Anthony Smith really needed a win at UFC Vegas 15, and after returning to the win column by quickly subbing Devin Clark, Dana White had extensive praise for the light heavyweight contender.

White reports “message received”

If you follow Smith, you know that ‘Lionheart’ has had some significant setbacks this past year, and has had to deal with a lot adversity. The 32-year-old ended 2019 on a winning note, by submitting Alexander Gustafsson last June.

But, in May, Smith absorbed enormous punishment during a stoppage loss to Glover Teixeira. That loss took place not long after Smith battled an intruder in his family’s house during a terrifying incident.

Smith returned to the cage in August, but dropped a one-sided, decision loss to Aleksandar Rakic.

So, due to those defeats, Smith needed a win on Saturday to remain within reach of the title shot mix. The noted finisher did just that, by taking Clark down not long into the bout, and transitioning into a fight ending, triangle-choke.

During the post-fight press conference, White had this to say about Smith’s performance (quotes via MMA Junkie).

“He looked awesome,” White said. “He came in to make a statement, and message received. He looked good.”

Not only had Smith faced a lot of adversity this past year, his bout with Clark, was originally, supposed to be a three-round, co-main event.  But, when Curtis Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19, his fight with Derrick Lewis was postponed and Smith – Clark was moved into the headliner.

“These are the things you’ve got to do,” White added. “You’ll see in this business a lot, guys who try to hold their spots and not fight anybody.

That ain’t the way to do it. What he did tonight, that’s the way you do it. Are you still that good?

If you’re still that good, then you should go out and do what you did tonight to a guy like Devin Clark: (a) young, hungry stud who wants to work his way up and steal your spot.

You’ve got to go out and make a statement, and he did that tonight. People respect that.”

What’s next for ‘Lionheart’?

There’s no question Saturday’s victory was a pivotal one for Smith. Heading into the card, he was tied for 6th in the UFC’s light heavyweight rankings (with Volkan Oezdemir).

So, it will be interesting to see if he’s tapped to fight a top five ranked contender next. The only fighters Smith hasn’t fought yet in the top five are Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka.

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