A couple of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the world are set to square off in the spring, and here are my first thoughts on this critical matchup at 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both men coming off of losses to Jon Jones in their last respective excursions, the UFC matchmakers have gone 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, also this five-round headlining bout was first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
At first glance, this is a struggle which makes sense with both men needing to rebound after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson suffered a TKO defeat to Jones at the primary event of UFC 232, while Smith lost a lopsided decision to Jones at UFC 235. Together with the UFC needing a main event for its return to Sweden, it naturally made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, also for Smith it’s a chance to acquire another main event fight after years of being a journeyman in the sport.
At the exact same time, nevertheless, it’s very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage soon and signal up a bout agreement not two weeks after having beat up real good by Jones at UFC 235. Smith did not mount much crime in that struggle and bore the brunt of 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and later said he wished to take some time away to rest and relax after a hectic 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 from the UFC and before the loss to Jones had won back-to-back fights over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a bridesmaid, Gustafsson has been one of the best contenders in 205lbs for much of the 2010s but hasn’t been able to acquire the title despite three cracks in itagainst Jones and one against Daniel Cormier. Smith (31-14) is 7-4 overall from 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 revealed against Jones that he is simply not about the champ’s degree, but he remains a very good contender at 205lbs.
In terms of the opening betting line with this battle, I believe the oddsmakers will place Gustafsson as the favorite here, though I doubt he unlocks over 2-to-1. Smith has revealed since moving up to light heavyweight he has more knockout power and durability at his new weight class, and I wouldn’t completely count him from the fight. However, Gustafsson is the skilled fighter and will obviously be fighting in his hometown which should give him a boost. Irrespective of who wins, this ought to be a rather exciting matchup between two of the greatest dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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