Two of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the entire world are set to square off at the spring, and below are my first thoughts on this critical matchup in 205lbs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith, UFC Fight Night 152
With both men coming off of reductions to Jon Jones in their past respective outings, the UFC matchmakers have gone ahead and 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, 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 the two men needing to rebound following 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 in UFC 235. With the UFC having a principal event for its return to Sweden, it naturally made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, and for Smith it has an opportunity to get another main event fight after years of being a journeyman from the game.
At the exact same time, nevertheless, it is very surprising to see Smith get back into the cage so soon and signal 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 fight and bore the brunt about 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and later said he wished to take some time away to rest and unwind after a hectic schedule in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, however, the allure of becoming 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 from the UFC and before the reduction to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a lady, Gustafsson has been among the best contenders at 205lbs for much of this 2010s but has never 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 Jones. He revealed against Jones that he’s simply not about the champ’s degree, but he remains a very solid contender at 205lbs.
As for the opening betting line with this fight, I believe the oddsmakers will set Gustafsson as the favorite here, although I doubt he unlocks over 2-to-1. Smith has revealed since moving up to light heavyweight that he has more knockout power and durability in his new weight class, and that I wouldn’t completely count him from the fight. Still, Gustafsson is the skilled fighter and will of course be battling in his hometown which should provide him an increase. Irrespective of who wins, this ought to be a rather exciting matchup between two of the greatest dogs at the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
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