Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contenders Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith will clash TODAY (June 1, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 153 from inside Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
Competing at the same time as an all-time great is incredibly frustrating. Both Gustafsson and Smith put in all the work and made important improvements to pick up wins, climb the ranks, and generally prepare themselves as best as possible in their respective attempts to dethrone Jon Jones. Despite all the effort, the champion pummeled each man with relative ease, never looking particularly bothered at any point. Both fighters enter this contest following demoralizing losses to “Bones,” hoping that a victory here can help erase that sour taste of defeat.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 109), Mauricio Rua (UFC on FOX 5), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 37), Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 93)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 232, UFC 165), Daniel Cormier (UFC 192), Anthony Johnson (UFC on FOX 14)
Keys to Victory: Gustafsson is a slick boxer, fleet-footed and quick to pick foes apart at distance. The Swede hits hard for such a tall and long striker, and he’s generally quite difficult to drag to the mat as well.
GUS FOF VIDEO
Smith almost always makes it difficult through sheer aggression and force of will, but this is a very favorable style match up for Gustafsson. Gustafsson is the superior wrestler, meaning he can decide to tackle Smith and throw him to the mat at most any point should things get hairy on the feet.
Gustafsson shouldn’t really need to wrestle though. For all his offensive potency, Smith still doesn’t feint much. Against a fighter with a similar build, Smith won’t have his usual height and reach advantages to protect him from that flaw. As a result, Gustafsson should have a fairly easy time reading his foe’s offense, meaning Gustafsson’s own combinations and counters should flow nicely.
Key Wins: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 138), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 134), Rashad Evans (UFC 225), Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 116), Andrew Sanchez (UFC on FOX 24)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 235), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 125), Cezar Ferreira (TUF 23 Finale)
Keys to Victory: For better or worse, Smith is an offense-first fighter. “Lionheart” has finished a ridiculous 28 of his victories, scoring knockouts and submissions at a fairly even rate throughout his career.
SMITH FOF VIDEO
Smith has to make this a scrap, a blood-and-guts war of attrition. A technical kickboxing match does not favor him; Gustafsson will land two for every strike Smith gets off, and it seems likely that “The Mauler’s” punches carry a bit more power.
Instead, I’d like to see Smith set the tone early by digging into the leg and body with kicks at every possible opportunity. As we just saw in Gustafsson’s loss to Jones, the Swede does not perform well when he’s unable to box. Few things are more disrupting to rhythm and stance than a shin ripping into the thigh or blasting the belly mid-punch. If Smith can chew up Gustafsson at range and then fire aggressive punches when Gustafsson is a bit closer, he could create a situation where Gustafsson is never comfortable.
Bottom Line: There may be a massive gap between the champion and rest of the division, but fights like these must keep happening to prevent stagnation.
Gustafsson is in a difficult position, having lost to Jones twice, the second defeat far more decisive than the first. Can the UFC market a third opportunity based on those two results? Not easily, which means that Gustafsson needs multiple victories in a row — and in a decent time frame — to have any chance at stepping in for a fourth title shot.
There is little room for error for the Swede.
Meanwhile, Smith has a bit more wiggle room. “Lionheart” is still a relatively new face at 205 lbs., so there are plenty of fresh match ups available for him. It will stick take a quality series of wins to convince anyone that he deserves a second shot at Jones, but at least Smith only has one defeat to Jones holding him back.
At UFC Fight Night 153, Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith will battle in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?