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Two of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the 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 men coming from losses to Jon Jones in their past individual excursions, the UFC matchmakers have gone ahead and matched up Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith for the primary 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 fight which makes sense with the two guys needing to rally after their losses to Jones. Gustafsson endured a TKO defeat to Jones at the primary event of UFC 232, while Smith lost a lopsided decision to Jones in UFC 235. Together with the UFC needing a main event because of its return to Sweden, it obviously made sense for Gustafsson to headline the card, and for Smith it’s an opportunity to get another main event fight after years of being a journeyman in the sport.
At precisely the exact same time, nevertheless, 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 did not mount much crime in that struggle and bore the brunt about 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and later said he wished to take some time off to rest and unwind after a busy schedule in 2018 and 2019. Certainly, 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 from the UFC and prior to the reduction to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a bridesmaid, Gustafsson has been among the best contenders at 205lbs for much of the 2010s but hasn’t been able to acquire the title despite three cracks at itagainst 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 solid contender at 205lbs.
In terms of the opening betting line for this battle, 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 that he has more knockout power and durability in his new weight class, and I would not totally count him from the fight. However, Gustafsson is the more skilled fighter and will of course be fighting in his hometown which should give him an increase. Regardless 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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