Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Stockholm, Sweden today (Sat., June 1, 2019) to stage UFC Fight Night 153 from inside Ericsson Globe Arena, which will feature a Light Heavyweight showdown between Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith. In the revamped co-main event, Jimi Manuwa takes on Aleksandar Rakic in 205-pound action.
When it’s all said and done, Alexander Gustafsson could go down as the best fighter to ever compete inside the Octagon to never win a world title. That’s not to say that he can’t win one before he retires, but as long as Jon Jones is the Light Heavyweight champion, that seems like a tall order seeing as how “Bones” has already defeated “The Mauler” on two separate occasions. Plus, trying to sell fans on a trilogy fight between the two would be a hard task for the promotion. In short: Alex is the right guy in the wrong era. But, he is still chugging along and if he can get back on the winning track and score a few impressive wins, getting back to the big dance is inevitable, regardless of who’s at the top of the mountain.
He first has to get through Anthony Smith, the power-punching combatant who also came up short to Jones in his previous fight. Still embarrassed by his performance, “Lionheart” is looking to come back with a vengeance, and win, lose or draw, he’s out to put a hurting on someone, which doesn’t bode well for Gus. Since moving up to 205 pounds, the only blemish on Anthony’s record is his defeat to “Bones,” so his wins over Mauricio Rua, Rashad Evans and Volkan Oezdemir (all finishes) should be more than enough to keep Alex on his toes. If Smith can just put the Jones loss behind him -- which was just a little over two months ago -- he has the tools to upset the towering Swede in his own backyard. And that could be disastrous for Gustafsson’s career moving forward.
The matchup between Jimi Manuwa and Aleksandar Rakic is puzzling to me. Like Joe Rogan previously stated, UFC matchmakers sometimes book bouts that leave you scratching your head. On one hand you have Manuwa, a man who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations inside the Octagon and has suffered three straight defeats. On the other you have Rakic, winner of three straight inside the Octagon, and 11 in a row overall.
I get that Rakic isn’t on most people’s radars when it comes to “favorites to watch,” at least not yet, but giving him Manuwa at this point seems like a lose-lose for him. Yes, Jimi carries some name value, but if Alexander steamrolls him, some will attribute it to Manuwa’s on-going funk. Plus, a win over a slumping fighter isn’t the best way to up your own stock. But, Manuwa does have heavy hands, and if he catches Rakic it could be lights out, which means he lost to a man on a three-fight losing streak.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Volkan Oezdemir was expected to face Ilir Latifi in a rather interesting co-main event. But a few days from fight day, Ilir was bounced from the card with a back injury, leaving UFC no time to find a suitable replacement for Volkan.
Aside from Ilir’s unfortunate setback, Luigi Vendramini was forced out of his fight against Nick Hein with an injury of his own and replaced by Frank Camacho. Bartosz Fabinksi was forced out of his fight against Sergey Khandozhko just a week ago and was replaced by Rostem Akman.
Sung Bin will bring his undefeated (9-0) mark to the Octagon for the first time to face Daniel Teymur, who has lost his first three fights for UFC. Bin has a well-rounded game, as he can submit you as easily as he can knock your block off with his powerful strikes. Teymur has proven to be susceptible to the ground game, so of “The Korean Falcon” can get it there, it could be the recipe for a prosperous debut.
Eduarda Santana will look to insert herself into the women’s bantamweight division as she got the call up to the big leagues after just three pro wins. She will be facing Bea Malecki, who only has two pro wins on her record. Bea was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28, but was bounced from the tournament in her first fight.
Sergey Khandozkho will look to make a splash in his first UFC fight when he faces fellow newcomer Rostem Akman. It’s going to be an interesting fight for both, as neither of them have had the time to study one another due to the late switch. Still, Sergey has shown to have some speedy hands, and if Rostem is willing to engage, this one could be a standup war. That said, two UFC rookies looking to prove themselves on the biggest stage is a tough fight to predict. Rostem is 5-0, so he doesn’t have a ton of MMA experience when compared to Sergey, who has 31 fights under his belt.
To get a better look at all of the UFC newcomers – including Danilo Belluardo – check out Patrick Stumberg’s highly-detailed “New Blood” piece right here.
How The Prelim’s Look:
Tonya Evinger and Lina Lansberg -- two ladies who have felt Cris Cyborg’s wrath — will face off in women’s bantamweight action on the underbelly of the event. Tonya has lost two in a row, so she needs a win in the worst way. Lina, meanwhile, was outworked by Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 229 last October, so she’d like nothing more than to get back in the winner’s circle.
Also, Stevie Ray will look to hand Leonardo Santos his first loss in a decade when they collide in Lightweight action. Again, questionable matchmaking, as Stevie is 1-2 in his last few outings while Leonardo has yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon and is on a 10-year unbeaten streak, although he hasn’t fought in nearly three years.
The rest of the undercard leaves plenty to be desired, as the “Prelims” will be headlined by two UFC newcomers, with the rest of the card being taken up by newbies and struggling fighters who can’t seem to put it all together to get over the hump under the UFC banner.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
As mentioned earlier, Jimi Manuwa has lost his last three fights, two of them by way of knockout. Jimi has all the tools in the world to be a big star for UFC, but hasn’t been able to put them all together to make a serious run at 205 pounds.
He did start off his UFC career at 3-0, but has gone 3-5 since. Then again, when facing the best of the best at 205 pounds including Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson, Volkan Oezdemir and Thiago Santos, just to name a few, trying to break away from the pack is easier said than done. Should he drop his fourth in a row, it will be interesting to see if “Poster Boy” contemplates a drop down to Middleweight.
Interest Level: 5/10
The event really took a hit with the cancellation of Oezdemir vs Latifi. Hopefully the promotion can re-book this matchup rather quickly, depending on how serious Ilir’s injuries are. Sure the main event is rather intriguing, as we get to see how both Gustafsson and Smith bounce back after getting dominated by Jon Jones, but anything after that isn’t all that tempting to me personally.
Markwan Amirkhani was poised to be a potential star for the promotion, buy he’s kind of fizzled as of late when it comes to the intrigue department, so you can’t blame people if they aren’t too excited for his matchup against Chris Fishgold. Furthermore, the event will have an early start time stateside due to the time difference, which means the “Prelims” will jump off at 10:00 a.m ET, while the main card begins at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Full Fight Card:
UFC Fight Night 153 Main Event On ESPN+:
205 lbs.: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith
UFC Fight Night 153 Main Card On ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Ilir Latifi vs. Volkan Oezdemir— CANCELED (details here)
205 lbs.: Jimi Manuwa vs. Aleksandar Rakic
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Chris Fishgold
155 lbs.: Christos Giagos vs. Damir Hadzovic
145 lbs.: Daniel Teymur vs. Sung Bin Jo
UFC Fight Night 153 Prelims On ESPN2 (10 a.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Rostem Akman vs. Sergey Khandozhko
135 lbs.: Tonya Evinger vs. Lina Lansberg
155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Leonardo Santos
155 lbs.: Nick Hein vs. Frank Camacho
135 lbs.: Bea Malecki vs. Eduarda Santana
205 lbs.: Darko Stosic vs. Devin Clark
155 lbs.: Joel Alvarez vs. Danilo Belluardo
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.
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