Weekend Warrior: A UFC Homecoming for ‘The Mauler’
Alexander Gustafsson. Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC / Contributor (Getty Images)
Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith have much in common, most notably as victims of reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones. That their post-Jones paths would cross comes as little surprise.
Gustafsson will saunter back inside the Octagon when he confronts Smith in the five-round UFC Fight Night 153 main event on Saturday at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, less than 100 miles from where the Swede was born. Meanwhile, former title contender Volkan Oezdemir tackles Ilir Latifi in the light heavyweight co-headliner, scheduled for three rounds at 205 pounds.
Alexander Gustafsson punches Jon Jones. Photo: Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
Spawned by the Allstars Training Center in his native Sweden, Gustafsson last appeared at UFC 232 on Dec. 29, when he succumbed to third-round punches from the aforementioned Jones in their long-awaited rematch. The setback closed the book on a two-fight winning streak that had seen “The Mauler” decision Jan Blachowicz and wipe out Glover Teixeira with a burst of uppercuts. Gustafsson, 32, owns a 10-5 record in the UFC, having lost only to Jones (twice), Anthony Johnson, Daniel Cormier and Phil Davis.
Smith, 30, was one of MMA’s feel-good stories of 2018, as he morphed from journeyman to contender with consecutive victories over Oezdemir, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. The former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder operates out of the Factory X camp in Colorado and has delivered 28 of his 31 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Smith’s lopsided decision defeat to Jones in a failed bid to capture the UFC light heavyweight championship in March snapped his three-fight winning streak, curbed some of the enthusiasm around him and sent him back to the drawing board.
Anthony Smith punches Jon Jones. Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
UFC Fight Night “Gustafsson vs. Smith”—which streams live to ESPN+ at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT—also features a light heavyweight battle matching Jimi Manuwa with Aleksandar Rakic, a lightweight tilt pitting Damir Hadzovic against Christos Giagos and a pair of featherweight confrontations, as Makwan Amirkhani meets Chris Fishgold and Daniel Teymur faces Sung Bin Jo. ESPN 2 will carry the entire seven-fight undercard at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.
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Across the regional scene, the Legacy Fighting Alliance promotion keeps its engines running with LFA 68 on Friday at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Nate Jennerman draws the once-beaten Rafael Barbosa in the featherweight main event, as competitors continue to jockey for position in pursuit of the vacant 145-pound title. LFA 68 “Jennerman vs. Barbosa” airs live on AXS-TV at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.