MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Fight Night 153, a five-round light heavyweight bout between Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith. The event takes place this Saturday, June 1 at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
Alexander Gustafsson (-320)
Gustafsson (18-5) is a perennial UFC light heavyweight title contender and he sports an overall record of 10-5 in the Octagon. The 32-year-old Swede is still the most popular MMA fighter to ever come from Sweden. Gustafsson was finished by UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in his last fight, but he’s still the man who gave Jones the most competitive fight of his career back in 2013 in their classic at UFC 165. He’s also arguably the fighter who gave Daniel Cormier his toughest fight, losing a split decision back in 2015. Before the Jones rematch, Gustafsson had beaten Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz in impressive fashion and had shows signs of re-emerging as a title contender. He has excellent striking, strong takedown defense, and has proven he can go the full five rounds. His chin has let him down in the past at times but overall Gustafsson is one of the best light heavyweights to ever fight in the UFC.
Anthony Smith (+260)
Smith (31-14) has turned into a top light heavyweight contender the last few years and sports an overall record of 7-4 in the Octagon. The 30-year-old American has finished 28 of his 31 career wins. “Lionheart” was once considered nothing more than a gatekeeper or journeyman as a middleweight, but moving up to light heavyweight last year changed his career trajectory. Smith has since gone 3-1 at 205lbs with finishes over Volkan Oezdemir, Mauricio Rua and Rashad Evans and a decision loss to Jon Jones in his last fight. The bout against Jones was mostly a beatdown, but his previous wins showed that light heavyweight is his optimal weight class. He’s a powerful striker, has slick submissions, and solid cardio. Smith has stayed very busy, as this bout against Gustafsson will be his fifth fight within the past year. That kind of activity could prove to help him or hurt him in this matchup.
This is good matchmaking here by the UFC pitting the two most recent opponents of Jon Jones against one another. Gustafsson has been one of the top-five light heavyweights in the UFC for essentially the past decade, while Smith has shown over the past year that he’s a top light heavyweight himself. On paper, it’s a competitive fight. That being said, I like Gustafsson in this matchup. The fact the fight takes place in Sweden should help him out a lot. Gustafsson is 6-1 all-time fighting on home soil, including a 2-1 record in the UFC fighting in his home country. Yes, he did get upset by Anthony Johnson, but he also dominated Glover Teixeira and Thiago Silva at home. Smith will have to go onto Gustafsson’s home turf, and it’s an upward battle I don’t believe he wins. Gustafsson is also the superior striker in this fight. As good as Smith has looked lately, he’s still a guy who has lost many times during his MMA career, and the fact he’s been finished 14 times going up against a powerful striker like Gustafsson doesn’t bode well. Gustafsson should be able to keep this fight on the feet and use his mobility to evade Smith’s strikes and outstrike him on the feet. If Smith resorts to his wrestling, I think Gustafsson will be able to stuff his takedowns. I just view Gustafsson as the better, more proven fighter and I like him to either outpoint Smith or better yet even win by TKO. The fact Smith has been finished so many times makes me think Gustafsson can get a finish, but since he’s coming off such a bad loss I think he plays it a bit safer and takes home a unanimous decision win on his home turf.
Pick: Alexander Gustafsson wins by Decision