Anthony Smith snapped a two-fight skid in dominant fashion, submitting Devon Clark inside the first round of the main event at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Vegas 15 event on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The light-heavyweight clash was upgraded to the main event after a heavyweight bout between Curtis Blaydes and former title challenger Derrick Lewis was cancelled on the eve of the event after Blaydes tested positive for Covid-19.
Former light-heavyweight title contender Smith made full use of the spotlight and made short work of Clark, forcing his opponent to tap out after a triangle choke midway through the first round.
Smith, nicknamed “Lionheart”, has endured a chequered record since failing to beat then-champion Jon Jones at the UFC 235 event in March last year.
He bounced back three months later with an impressive submission win over Swede Alexander Gustafsson but then slipped to two defeats this year, against Brazilian Glover Teixeira and Austrian Aleksandar Rakic.
“It means the world to me… I just wanted to end the year with a W,” said Smith. “I want to keep getting better and go on a run. I don’t want to rush it. I’m not calling anybody out. I’m just going to take it one fight at a time. Let’s just get to 2021 and bring better things… I’ve said it for years, I’m going to be a world champion.”
Since it started holding events in May, the UFC has had to cancel or postpone several major fights because of fighters testing positive for Covid-19.
The light-heavyweight bout between Teixeira and his compatriot Thiago Santos was postponed twice, from Sept 12 to Oct 4 to Nov 7, after Teixeira, and then Santos, tested positive. Teixeira won via submission when the pair finally met at UFC Vegas 13.
Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos also tested positive in October, causing his UFC 254 bout with Russian Islam Makhachev to be postponed from Oct 24 to Nov 14. Makhachev was later replaced due to injury by Paul Felder, with dos Anjos winning a split decision at UFC Vegas 14.
Next Saturday’s UFC Vegas 16 event will also have a new main event after Kevin Holland tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the American out of his scheduled fight against Swede Jack Hermansson. According to MMA Fighting, Italian Marvin Vettori will replace Holland.