As Jon Jones prepares to defend his lightweight title against Thiago Santos at UFC 239, Anthony Smith is keeping a close on the fight taking place this weekend.
Coming off a win over Alexander Gustafsson in his last outing, Smith is cemented at the rankings at 205 pounds, which is why he has a interest in the upcoming battle between Jones and Santos.
On top of that, Smith knows these two fighters very well after just recently locking horns with Jones and then a 'Fight of the Night' performance against Santos in his final middleweight bout last year.
Many believe that Santos is overmatched going up against arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time in Jones but Smith knows first hand the kind of knockout power the upstart Brazilian contender is packing.
That's why he counts counting Santos out, although admittedly Smith concedes that Jones definitely has an easier path to victory based on one of his record. It's glaring deficiencies.
“If anyone has a chance to catch Jon Jones with something powerful, it's definitely Thiago,” Smith told MMA Fighting ahead of UFC 239. “He absolutely has a chance. He can win. I think that Thiago has a gap in his ground game, though, and I think Jon is way too smart to take advantage of that.
"If you looked at Jon and I's fight, the times when we did go to the ground, he didn't actually engage with me because they did their homework. Most people will write my ground game and they will not really talk about it or they will not even acknowledge it but I was very aware that I am dangerous on the ground and he didn't engage there. ”
While Smith sees Santos' ground game as his biggest weakness, he believes there are still ways he could damage Jones on the feet to stop the fight from ever having the canvas.
As invincible as Jones has seemed throughout his career, Smith says There are tendencies and patterns in his style that can put him in danger against somebody as powerful as Santos.
“If you can find a way to stay on his feet and he can control his output and he is gas himself trying to explode and reach Jon, I think it will be a closer fight than people are expecting,” Smith said. “I think that's where the keys to victory are for Thiago. He's got to be able to stay upright and he's got to be able to control his output and his bursts so he doesn't get tired.
"Because if you get tired with a guy like Jon Jones, you're in trouble. If Jon wants to stay safe, he can be as upright as he always is and he can not be straight back as he does because Thiago has too many tools going forward. I think those are two spots where those guys need to be careful. ”Ultimately, Smith sees Jones' strengths far greater than any weaknesses that might exist, which is why he expects the lightweight heavyweight champion to exploit Santos on the ground "Thiago has too big of a hole [on the ground]," Smith said. “I think that Jon will be safe, all stay on the outside, all pick Thiago apart and then he'll take him down and that will be it.”