UFC: Anthony Smith respectful of foe Roman Dolidze going into UFC 303

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MMA fighter Anthony Smith was complimentary of his opponent and dismissive of the rest of the light heavyweight division going into UFC 303 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Smith is facing Roman Dolidze, who usually fights at middleweight but took the bout on short notice after the scheduled opponent, Carlos Ulberg, dropped out because of injury. Dolidze’s last seven bouts were at the 185-pound limit, but now he’s going up in weight to face 205-pounder Smith.

“It’s hard to not want to fight a guy like Dolidze, and I mean that with the utmost respect,” Smith (38-19 MMA, 13-9 UFC) said at a news conference Wednesday. “He’s an absolute dog. He brings the fight; you don’t have to convince him to fight. He’s got a great skillset, I think his style mends well with mine. It meshes well with mine where we can — I think we’re going to have a (expletive) barnburner.”

A native of the country of Georgia, Dolidze (12-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) turns 36 on July 15, while Texas native Smith will be 36 on July 26.

“As far as impact goes, I think him moving up says a lot about my division,” Smith said. “So, if you guys want to do your jobs, go ask every available light heavyweight why there’s a middleweight fighting this fight. They’re going to make up a bunch of (reasons), but I think you guys can read between the lines.

“Every single one of them said no. So, I’m the veteran, I’m the gatekeeper, like whatever those guys say. ‘Well, why is Anthony getting paid so much and why does he get this opportunity?’ Because I’m willing to do this (fight) that you guys won’t do. Me fighting a middleweight on Saturday proves that to everybody. I think all those guys just got exposed.”

Dolidze, two inches shorter at 6-foot-2, is coming off of two consecutive losses, the latest by majority decision to Nassourdine Imavov on Feb. 3 in Las Vegas.

Smith won by first-round submission over previously unbeaten Brazilian Vitor Petrino on May 4 at UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro. Smith had lost three of his previous four bouts.

“(Smith) has a lot of experience and if we will think about his last fight, everybody thought that he will lose that fight, but he won,” Dolidze said at the news conference.

“And that’s the best answer I can give to you. You never know what a fighter experienced like him can do in his fight, but of course, we all understand that the best days he had are in the past. But I still (value) him for everything what he has done for this sport.”

–Field Level Media

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