Two 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 in 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both guys coming from losses to Jon Jones in their past respective outings, the UFC matchmakers have gone matched up Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith to the main event of UFC Fight Night 152. The card occurs June 1 at 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 which makes sense with the two guys needing to rally after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson endured a TKO defeat to Jones at the primary event of UFC 232, while Smith dropped a lopsided decision to Jones at UFC 235. Together with the UFC having a main event because of its return to Sweden, it naturally made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, and for Smith it has an opportunity to get another main event fight after decades of being a journeyman in the sport.
At precisely the same time, however, it’s very surprising to see Smith get back into the cage soon and signal up a bout agreement not even two weeks after getting beat up real good by Jones at UFC 235. Smith didn’t mount much offense in that struggle and bore the brunt about 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and afterwards said he wanted to take some time away to rest and unwind after a hectic schedule in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, however, the allure of becoming another main event slot against a top competition like Gustafsson was too much for Smith to maneuver on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall in the UFC and prior to the loss to Jones had won back-to-back fights over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a bridesmaid, Gustafsson has been among the top contenders at 205lbs for much of the 2010s but hasn’t been able to acquire the title despite three cracks at it, two against 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 revealed against Jones that he’s simply not on the champ’s level, but he still remains a very solid contender at 205lbs.
In terms of the opening betting line with this fight, I believe the oddsmakers will place Gustafsson as the favored here, although I doubt he opens over 2-to-1. Smith has revealed since moving up to light heavyweight that he has more knockout power and durability in his new weight class, and I wouldn’t completely count him out of the fight. However, Gustafsson is the more skilled fighter and will obviously be fighting in his hometown that ought to provide him an increase. Regardless of who wins, this should be a very exciting matchup between two of the top dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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