Date: Saturday, 1 st of June 2019
Time: 6:00pm Irish Time – Main Card Starts
Location: Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden
Event: UFC Fight Night 153
Where to watch: BT Sports
The main event this Saturday will see a five round light heavyweight bout between two former UFC Light Heavyweight Championship challengers Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson and Anthony “Lionheart” Smith to decide who will stay within the realms of title contention and who will be forced to work their way back through the rankings if they ever want another crack at touching gold at light heavyweight.
The light heavyweight division is in a strange place at the moment and this event highlights the uncertainty of the top ten currently with three light heavyweight bouts to finish the night. Between Jon Jones’ unreliability to remain in place as the reigning champ lingering in the minds of many and Daniel Cormier enjoying the comfort of no weight cut and gold at heavyweight the rest of the light heavyweight division need to cement their places and turns in line for a shot at Jones.
The main event is an eliminator of sorts for Gustafsson and Smith, both of whom have had a crack at Jones in the last six months and both of whom have fell short against the greatest of all time in the division. There is certainly more on the line for Gustafsson as he has had two chances with Jones for gold, one chance with Daniel Cormier for gold and even a number one contender eliminator with Rumble Johnson all of which he has failed to capitalize on. Losing to Smith could very well mean Gustafsson could never see a title shot again in the UFC at light heavyweight.
Anthony Smith is certainly not as established in the division as his opponent Gustafsson which affords him more opportunities with other names in the top five however a loss to Gustafsson here could result in him being seen as a bit of a flash in the pan with the quality of his knockout wins on his way to the Jones fight being slightly suspect as they came from match-ups with the veterans Shogun and Rashad Evans both of whom in reality are or were on the cusp of retirement at the time.
While the previous two paragraphs may sound critical of these two men, their previous performances have proved they are two of the best light heavyweights on the face of the earth. Their problem is that they exist in a time where the belt they seek is held by arguably the best mixed martial artist of all time, Jon Jones.
Gustafsson is currently the favorite for the win which isn’t surprising considering his reputation within the division, however he was stopped by Jones in his last fight while Smith was able to take Jonny “Bones” Jones all the way to the judge’s scorecards at the end of the fifth round.
Considering both fighter’s recent form they were both on a great trajectory until running into the champ. Gustafsson had a specular KO finish over Glover Teixeira with what seemed like never-ending uppercuts connecting flush and Smith had silenced his critics with a great submission win over the tough for anyone Volkan Oezdemir.
Gustafsson will need to be wary of Smith’s power who has proven he can get the job done at middleweight and now at light heavyweight however the quality of opponents of Smith’s recent knockouts does need to be taken into consideration. Gustafsson will be in front of his hometown crowd and certainly will not want a repeat of the night he faced Rumble Johnson in front of the same crowd, being knocked out early.
Gustafsson’s strategy will have to be light on the fight, evasive and technical. He does not have the one-shot KO power that Smith possess so he will have to drag Lionheart into deep water and force the fatigue on him. MMA math is always an easy and lazy way to guess fights however the fact Jones finished Gustafsson yet Smith was able to make it to the judges does not mean Smith will be better or have an advantage over Gustafsson.
Smith had a good, hungry showing against Jones however that was his first taste at the true light heavyweight elite and this fight against Gustafsson is his time to truly cement himself as a mainstay at the top of the division.
Smith is tough as they come and has only been stopped by strikes in the UFC by the monster that is Thiago Santos (who will be next to face Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight Championship) however if Gustafsson remains disciplined and does not allow himself to get dragged into a brawl he does have the technical skills and proven track record that should allow him to get the win via decision.
A knockout on Smith is unlikely as is a submission, Gustafsson’s path to victory will be a 25-minute showing of why he is a consistent fixture at the top of this division.
Gustafsson via Decision
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