Two of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the entire world are set to square off at 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 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 primary event of UFC Fight Night 152. The card takes place 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 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 dropped a lopsided decision to Jones at UFC 235. With the UFC needing a principal event because of its return to Sweden, it obviously made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, and for Smith it’s a chance to get another main event fight after years of being a journeyman in the game.
At precisely the same time, however, it’s very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage soon and sign up a bout agreement not two weeks after getting beat up real good by Jones in UFC 235. Smith didn’t mount much crime in that fight and bore the brunt of 25 minutes of Jones’ strikes, and later said he wanted 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 pass on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall in the UFC and prior to the reduction to Jones had won back-to-back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a lady, Gustafsson has been one of the best contenders at 205lbs for much of this 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 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 is just not about the champ’s level, but he still remains a very good contender at 205lbs.
As for the opening betting line with this fight, I believe the oddsmakers will set Gustafsson as the favored here, though I doubt he unlocks over 2-to-1. Smith has shown since moving up to light heavyweight he has more knockout power and durability at his new weight class, and that I would not totally count him out of the struggle. Still, Gustafsson is the more skilled fighter and will of course be fighting in his hometown which should give him a boost. Regardless of who wins, this should be a very exciting matchup between two of the greatest dogs at the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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