-heavyweight in the division. He stands 6-feet-5 and sports an 81.5-inch reach, both of which contribute to his fundamental strength, which is aggressive forward pressure striking and kicking.

Spann won four of his last five bouts, but against competition that in many ways pales in comparison with that of his opponent. A blue belt in BJJ, Spann has one way to win — by walking opponents down, backing them up and then barraging them with elbows, knees, fists and kicks.

Spann is extremely athletic and unusually long for the division. While he shows several submissions on his record, those occurred in matchups when the competition was not at a UFC level, save for a bout in 2019 against Devin Clark.

Spann will immediately force the fight and try to press Smith backward using pressure, aggression and frantic striking, for he is aware that if he can back up Smith, he can use his full arsenal of strikes and kicks. Spann must keep this fight standing and at distance to hold the advantage.

Spann usually starts quickly, but this approach works only until one earns his way into the top 15 of the division. There all opponents will be equipped with a plethora of world-class fighting skills and prepared cardiovascularly to fight a full 25 minutes with intensity and physicality.  

Which brings us to the sixth-ranked Smith, who enters this main event off two straight victories. Smith notched a submission win over the aforementioned Clark followed by a victory over up-and-coming elite talent Jimmy Crute due to a doctor’s stoppage.

Smith will be giving away an inch of height, 2 inches of arm reach and three years of age. But his advantage lies in the caliber of fighters he has faced as well as the fact that he is a much more well-rounded fighter with a substantial edge on the mat. Based on MMA weaponry, Smith, who has 50 professional bouts to his credit, is the more complete mixed martial artist.

When the bell rings, Smith will strive to maintain his cool early as Spann rages, which is actually a strength of this grizzled veteran. Remaining measured while on the feet will allow Smith to time the incoming slugger for clinch opportunities and ultimately takedowns.

Smith’s extensive ground ability and vast experience provide him with certain advantages. He has experienced five-round bouts, beating Alexander Gustafsson, dropping a decision to Jon Jones and then being finished at the hands of current No. 1-ranked challenger Glover Teixeira. This is Spann’s first visit into main event status.

By taking this fight to the ground early and often, Smith will force Spann to absorb damage and expend precious energy. By the late second or early third round, we might witness the fight being sucked away from Spann as he is forced to compete against a higher-pedigreed mixed martial artist. Provided Smith can navigate the first round, I believe he is in position to prosper.

Smith -165 (Leg 1, open parlay)

Total for this fight: 2.5 rounds; Under -135

Ion Cutelaba (-145) vs. Devin Clark (+ 125)

Light-heavyweight (205 pounds), co-main event

Both main events are light-heavyweight scraps, so we’ll witness large men competing in a small cage, which is bound to enhance engagement. In this fight we have a couple of unranked athletes trying to earn their way into the top 15. As discussed, Clark has faced both main-event competitors and lost to each.

Clark had won a couple of fights in a row until November, when he was submitted by Smith. He’s a bit undersized but makes up for that by being quick and athletic. Clark displays effective striking and has a solid wrestling base, which is important because he’ll need to take his opponent to the mat if he is to capture the advantage.

Cutelaba is a Moldovan fighter long on rage, aggression and angst. He has sambo, wrestling and judo backgrounds, but he rarely uses or displays those skills. Instead he opts to buzzsaw his way into and through opponents via wild, flailing, powerful striking.

Cutelaba is 1-3-1 in his last five fights. His only win was over Rountree in 2019, which looks pretty impressive after witnessing Rountree a couple of weeks ago.

In this fight Clark will have to find a way to get inside Cutelaba, clasp onto him and drag him to the floor. From there the advantage lies in gaining top position to squelch Cutelaba’s striking power and inflict his own damage.

Cutelaba will do all he can to keep this bout standing. He’ll apply blitzing forward pressure complemented by profuse power striking to back up Clark and force him to engage in a stand-up brawl, where Cutelaba is at his best.

This fight will hold intrigue as long as Clark can withstand Cutelaba’s pressure and address it with wrestling. If Clark is unable to gain inside position and force him to the floor, it could be a long night for the fighter from South Dakota.

Lean Cutelaba

Total for this fight: 1.5 rounds; Over -130

Tony Gravely (-170) vs. Nate Maness (+ 150)

Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Gravely’s father was a taekwondo practitioner, so that specialty was instilled in him in his childhood, and he complemented it with wrestling, so he’s competent everywhere. Gravely is a short, stocky keg of dynamite. He is tough, durable, explosive and can win via submission or KO/TKO. Gravely has an experience advantage and has faced a more respected level of UFC competition.

In Maness we have a fighter on the ascent. Maness is 5 inches taller, and he’ll have a 3-inch reach advantage with his arms and a couple of inches with his legs. Maness’ size and fighting arsenal will allow him to flow while this fight is standing, which is where he’ll want to keep it. Maness’ wrestling is developed enough to allow him to compete on the mat insofar as he’ll use wrestling to return to a standing position, where he’ll be able to re-engage his incoming opponent on the feet.

While Gravely has an edge in experience, I believe Maness is the more complete UFC-caliber fighter. The opportunity to side with the larger, longer fighter as an underdog in what seems to play out as a stand-up bout interests me. Provided Maness is prepared to address and overcome the early, unrelenting pressure wrestling from Gravely, he stands a great chance at an upset.

Maness + 150 (half-unit)

Maness via decision + 280 (half)

Total for this fight: 2.5 round; Over -180

Final releases for UFC Vegas 37 will be given Saturday morning on my ’Bout Business podcast. Look for that on Apple and Spotify.

 

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