Alexander Gustafsson will fight in front of his home fans in Stockholm, Sweden against Anthony Smith on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 153.
That fight pits two of the top contenders in the light heavyweight division against each other in a bout that may not guarantee the winner a title shot, but might take the loser out of the championship picture for the foreseeable future.
Gustafsson Just Wants a Win
Gustafsson (18-5) comes into the bout as the No. 2 contender in the division. While he’s only 3-4 in his last seven fights, two of those losses came to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and another was a split decision loss at UFC 192 to No. 1 contender Daniel Cormier.
Even with that record, the quality of his opposition – and the fact that he has continued to beat lesser opponents – has kept Gustafsson highly ranked and relevant in the division. But it’s hard to see even a win on Saturday earning him a third shot at Jones, at least for the time being.
“I’m not even thinking about Jon or the title or any of that anymore,” Gustafsson told MMA Junkie. “It’s been too much and too long in my head. I just don’t really care anymore. I just take one fight at a time and just get back to it.”
Smith Looks to Recover From Jones Loss
Smith (31-14) spent most of the past two years rising up the UFC rankings, becoming an unlikely contender for the light heavyweight title. Unfortunately, those dreams came to a crashing halt when he took a unanimous decision loss to Jones in March at UFC 235. It was a disappointing performance, one that the division’s fourth-ranked fighter says he still doesn’t understand.
“I still can’t [explain it] and that’s the problem,” Smith said on The MMA Hour. “Fight night I felt good, walking to the Octagon I felt good, right before the fight started I felt fine and looked better than I’ve ever been. I was sharp, I was on point. So I don’t know what happened.”
While it’s unclear exactly what either man would earn with a win on Saturday, the fight itself promises to be an intriguing stylistic matchup. Gustafsson has the better resume, but Smith is likely to cause him problems as long as the fight stays upright. Gustafsson’s biggest advantage will be on the ground, where his strong wrestling game should be more than Smith can handle.
Bookmakers seem to think that the Swede will be able to turn the fight into a grappling contest. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Gustafsson is a -340 favorite, with Smith listed at +260 to pull a minor upset.
The Gustafsson vs. Smith fight may be the main event, but it wasn’t meant to be the only important light heavyweight bout on the card. UFC Fight Night 153 originally had top-10 contenders Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi scheduled to fight in the co-main event, but Latifi was forced out of action due to a late back injury. Given the late scratch, no replacement fighter was available to take Latifi’s place.
“On weight and more than ready to fight Saturday,” Oezdemir wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately my opponent got injured and the bout was canceled. I wish him a speedy recovery and I want t thank all of you for the amazing support!”