UFC Vegas 83: Anthony Smith vs. Khalil Rountree prediction

Anthony Smith steps in on short notice to face Khalil Rountree Jr. in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 83.

Anthony Smith vs. Khalil Rountree Jr.
Anthony Smith vs. Khalil Rountree Jr. / UFC

Despite being roughly the same age, UFC Vegas 83 co-headliners Anthony Smith and Khalil Rountree Jr. are at very different points in their respective careers.

Smith, 35, will be entering his 56th professional fight and has already competed for the UFC light heavyweight championship, losing to Jon Jones in 2019. Despite being a top-10 contender for nearly a decade, many fans have already begun to write Smith off as an aging veteran nearing the end of his career.

However, Rountree Jr., 33, has seemed to finally put himself together after a peculiar start to his UFC career. Rountree has currently won his last four fights but was just 4-5 in the octagon prior to his win streak despite collecting a pair of signature wins.

Rountree was initially scheduled to face fellow rising contender Azamat Murzakanov on the UFC Austin card, but an injury to Murzakanov forced Smith to replace him. Despite Smith's most recent fight being a win over Ryan Spann, the former fan favorite has not looked like his old self in his most recent performances.

With the UFC Vegas 83 main card set to start at 10 p.m. ET, hardcore MMA fans on the East Coast of North America will have to wait until near midnight to watch the hard-hitting light heavyweights make the walk.

Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Anthony Smith prediction

Immediately on paper, most fans will likely not hesitate to pick Khalil Rountree in their predictions for this fight largely due to the two contenders seemingly headed in opposite directions.

But looking a little further into the fight, Anthony Smith could present Rountree with some interesting challenges. Throughout Rountree's four-fight win streak — with three wins coming by a violent knockout — the Muay Thai fighter has only fought strikers. And though Smith likes to engage on the feet, he will likely look to drag Rountree to the canvas.

Rountree has not been taken down since fighting Ion Cutelaba, a fight in which he got finished in under three minutes. Since then, Marcin Prachnio, Dustin Jacoby and Chris Daukaus all were credited with unsuccessful takedown attempts. Those are not exactly high-level wrestlers.

Nobody is suggesting Smith will ragdoll Rountree, or even try to take him down early. But in every one of his fights that he has a significant grappling advantage, Smith has taken his opponents down. Within the last five years, Smith has accumulated four submission wins with three of them coming against notable strikers similar to Rountree: Volkan Oezdemir, Alexander Gustafsson and Ryan Spann.

That being said, Smith has looked very much like a fighter who is beginning to slow down after nearly 60 professional fights. However, the last time everyone predicted the end was near for Smith, he came back with a submission over Devin Clark.

However, the Clark fight was a clear tune-up for Smith. Rountree is the opposite of that. If the best version of Anthony Smith shows up, he likely gets a submission in this fight. But there are too many questions surrounding a fighter who has seemed to already set himself up for life after fighting.

This may be a closer fight than many suggest, but Smith will have to be nearly perfect the entire time to get the win.

Prediction: Khalil Rountree Jr. by KO in Round 2

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