Two of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the entire world are set to square off in the spring, and below are my first thoughts on this pivotal matchup at 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both guys coming off of losses to Jon Jones in their past 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 takes place June 1 at 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 guys needing to rally after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson suffered a TKO defeat to Jones at the main event of UFC 232, while Smith dropped a lopsided decision to Jones at UFC 235. With the UFC having a principal event because of its return to Sweden, it obviously made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, also for Smith it’s an opportunity to acquire another major event fight after decades of being a journeyman from the sport.
At the exact same time, however, it is very surprising to see Smith get back into the cage soon and sign a bout agreement not even two weeks after getting beat up real good by Jones in UFC 235. Smith didn’t mount much crime in that struggle and bore the brunt about 25 minutes of Jones’ strikes, and afterwards said he wanted to take time away to rest and relax after a hectic schedule in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, though, the allure of getting another major event slot against a leading 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 top contenders in 205lbs for much of the 2010s but has never been able to acquire the title despite three fractures 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 revealed against Jones that he is simply not about the champ’s level, but he remains a very good contender at 205lbs.
As for the opening betting line for this battle, I feel the oddsmakers will set Gustafsson as the favored here, although I doubt he opens over 2-to-1. Smith has shown since moving up to light heavyweight that he has more knockout power and durability at his new weight class, and that I would not completely count him from this fight. Still, Gustafsson is the skilled fighter and will obviously be fighting in his hometown that ought to give him a boost. Irrespective of who wins, this ought to be a rather exciting matchup between two of the top dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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