After a weekend without any UFC action, the world’s biggest MMA promotion returns this Saturday with UFC Fight Night 153: Gustafsson vs. Smith, live from the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Light-Heavyweight division seems to be the focus for this show – 3 of the 6 main card bouts take place in the division – but overall as you’d expect for a European ESPN+ card, it isn’t the strongest show on paper.
Still, it should be worth watching; the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Smith, Jimi Manuwa and Makwan Amirkhani rarely have boring fights, and with Sweden’s own Gustafsson in the main event, the crowd should be hot throughout.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 153: Gustafsson vs. Smith.
#1 Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith
A fight between two of the most exciting fighters in the 205lbs division, this should at least provide the fans with some quality action. For Smith, after his failed title shot at Jon Jones, this represents a chance to prove that he does belong in the upper echelon of the division and wasn’t simply a weak challenger on a lucky run.
And for Gustafsson, it’s his chance to show that despite his own loss to Jones, he’s still the #2 fighter at Light-Heavyweight.
Smith has been a fighter I’ve underrated in this run at 205lbs. He was TKO’d violently by Thiago Santos at 185lbs at the beginning of 2018, and while his wins over Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua gave him some name value, realistically both men were far past their prime when ‘Lionheart’ took them out.
But then Smith showed his real potential, weathering an early storm to tap out Volkan Oezdemir in the third round, a win that was enough to net him a title shot.
It’s hard to say what should be made of said title shot, really. On one hand, Smith did last the distance with Jon Jones – something few fighters have managed to do. But on the other hand, Jones fought strangely flat that night, and more to the point, Smith never really fought with the same reckless abandon we’ve seen from him before. It was almost as if he never truly believed he could win.
That for me is the problem with this fight. Smith is at his best when he attacks an opponent; his rangy, 6’3” frame allows him to assault his foes with nasty, long strikes from the outside – like the front kick to the jaw he landed on Shogun – as well as some vicious strikes from inside the clinch.
And that frame also makes him tricky to deal with on the ground. But when he does attack, he leaves himself open to being caught by his opponent, and historically at least, he doesn’t weather punishment too well.
It’s true that he did survive some big shots from Oezdemir, but really the Swiss fighter never truly caught him cleanly, nor did he really swarm Smith to look for a finish.
Gustafsson on the other hand is a truly ruthless finisher in the mould of Chuck Liddell. It’s not that he has one-hit KO power like Anthony Johnson, more that when he has an opponent hurt, it’s very likely that he’s going to put them away violently.
For me the only worrying thing about Gustafsson is his lack of cage time recently. It’s only 5 months since his loss to Jon Jones, but that was his first fight in more than a year due to injuries.
‘The Mauler’ has been in the UFC since 2009 and has turned 32 this year, so how much longer he can stick around is a question, but if he’s at his best, there’s definitely a case to make for him being second in the division only to Jones.
At 6’5”, Gustafsson is just as adept at the rangy striking that Smith utilises, but if anything he’s better at fighting from distance. And while he doesn’t offer too much of a submission threat, he’s an underrated wrestler with some strong takedowns and truly excellent takedown defense.
The Swede’s chin has usually been solid – he’s only been KO’d by Jones and Anthony Johnson – but his 2016 fight with Jan Blachowicz did show a worrying penchant for allowing his opponent to hit him cleanly.
Smith could win this fight I guess – he could come out aggressively and catch Gustafsson unaware, and I think he’s got the power to take out the Swede – but I’m going with ‘The Mauler’ as the safer bet.
He’s the bigger, longer man and everything Smith does, Gustafsson appears to do just slightly better. Throw in the likely self-doubt that Smith may have post-Jones, and I can’t see him swaggering in as he did against Shogun.
That’s a recipe for disaster as Gustafsson can poke at him from range – something Smith isn’t used to – and I think he can hurt ‘Lionheart’ and take him out from there.
The Pick: Gustafsson via second round TKO