Anthony Smith stands by Alex Pereira criticism but promises he’s not just ‘talking sh*t’ about him

In just eight UFC fights, Alex Pereira has won titles across two divisions and defeated five former champions along the way. He’s done it all primarily as a devastating striker, displaying incredible knockout power but still showing some deficiencies expected of a lifelong kickboxer with only 12 total MMA fights on his resume.

Pereira is fresh off of headlining one of the biggest cards in history at UFC 300, and he capped off the night with a brutal knockout of Jamahal Hill. Assessing that performance, analyst and fighter Anthony Smith gives Pereira credit for getting the job done in impressive fashion, but stands by the criticism he’s levied against Pereira from the first day he arrived in the UFC. Criticism that might rub the Brazilian star the wrong way.

“I stand by everything I’ve said,” Smith told MMA Fighting. “[Daniel Cormier] says it all the time. How is this guy still winning fights? Yeah, I ask the same thing. Because it doesn’t make any sense! He has a very limited skill set. He’s very, very, very dangerous at one thing and he’s mediocre at the rest.

“Instead of making it seem like I’m talking shit about him, I’m building him up. That’s amazing! That’s absolutely amazing that he’s able to do what he’s been able to do at this level for this amount of time. It’s impressive. I’m not talking shit about it. It’s impressive.”

Smith won’t walk back any comments he’s made about Pereira just because he keeps pulling off wins with the best weapon at his disposal. From the first day he arrived in the UFC, Pereira was already one of the most lethal strikers to ever compete inside the octagon, but the other areas of his game are still developing.

Pereira’s first fight at light heavyweight is a perfect example of those shortcomings, according to Smith. At UF 291, ex-champion Jan Blachowicz wrestled him to the ground and essentially mauled him for five consecutive minutes.

“Here’s the deal, I’m doing my breakdowns and analysis, very true,” Smith said. “Whether he and I have this thing back and forth or not, I’m very honest about my analysis of him. Everything that I’ve said, I stand by. That’s just the fight game. He has caught lightning in a bottle, and I don’t mean as that he’s getting lucky. Because he’s not.

“He’s a legitimate threat, and he’s a legitimate danger. But because of the matchups and some of the circumstances — like Jan Blachowicz is a much better mixed martial artist. He proved that in the first round. I don’t think he adjusted to the altitude of Salt Lake City, because then he was gassed and was kind of reserved to standing in front of Alex after that. He couldn’t get a takedown, because he was tired. Let’s just call it what it is.”

Blachowicz gassing out after one round isn’t Pereira’s fault, which is why Smith doesn’t want to diminish that victory, but he can’t ignore the facts of the situation either.

Smith believes in that same position, on Pereira’s back with nearly a full five minutes to work, he would have finished the fight and there wouldn’t have been a second round.

“I’m not knocking Alex for that. I think he did a great job staying safe,” Smith said. “I thought that he showed a little bit of improvement in his grappling. He had a top 5 light heavyweight on his back for almost five minutes. Does Magomed Ankalaev get out of that first round in that same position? Probably unlikely. If I’m on your back for that amount of time, do you get out of the first round? Probably not. Let’s just stop all the f*cking bullshit and let’s be honest. I’m Jan Blachowicz, do I finish in that position? 100 percent of the time. Hooks in against the fence and you’re belly down? I’m taking home $50,000 extra. That is happening.

“If Magomed Ankalaev gets in that same position, that’s happening. I could give you five other light heavyweights that would get to that position [and finish]. Jan Blachowicz isn’t necessarily known as a submission finisher. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he does very well on the ground, but he’s not a prolific finisher on the ground and that’s fine. I think Alex Pereira did a great job in that position and I think he did what he had to do in the second and third round, very, very tired at altitude to get the win. I have no knocks against that. He beat a really tough dude.”

When it comes to Pereira’s next two fights against Jiri Prochazka and Hill, Smith recognizes that those particular matchups didn’t present the same level of threat when it came to wrestling and grappling.

Hill is best known as a boxer with heavy hands and Prochazka typically engages in wild, non-stop action fights where he’ll take a punch to return one of his own. That’s a dangerous game to play with a knockout artist like Pereira.

“Jamahal Hill, there is no wrestling threat,” Smith said. “I’m not talking shit about Jamahal. That’s just not his game. That’s a favorable matchup. That’s a 50/50 at best for both of them. Without the threat of a takedown, you strike very differently in a fight when you’re not worried about somebody shooting a takedown. Jiri Prochazka — and that might be the only fight I picked Alex Pereira — because Jiri Prochazka is a defensive irresponsibility. He’s too free, he’s too open. He takes a lot of leg kicks.

“We just saw it in the Aleksandar Rakic fight. Credit to Jiri, I think he did a great job, he was able to stay safe, he was able to land some big shots. He hurt Rakic. I thought he did great. But there was a lot of problems there. He got hit a lot. He got banged up with the leg kicks and the same thing happened with Pereira. He pushed Pereira really hard but then he’s not responsible in those tight spots and he took a hard shot. Glover Teixeira banged up Jiri Prochazka pretty bad on his feet, too.”

Regardless of opponents or stylistic matchups, Pereira keeps finding a way to win and Smith believes that has to be commended. Pereira may not like Smith pointing out his shortcomings or perceived weaknesses, but he’s not going to apologize for doing his job.

“He’s had some, I don’t want to say favorable matchups because that makes it sound like he’s ducking people — he’s not,” Smith said. “He’s just had some matchups that really worked in his favor and he’s had some things fall his way. That’s f*cking MMA. That’s the game. Sometimes things just fall your way.

Jake Ellenberger was in a lot of really tough fights and tough situations and sometimes the f*cking chips just fell his way, and then later on down the road, they didn’t. That’s how it goes. At some point that will not continue and that’s just the game. That’s going to happen to all of us.”

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