UFC Fight Night 153 Betting Preview

May 30, 2019

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The UFC is coming back to Stockholm and the home crowd will be backing their nation’s main MMA star, Alexander Gustafsson. Arguably the greatest ever to represent Sweden’s colours inside the Octagon, the Ericsson Globe will be sold out to see the no.2 ranked Light Heavyweight.

It won’t be an easy homecoming for Gustafsson though, as he is facing up against Anthony Smith. Lionheart is a man who can never be ruled out of contention, as his aggressive style of fighting has the potential to cause anybody issues. When the American charges forward, he creates a scenario that not many fighters in the division are capable of dealing with.

Despite this, the UFC Fight Night 153 odds and predictions lie heavily in Gustafsson’s favour. At 33/100 with 888sport, he is the clear favourite, but the outcome of this fight comes down to mentality. What are both men actually fighting for?

Best of the Rest

The Light heavyweight division is in quite a strange place right now. Jon Jones is on a mission of clearing out the whole division and it looks like nobody can stop him from doing so. In fact, Bones has been so dominant, that fans are now demanding the champion to move up a weight class to face tougher tests.

Both Gustafsson and Smith are coming off the back of defeat to Jones, with many labelling the UFC Fight Night 153 bout as the ‘best of the rest’. This shouldn’t be taken as disrespectful to either man, it’s simply a testament to Jones’ supremacy at Light Heavyweight.

The Mauler was stopped in round three at UFC 232 last December by the champ. There was high anticipation for the fight, as Gustafsson is notoriously known for nearly defeating Jones back in 2013. This contest though, was nowhere near as close. Jones controlled the range and eventually took the Swede down, before unleashing some powerful shots from above.

Smith wasn’t actually stopped by the champion, but he was equally dominated. Lionheart defended well at times, but rarely ever threatened Jones from an offensive point of view. The scorecards of 48-44 from all three judges tell the tale, which still includes a two point deduction after illegal knees from Jones.

So, if there is no hope in toppling number one, this fight can help decide the second best in the division. This is a tag that Gustafsson has struggled to shake off in his career, having been denied the belt by both Jones and Daniel Cormier. Two of the greatest to ever do it. It is a rather strange scenario to be in, but it is still a bout between two world-class fighters and an unmissable event nonetheless.

Two Striking Specialists

When analysing the success that these two men have experienced in their careers, they both share a similar pattern of achieving results through their striking abilities. Expect both specialists to seek victory through such a method this Saturday night, but that isn’t to say that they both possess the same fighting style.

Gustafsson will inevitably be the lighter man on his feet and look to set the tempo of the fight. The Swede is so efficient at working all the angles and picking off his opponents with swift jabs and combinations. His gas tank is relentless and he’ll aim to ware Smith down from the outside.

Lionheart can take a punch, but he won’t want to allow the Mauler freedom to pick his shots. The American will need to close the distance to prevent Gus from dictating the shots and if he adopts his aggressive stance, this will give his opponent something to worry about.

Against Jones, we didn’t see the full capabilities of Smith’s offensive power, as his gameplan was solely focused on his defensive game. He did have some success in restricting Bones, but he offered nothing back that threatened the champ. Hardy pinpointed this fact in being Smith’s downfall last March and he will be keen to showcase just how dangerous he can actually be, even if he does go onto the backfoot.

I wouldn’t expect to see too much grappling, as Gustafsson will likely pay respect to Smith’s defensive strength in the clinch. The Mauler may look to shoot a couple of shots though, simply in order of straying away from a brutal 25 minutes of boxing. His slick body movement will be key to finding openings on the night, particularly if Smith opts to plough forward in attempt of simply finishing the job early doors.

What Next For the Winner?

From Gustafsson’s point of view, there has to be some question marks over his motivation heading into this bout. After losing to Jones twice now, a title fight looks very unlikely from here on out. The Swede’s second performance against Bones was in complete contrast to his first, so a trilogy doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Would he try his luck by going up a division? These questions could be answered on Saturday.

From Smith’s perspective, he is, of course, still very new to the Light heavyweight rankings. He earnt his title shot quickly and there are still a couple of names that could pose as an interesting match-up for the American. A Jones rematch isn’t entirely out of the question in the future, but Smith knows he needs this victory to reclimb the ladder.

With names like Jonny Walker and Thiago Santos lingering around, a victory over Gustafsson would set up an exciting path for Smith. With arguably the larger incentive to win, Lionheart holds massive value at 4/1 to win via KO/TKO with Ladbrokes.

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Author: Joshua

As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.

Twitter @JoshGI97

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