The Dagestani native earned a vicious ground-and-pound finish over one-time title contender Anthony Smith as he picked up his ninth win in a row overall while moving to 18-1 in his career. The stoppage came after Smith suffered a devastating ankle injury at the end of the first round that forced him to be carried out of the octagon by his team after the fight was over.
Regardless of how the result happened, Ankalaev got the job done and now he’s looking for his chance to compete for UFC gold.
“Of course this fight was very important for me,” Ankalaev said. “He wanted to see a fight, we showed him a fight tonight. Who do you think broke [his leg]? He hit me.
“How many more fights do I have to win so I can fight for the championship?
The light heavyweights were content trading kicks throughout the first round with Ankalaev and Smith both hesitant to overcommit, which could lead to a disastrous mistake. When Ankalaev got more active, he started to connect with his combinations but Smith was keeping him honest with a variety of kicks to the legs and body.
Between rounds, Smith was limping as he went to the corner due to an ankle injury he suffered from the final kick he threw at Ankalaev that caused an injury. Despite essentially competing on one leg, Smith still came out for the second round but he was forced to look for a takedown and Ankalaev wasted no time thwarting that attempt.
With Smith then stuck underneath him, Ankalaev began throwing huge bombs with several punches slipping through his opponent’s defense. Once it was clear Smith couldn’t escape, the referee stepped in to save him from further harm with Ankalaev scoring the TKO victory with the end coming at 3:09 in the second round.
While Smith’s injury was obviously unfortunate, Ankalaev still got the win and he now puts himself into position to potentially compete in a No. 1 contender’s bout or even a title shot depending on how the UFC decides to book reigning champion Jiri Prochazka in his next fight.