A couple of the top-ranked light heavyweight contenders in the entire world are set to square off at the spring, and here are my initial 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 last respective outings, the UFC matchmakers have gone ahead and matched up Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith to 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 fight which makes sense with both 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 lost a lopsided decision to Jones at UFC 235. With the UFC having a principal event for 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 decades of being a journeyman from the game.
At precisely the same time, however, it’s very surprising to see Smith get back in the cage so soon and sign a bout agreement not even two weeks after having beat up real good by Jones in UFC 235. Smith did not mount much offense in that struggle and bore the brunt about 25 minutes of Jones’ attacks, and afterwards said he wished to take some time off to rest and relax after a hectic schedule in 2018 and 2019. Certainly, however, the allure of becoming another main event slot against a leading competition like Gustafsson was too much for Smith to maneuver on.
Gustafsson (18-5) is 10-5 overall in the UFC and before the loss to Jones had won back conflicts over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Always a bridesmaid, Gustafsson has been among the top contenders in 205lbs for much of the 2010s but hasn’t been able to win 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 at Jones. He revealed against Jones that he’s simply not about the champ’s level, but he still remains a very solid contender at 205lbs.
As for the opening betting line for this battle, I feel the oddsmakers will place Gustafsson as the favorite here, although I doubt he opens over 2-to-1. Smith has revealed since moving up to light heavyweight he has more knockout power and endurance at his new weight class, and that I would not totally count him out of the fight. However, Gustafsson is the skilled fighter and will of course be fighting in his hometown that ought to provide 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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