- A light heavyweight scrap between two former title challengers headlines Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 153 fight card
- What’s in the fighters’ heads might be the most important aspect of this pivotal matchup
- Will Anthony Smith’s hectic schedule catch up with him in Sweden?
The UFC is in Stockholm, Sweden this week for UFC Fight Night 153. The event, which streams live on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN 2, takes place at Ericsson Globe. The event is the promotion’s first fight card in Sweden in two years. Like that previous card, UFC Fight Night 109, Saturday’s fight card is headlined by a matchup between two former UFC light heavyweight title challengers, Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith.
UFC Fight Night 153: Gustafsson vs Smith Odds
|Fighter||Spread at Bovada|
*Odds taken 5/28/19
Gustafsson and Smith Recent Fights
Gustafsson, who made his UFC debut in November 2009, has fought three times for the 205-pound crown. Two of those contests, his UFC 165 unanimous decision loss to Jon Jones and his UFC 192 split decision setback to Daniel Cormier, are considered two of the best light heavyweight title fights in UFC history. Gustafsson’s most recent scrap was a December knockout loss to Jones for the vacant belt.
Smith had a cup of coffee with the UFC in 2013. He lost that fight to Antonio Braga Neto via submission in 1:52. After that defeat, Smith competed in eight bouts for five different promotions. He won all but one of those contests. During that run, he captured middleweight titles with Cage Fury Fighting Championships and Victory FC. After winning the Victory FC belt in February 2016, Smith got the call to return to the UFC. He went 4-2 at middleweight before he made a move to the 205-pound division in June 2018.
As a light heavyweight, Smith defeated two former UFC champions (Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua) and one former title challenger (Volkan Oezdemir). It was that run that got him a shot at Jones and his title in March. Jones defeated Smith by unanimous decision.
Psychological Portion of Fight Should Loom Large
The most intriguing thing about the main event of UFC Fight Night 153 might be the psychological portion of the matchup between these two.
Not long after accepting the fight, Gustafsson said of Smith on The MMA Hour, “He’s a guy with a good team behind him, and this is going to be a real challenge. And that’s why I’m doing this, to challenge myself. When I beat him, I’m going to just move in the rankings. If I don’t beat him, if he beats me, then maybe I don’t have it anymore. So I’ll just take it from there.”
As for Smith, he seemed to accept the fight with some reluctance.
“I didn’t want to fight that soon,” Smith told ESPN. “But again, I mean everything that I say and I don’t turn down fights and I suppose after this one, I’ll probably have to change my number so that they [UFC] can’t call. I’m just not a fan of turning down opportunities. I’m still processing the Jon Jones fight, but I guess there’s no better way to get it behind me than to just move forward.”
Gustafsson vs Smith is a High Stakes Matchup
With both fighters in the top five of the division, Gustafsson is no.2 in the official UFC rankings and Smith is no. 4, this is a high stakes matchup. An uninspired performance could result in a precipitous fall in the rankings and with hungry fighters like Dominick Reyes, Johnny Walker, and Corey Anderson working their way up the rankings, neither of these men can afford a slip-up.
For Smith, this fight is his sixth outing since February 2018. That hectic schedule means he’s been training for fights pretty much continuously for 18 months. That type of schedule could wear down any fighter. When you consider that Smith has a total of 45 battles to his name, that amount of training without a break becomes even more concerning.
Gustafsson’s schedule has not been near as demanding. He’s only fought once during the time that Smith was racking up all of those fights. The big concern for Gustafsson, who will be competing in his home country for the fourth time with the UFC, is if he can get himself in the right mindset for a fight that will, at best, move him up a single spot in the rankings. Gustafsson, who headlined those three other cards in Sweden, is 3-0 in those events.
Gustafsson vs Smith Tale of the Tape
|Alexander Gustafsson||Category||Anthony Smith|
|205 pounds||Weight||205 pounds|
|4.01||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.09|
|3.51||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||4.31|
|1.63||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.46|
|0.5||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.8|
Smith is Scrappy, But Gustafsson is a Step Above
I do believe that Gustafsson is the better fighter of these two. I also think that the level of competition he’s faced over his career has been much higher. He’s effectively been scrapping with the best of the 205-pound division for the past six years.
Lastly, one has to think that there is no possible way that Gustafsson wants to give up any chance to get another shot at the light heavyweight crown. Smith is a scrappy competitor with a ton of heart and no-quit attitude, but much like when he fought Jones, he’ll be just one level below Gustafsson on fight night.
Pick: Gustafsson (-310)