Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contenders take center stage inside Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden, this Saturday (June 1, 2019) when the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion returns for its latest show on ESPN+. In the main event, Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith look to put their recent losses to Jon Jones behind them at one another’s expense, while local slugger Ilir Latifi faces Volkan Oezdemir and Jimi Mauwa attempts to derail the surging Aleksandar Rakic.
We’ve got a few more UFC Fight Night 153 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s not waste time.
170 lbs.: Sergey Khandozhko vs. Rostem Akman
Sergey Khandozhko (25-5-1) alternated losses and wins from June 2016 through the end of 2017, including a five-second head kick knockout of Mauricio Machado and a submission loss to UFC veteran Benny Alloway. “Honda” has since gone undefeated (2-0), picking up a pair of second-round stoppages and finishing his most recent opponent with a spinning back kick.
Ten of his 17 stoppage victories have come by submission.
Sweden’s Rostem Akman (5-0) had more than one dozen amateur bouts before making his professional debut in 2017, losing just twice in the unpaid ranks. His professional career has seen him stop all five of his pro opponents, four via (technical) knockout and one by heel hook.
“Kurdimus Prime” steps in for Bartosz Fabinski on less than one week’s notice.
Khandozhko dodged a bullet when Fabinski pulled out. “Honda” struggles with relentless grapplers and Fabinski is nothing if not ludicrously aggressive with his takedowns. I honestly can’t say how much easier a time he’ll have with Akman, though; his professional fights are hidden behind a paywall on FITE.tv. And as much as I enjoy my work, I’m not spending $30 to watch three of his fights for analysis.
Khandozhko has significantly more experience as a professional, has faced far better competition, and has the power to crack Akman’s chin. The Swede’s three-week turnaround comes back to bite him as Khandozhko wears him out with body kicks and the occasional takedown before finishing him late.
Prediction: Khandozhko via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Tonya Evinger vs. Lina Lansberg
Tonya Evinger (19-8) enjoyed a strong run as the Invicta Bantamweight champion on her way to the Octagon, replacing Megan Anderson against Cris “Cyborg” on short notice in her debut. After succumbing to the Brazilian’s knees, she took on the rising Aspen Ladd, who pounded out “Triple Threat” midway through the first round.
She has earned 15 stoppage wins as a professional, eight of them (technical) knockouts.
Lina Lansberg (8-4) likewise suffered stoppage losses to Cris “Cyborg” and Aspen Ladd early in her Octagon career as part of a 2-2 run. Her last fight saw her take on former Evinger victim Yana Kunitskaya, who out-grappled her for a unanimous decision victory.
“The Elbow Queen” will give up five inches of reach to Evinger.
Two of Lansberg’s last three losses came against smothering top control specialists. UFC has responded by pitting her against another ground artist. Stylistically, Evinger looks to hold all the cards.
Their respective performances against Kunitskaya suggest that Lansberg is in for a rough night. MMA math may be bunk, but Lansberg’s inability to handle “Foxy’s” wrestling is a bad omen against a capable takedown artist in Evinger. Unless Lansberg shows some improved scrambling or actually lands one of her titular strikes in the clinch, “Triple Threat” rides takedowns and ground-and-pound to a dominant victory.
Prediction: Evinger via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Leonardo Santos
Stevie Ray (22-8) opened his UFC career 5-1, including decisions over veterans Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon, before dropping consecutive bouts to Paul Felder and Kajan Johnson. He managed to right the ship last against Jessin Ayari in Oct. 2018, winning a controversial decision over the German veteran in Moncton.
“Braveheart” has submitted eight professional foes and knocked out another six.
Leonardo Santos (16-3-1) — known for submitting Georges St-Pierrs at ADCC — reached the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 2 before falling to Santiago Ponzinibbio, only to get a spot in the finals when the Argentinian injured his hand. He has yet to taste defeat in the Octagon, tapping William Macario to kick off a six-fight unbeaten streak that includes stoppages of Anthony Rocco Martin and Kevin Lee.
This will be the 39-year-old’s first fight since Oct. 2016.
I feel like Santos’ whole UFC career has consisted of me saying, “Oh, that guy’s a terrible style match up for him” and then Santos winning anyway. Now that he’s up against someone I actually think he beats more often than not, I can only assume something will go wrong and I’ll end up looking stupid again.
Still, got to call it like I see it.
Ray just isn’t terribly difficult to take down and Santos is too good a submission artist to let him survive for any length of time on the mat. “Braveheart” has the power to put him away early, but the likeliest outcome sees Santos score a quick takedown once the rust’s shaken off and lock up the rear-naked choke soon after.
Prediction: Santos via first-round submission
UFC Fight Night 153 has got some fun knockout artists and leaves your evening open, which sounds like a recipe for a nice little fight night. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 153 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN 2 “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ (7-day free trial here) at 1 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 153: “Gustafsson vs. Smith” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.