The UFC is back in Sweden with their Swedish poster boy Alexander Gustafsson leading the charge, as he takes on former Light Heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith. Both men are coming off title defeats to Jon Jones, and this certainly is a fight that will get them right back into the title picture should they win. For Gustafsson, this fight is career defining, as the Swede has made it known that he struggles with keeping the fire lit in mixed martial arts. The losses have made him question his future and another loss could prove to be the end of the Swede.
As for Smith, the career journeyman has made the most of his second stint in the UFC. Smith has tallied seven victories since rejoining the UFC in 2016. He’s changed weight classes, climb the ranks and faced the pound for pound best fighter Jon Jones in a title fight. A title fight he lost, but lasted all five rounds with Jones. A win over Gustafsson puts him right back on track for a title shot, perhaps at the very least one fight away.
UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 11 Main Card On ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Smith – Ive got to say, Jon Jones made both men look worse than they actually are. However, the most shocking of the two was Gustafsson. After the first fight between Jones and Gustafsson mixed in with the most recent win over Glover Teixeira, I didn’t see the Swede mentally breaking down. He got outclassed and finished, a rarity for a fighter with such talent and mental fortitude.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Gustafsson. He may not have the power of Smith, but he’s the better all around fighter. If Gustafsson still has the fire and mentally is checked in, I believe he’s going to technically pick apart Smith. Even in the grappling exchanges, I favor Gustafsson. He’s got sneaky trips and actually a pretty solid top game. In the end, this is going to be a fun fight, but I believe in his home country, Gustafsson will prevail via TKO victory.
205 lbs.: Jimi Manuwa vs. Aleksandar Rakic – Gosh darn it. The pick is Rakic. He’s fresh blood in a Light Heavyweight division starting to pick up a steam. Rakic is also a hell of a striker and fighter. However, I’m going against the grain and picking Manuwa. Despite his balls to the wall style and iffy chin, the Brit is desperate need of a win. With three straight losses and at the age of 39, the window of becoming a world champion is closing. This is the last run for the “Poster Boy”. And it starts now. So with that, I got Manuwa salvaging his career with a big KO victory.
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Chris Fishgold – This is a tough fight to call, but I’m going with Amirkhani. Despite his flaws, he’s decently well rounded fighter. I believe his biggest issue is with pace, as he often exudes too much energy on a moment to moment basis. Given the time off, I’m hoping the former prospect has solved his pace, cardio and defensive issues. So with that, I have Amirkhani winning via decision.
155 lbs.: Christos Giagos vs. Damir Hadzovic – This is a tough fight to call. Giagos has the wrestling chops good enough to take this fight, but his cardio issues are a problem. Hadzovic is a solid striker with power, and has shown in the past that he can withstand an opponents early surge and comeback. Giagos could very well swarm and dominate Hadzovic, but in that third round, he’s going to be a gassed and a sitting duck for the “Bosnian Bomber”. So with that, I’ll take Hadzovic via TKO.
145 lbs.: Daniel Teymur vs. Sung Bin Jo – I have little intel on Jo, but I’ve seen enough of Teymur not to side with him. Teymur is a bundle of energy and reckless excitement for a round or two, then he fades hard. He’s 0-3 inside the octagon and his cardio is really to blame. Unless he’s conditioned himself better, I really don’t seeing him pull this off. So going off the known, I’ve got Jo taking this fight via late KO.
UFC Fight Night 153 Prelims On ESPN2 (10 a.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Rostem Akman vs. Sergey Khandozhko – When in doubt, go with the Russian. Khandozhko takes this via knockout.
135 lbs.: Tonya Evinger vs. Lina Lansberg – Evinger hasn’t had it easy in the UFC, facing the likes of Cyborg Santos and Aspen Ladd in her first two UFC fights. Now, she gets a tailored matchup for her grinding wrestling style. The Swede Lansberg is a good striker who excels in the clinch, landing her trademarked elbows. Her problem however, has been staying upright. Evinger is a tough customer, and will eat some heavy blows to get inside and work the takedown. Given the level of competition she’s faced, we haven’t seen her best. I believe here we will. So with that, I have Evinger picking up her first UFC victory via decision.
155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Leonardo Santos – This is a tough fight to call. Ray is the younger and more active of the two, but has had troubles with fighters who can take him down. Santos has been out for nearly three years, isn’t a prolific takedown artist, but is a well rounded. Impressively, Santos has a knockout win over Kevin Lee and a submission victory over Rocco Martin. The rust scares me, and being 39 years old does too, but I’m going to side with Santos winning via decision
155 lbs.: Nick Hein vs. Frank Camacho – This is going to be a fun striking match. Hein is the better technical striker, whereas Camacho brings forth power and volume. In an all striking battle, Hein lacks the necessary volume and power needed to halt Camacho. Towards the end of the second round Camacho’s pressure, pace and volume are going to overwhelm Hein. However, due to Hein’s toughness, he survives three rounds. So with that, I have Camacho winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Bea Malecki vs. Eduarda Santana – Looks like my quarter is going to be active today. Coin flip says Santana via decision.
205 lbs.: Darko Stosic vs. Devin Clark – Either Stosic cracks the shaky chin of Clark early or Clark uses his wrestling to drag this into the later rounds, where a gassed Stosic provides little resistance. I’m going with the later, even though Clark is an undersized Light Heavyweight. I just feel that Stosic hasn’t faced a real wrestler yet, especially one who embraces the grind like Clark. So with that, I have Clark winning via decision.
155 lbs.: Joel Alvarez vs. Danilo Belluardo – With 500 fighters on the roster, these two I have little clue about. Coin flip says, Alvarez via decision.