On December 29, in the main event of UFC 232, former UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and top contender Alexander Gustafsson are expected to rematch for the vacant light heavyweight title, which will simultaneously be stripped from current champ Daniel Cormier. Anthony Smith, who recently won big with a submission of former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir in the UFC Moncton main event, believes he’s the obvious next opponent for the winner of this UFC 232 title fight.
“I just took out the No. 2 guy in the world. I’ve finished two former world champions back-to-back and then the No. 2 contender,” Anthony Smith told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour this week (transcript via MMA Fighting). “The No. 1 contender’s fighting for the title and I think that Daniel Cormier has all but left the division. I don’t think that he’s coming back to 205. I don’t know who else would be in front of me. I don’t know who else is a legitimate threat to either one of those guys, no matter who wins the title. You might be able to throw (Ilir) Latifi in there, but if Gustafsson wins [against Jones], then that’s definitely out the window.
“So, I genuinely believe that I’m the only legitimate threat to either one of those guys. And I’m finishing people. There’s guys who are winning, but I’m finishing guys.”
If Anthony Smith had to pick, he’d prefer that Jones wins at UFC 232, simply so that he has the chance to become the man to defeat the seemingly unbeatable former champion. That being said, he knows doing so will not be easy.
“I’d rather fight Jon Jones, because no one has a legitimate win over Jon Jones, and that’s the stuff that really gets me up,” Smith explained. “Deep down, I truly believe that I can beat Jon Jones. But deep down, I know that I might not be able to — and that’s what drives me. That’s what motivates me. I’ve been thinking about Jon Jones since I’ve been at 205. It’s never been about ‘Shogun’ or Rashad or even Volkan. It’s trying to get through as many people as I can get through to get to Jon Jones.
“People can say all day that doubt is a bad thing, but I don’t think that it is,” Smith added. “I think doubt motivates people, depending on who you are. I think that Jon Jones being the tallest task in the entire UFC will bring the best out of me, and I think that one of my biggest downfalls is that I tend to fight to my opponent’s level, and fighting up to my opponent’s level is always going to be a positive. You hear people talk bad about fighting to someone’s level when you’re fighting down to them, but I think that I’m one of those guys that I just rise to the occasion when I need to, and I think that I would do the same with Jon Jones.”
While Anthony Smith recognizes that Jon Jones would be an opponent unlike any he’s faced before, he believes he could beat him. In fact, he believes Volkan Oezdemir might have actually been the more dangerous matchup of the two.
“I think that Volkan is one of the tougher matchups for me in the entire division just because of the way that he fights. I think that Jon Jones is less dangerous than Volkan is — Jon Jones isn’t one-punch knocking out anybody,” Smith explained. “It’s just, that’s not his style. He’s super crafty, he’s dynamic, I think he has a high fight IQ, but I think that he’s hittable, and I think that I match up with him size-wise pretty well. Obviously he’s got a longer reach than everybody in the entire UFC, but I think that Jon Jones beats a lot of people in that short range with the elbows and stuff, and I think that I’m just as dangerous in that elbow fighting range as anybody in the division.”
How do you think Anthony Smith would do in a potential fight with Jon Jones?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/29/2018.