Anthony Smith is Set for UFC 301 Return!

March 14, 2024
2 months

The veteran Anthony Smith is one of the more experienced fighters on the contemporary roster, having 56 bouts in his distinguished career and being an advanced fighter at the age of 35. Despite being somewhat lengthy in the tooth, Smith is heading back to the octagon and set to fight on the UFC 301 card.

Smith Needs Win to Climb Light Heavyweight Rankings

There’s a good reason why Anthony Smith is fighting on the UFC 301 card. He still believes he can ascend the light heavyweight rankings and potentially challenge for the strap again. It’s been a long time since his title fight against Jon Jones in 2019, that went all five rounds. During that time, he’s been active, putting in three Performance of the Night fights, but he’s also lost to prominent members of the light heavyweight collective like Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker. Most recently, Khalil Rountree Jr. put him to the sword in December in a competitive fight until the third round.

If he can win his next fight and put together a series of wins, he will surely better his #10 standings and get a single-digit ranking, which could put him in contention for a future title shot. Should he not get the win at UFC 301 in May 2024, he might not ever see a title shot again. Dana White will probably keep him around, as Smith has always shown a willingness to help the company, having stepped into multiple fights on late notice to keep the show going. However, he won’t be a credible contender for much longer if he can’t win many battles.

Who is Vitor Petrino?

Commonly known as Icão or Vitor ’Icão’ Petrino, this Brazilian fighter is set to fight Anthony Smith at UFC 301. So who is he? He’s an undefeated 28-year-old who made a massive impact last year in the UFC, becoming the #15 ranked light heavyweight in the promotion. There might not have been a more impressive debut year in the UFC, given that Petrino fought three flights in 2023 and won them all impressively. Petrino followed that up by notching up a fourth win (within 12 months) in early March 2024. The only concern from his last fight was that it came by decision. While not to be cried about, the South American had earned a reputation for finishing fights early, especially with his destructive striking ability.

While Petrino might not be the more prominent name in MMA, he’s going into this fight as the pre-fight favorite. Given that he’s the undefeated fighter in excellent form, it’s not Petrino who needs this fight. Smith must validate that he can still compete at this level, irrespective of the rankings saying otherwise. Petrino has everything to gain from this fight, firstly for taking it so soon after his last fight earns him some prestige, and secondly for fighting one of the UFC’s most storied fighters on the roster.

It could be that Dana White and company want the Brazilian to get another win on his resume, taking him to 12-0 and then commissioning a fight between Petrino and Azamat Murzakanov, currently sitting at 13-0. Both men are rapidly climbing the light heavyweight division and are undefeated. That fight would most certainly entertain the current champion, Alex Pereira.

Is Petrino the Right Opponent for Smith?

Simply put, no. Anthony Smith is on a bad run of form and needs to resurrect his career with a decent win. If that means taking on a plucky underdog, then so be it. Smith might want to revive his career by beating one of the UFC’s hottest prospects, but Petrino is too risky. The Brazilian is 11-0, and seven wins are by KO, with another coming by submission. Smith could end up getting destroyed in there, and upsettingly, it wouldn’t be MMA breaking news. That’s not even mentioning that Petrino will have the backing of the Brazilian crowd with UFC 301 taking place in Rio de Janeiro.

Dominick Reyes is a light heavyweight who needs an opponent. Reyes hasn’t won a fight since 2020, and while he’s had to pull out of his comeback fight twice, he would still make for an appropriate adversary against Smith when he’s fit. Of course, that all depends if he wants to fight again after suffering a serious injury. Volkan Oezdemir would also make for an exciting match for MMA news websites to cover, given that his form and ranking are similar to Smith’s current stature.

Would Defeat Retire Smith?

Anthony Smith is hanging in a delicate position. He’s 1-3 in his last four matches, and the losses are all coming against the contemporary quality fighters in his division. Realistically, another defeat would take him out of any credible stature for championship contention. He would have to move divisions and try his hand at either heavyweight or go back to middleweight, a division he participated in between 2008 and 2018.

While Dana White will appreciate Smith as a good commodity for the promotion, he may also respect the veteran more than that. Knowing that he would be stepping in and making up the numbers on Fight Night cards, falling off the MMA news site’s radar, etc, he may release Smith from his contract and allow him to pursue other opportunities. The man from Corpus Christi, Texas, previously fought on the Bellator product after being released from his first UFC contract after losing his first UFC match. Would he entertain linking up with them again or the parent company, the PFL? He would have no shortage of options. Smith also embarked on a professional grappling career, having fought one fight. If he feels he can’t compete in MMA anymore, that could be another avenue for him to pursue.

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By Dean McHugh.