A couple of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the entire world are set to square off in the spring, and below are my first thoughts on this critical matchup in 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both men coming off of losses to Jon Jones in their last respective outings, the UFC matchmakers have gone ahead and matched up Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith for the primary event of UFC Fight Night 152. The card occurs June 1 in Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, and this five-round headlining bout was first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
At first glance, this is a struggle that makes sense with the two guys needing to rebound after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson suffered a TKO defeat to Jones at the primary event of UFC 232, while Smith dropped a lopsided decision to Jones in UFC 235. With the UFC having a main event because of its return to Sweden, it obviously made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, and for Smith it has a chance to get another major event fight after decades of being a journeyman in the game.
At the same time, however, it’s very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage soon and signal a bout agreement not even two weeks after having beat up real good by Jones at UFC 235. Smith did not mount much offense in that struggle and bore the brunt of 25 minutes of Jones’ strikes, and later said he wanted to take time away to rest and relax after a busy schedule in 2018 and 2019. Certainly, though, the allure of becoming another main event slot against a leading competition like Gustafsson was too much for Smith to maneuver on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall in the UFC and before the loss to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a lady, Gustafsson has been among the top contenders at 205lbs for much of this 2010s but has never been able to acquire the title despite three fractures in itagainst Jones and one against Daniel Cormier. Smith (31-14) is 7-4 overall in the UFC but is 3-1 since moving up to light heavyweight, with wins over Mauricio”Shogun” Rua, Rashad Evans and Volkan Oezdemir winning him a shot Jones. He showed against Jones that he is simply not on the champ’s level, but he remains a very good contender at 205lbs.
In terms of the opening betting line for this fight, I feel the oddsmakers will place Gustafsson as the favorite here, although I doubt he unlocks over 2-to-1. Smith has revealed since moving up to light heavyweight he has more knockout power and endurance in his new weight class, and that I wouldn’t totally count him out of the fight. However, Gustafsson is the more skilled fighter and will of course be battling in his hometown that ought to provide him a boost. Regardless of who wins, this should be a very exciting matchup between two of the greatest dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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