A couple 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 critical matchup at 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both guys coming from losses to Jon Jones in their past respective excursions, 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, 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 the two men needing to rally after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson suffered a TKO defeat to Jones in 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 has a chance to get another major event fight after years of being a journeyman in the game.
At the exact same time, nevertheless, it is very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage soon and signal up a bout agreement not two weeks after getting beat up real good by Jones in UFC 235. Smith did not mount much offense in that fight and bore the brunt of 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and later said he wanted to take time off to rest and relax after a busy schedule in 2018 and 2019. Certainly, though, the allure of getting another main event slot against a leading contender like Gustafsson was too much for Smith to pass on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall from the UFC and before the loss to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a lady, Gustafsson has been one of the top contenders at 205lbs for much of the 2010s but hasn’t been able to acquire the title despite three cracks in 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 Jones. He showed against Jones that he is simply 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 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 I wouldn’t totally count him out of the fight. However, Gustafsson is the skilled fighter and will of course be battling in his hometown that ought to provide him an increase. Irrespective of who wins, this should be a rather exciting matchup between two of the greatest dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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