Two of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the world are set to square off in the spring, and below are my initial thoughts on this pivotal 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 matched up Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith for 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 men needing to rebound after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson suffered a TKO defeat to Jones in the main event of UFC 232, while Smith dropped a lopsided decision to Jones in 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’s a chance to acquire another main event fight after years of being a journeyman in the game.
At the same time, nevertheless, it is very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage so soon and signal a bout agreement not two weeks after having beat up real good by Jones in UFC 235. Smith didn’t mount much crime in that fight 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 busy schedule in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, though, the allure of getting another major event slot against a top contender like Gustafsson was too much for Smith to pass on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall in the UFC and prior to the loss to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a lady, Gustafsson has been among the best contenders in 205lbs for much of the 2010s but has never been able to win the title despite three cracks at it, two against 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 at Jones. He showed against Jones that he’s just not about the champ’s level, but he still remains a very good contender at 205lbs.
As for the opening betting line for this fight, I feel the oddsmakers will set Gustafsson as the favored here, though I doubt he opens over 2-to-1. Smith has shown since moving up to light heavyweight he has more knockout power and endurance in his new weight class, and I would not totally count him out of the fight. However, Gustafsson is the more skilled fighter and will obviously be battling in his hometown which should provide him an increase. Irrespective of who wins, this should be a rather exciting matchup between two of the top dogs at the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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