Anthony Smith vs. Khalil Rountree Jr. is a wildcard matchup that nobody could have predicted. Smith — stepping in on short notice — replaces Azamat Murzakanov, a hand-to-hand combat specialist who stands six inches smaller with half the grappling experience. It’s safe to say that Rountree has his work cut out for him.
Let’s get into the prediction.
Anthony Smith vs. Khalil Rountree Prediction
First of all, let’s talk about strengths. Both men are exceptional standup strikers, Smith is lanky and sharp, he has a snappy jab and he’s quick on his feet. Rountree is as his nickname suggests, “The Warhorse” is a bully in the octagon using powerful Muay Thai and lacking any regard for his opponent’s wellbeing.
Rountree employs many techniques built to destroy his opponent, or even retire them. He’s fond of kicking the body of his downed opponents, and he likes to use strong oblique kicks to his foe’s knees:
Anthony Smith is Fighting on Short Notice
Fans of Smith need to take into consideration that he is stepping into the octagon on extremely short notice, just two weeks to be precise. Going up against a dangerous and versatile opponent like Rountree with such little preparation is not an ideal situation. It raises concerns about Smith’s cardio, mentality, and overall sharpness in the fight.
On the other hand, Rountree will have had a full training camp for his fight with Murzakanov and now has two weeks to adapt his strategy specifically for Smith. This gives him an advantage in terms of preparation. His cardio should be in top shape, and his mentality and overall sharpness should also be on point.
Styles Make Fights
Smith made adjustments for his last UFC appearance against Ryan Spann. “Lionheart” changed his stance from a wide karate-style stance to a more closed Muay Thai stance. This was because he was having trouble with opponents kicking out his lead leg.
There is a concern to consider here. Muay Thai is Rountree’s specialty, so it seems like he would have an advantage against Smith’s new fighting style. However, if Smith goes back to his natural stance, Rountree will have a field day with his powerful leg kicks.
Changing your stance so drastically doesn’t happen overnight, especially for someone like Smith who has been fighting for over 15 years. If the Muay Thai stance doesn’t work against Rountree, it’s safe to assume that Smith will go back to what he knows best and give Rountree a chance to attack his legs.
It’s because of these factors that I believe Rountree will come out early and aggressive, and test Smith’s short-notice composure straight away. “Lionheart’s” route to success is his counter striking and grappling, but if Rountree can deny either of these, I see him running through Smith in less than a round.
The Fight Fanatic prediction: Rountree R1 Finish
Mathew is a UK-based combat sports journalist. He currently works for MMA Knockout, part of the Sports Illustrated FanNation network. The Fight Fanatic is Mathew’s one-man operation. His past bylines include Heavy on UFC, Sportskeeda, and MMA UK.
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