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UFC Fight Night 153 Prediction: Gustafsson vs. Smith

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Two of the UFC’s top Light Heavyweights will tangle on June 1st in Stockholm, Sweden when Alexander Gustafsson battles Anthony Smith on June 1st. The bout is set to headline UFC Fight Night from Sweden as the two veteran fighters aim for victory. A victory could put one of the two mixed martial arts experts in line to challenge current Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones.

Gustafsson will have his countrymen behind him during the bout which could give the fighter an edge over Smith. Gustafsson’s previous UFC fight in Sweden saw him defeat Glover Teixeira by knockout in the fifth round in 2017.

Can the “The Mauler” knockout Smith in his homeland or will the American known as “Lionheart” rack up his 32nd career mixed martial arts win?

The Road to Stockholm

UFC Fight Night will be a chance for both fighters to get back to winning ways. Gustafsson and Smith both lost their previous fights with both coincidentally taking place against Jon Jones just over two months apart.

Gustafsson’s last bout was on December 29th of last year as he failed to win the Light Heavyweight Championship thanks to a third round TKO. Smith’s bout against Jones went to the judges’ decision after he and Jones battled for five rounds without a winner.

Smith does have far more experience than Gustafsson. The American has tallied a 31-14 record in mixed martial arts. Smith had won three consecutive fights prior to his title bout against Jones. Now, he is fighting to get another shot at the Light Heavyweight Championship. “Lionheart” will need a good performance against Gustafsson to overcome the Swede in Stockholm.

Gustafsson may have less experience than his opponent, but he has built a solid 18-5 mixed martial artist record. “The Mauler” has had some big-time fights during his decade in UFC. Although he is yet to win a championship, Gustafsson has battled Jones on two occasions for Light Heavyweight Championship. Their 2013 title fight was named Fight of the Year.

Both fighters are back to square one in terms of gaining a championship bout. A loss could eliminate one of the two from a title fight for some time.  

The fighters – Alexander Gustafsson

Gustafsson is considered by many as one of the greatest UFC Light Heavyweights of all-time. It is a massive claim, but he has put on some exciting fights over the last 10 years. “The Mauler” has lost three Light Heavyweight Championship matches in his career which makes one think he buckles under pressure. Despite his loss last December to Jones, the UFC still has Gustafsson ranked as the No. 2 Light Heavyweight.

“The Mauler” has recorded 11 career wins by knockout along with three first round finishes. Smith will need to watch out for the Swede’s fast fight starts. Gustafsson is known more for his striking than his grappling and submission work, although he is competent in both.

Just three of his victories in the UFC have come from submission. Meanwhile, 61% of his wins have come thanks to knockout or TKO. Gustafsson favours strikes to the head with 73% of his strikes landing in the region.

The fighters – Anthony Smith

Smith is currently billed as UFC’s No. 4 Light Heavyweight following his March loss to Jones. It is a quick turnaround for the American who will battle Gustafsson three months after his title loss.

Like Gustafsson, Smith has recorded three career UFC first round finishes. The two fighters could put on an exciting opening round when they meet with fireworks going off around the octagon.

Smith has racked up 18 wins by knockout and like Gustafsson, he favours strikes over grappling. However, the difference between the fighters could be on the mat. Smith has 11 career submission wins which accounts for 35% of his all-time UFC victories. If he can get Gustafsson on the mat, he could get the Swede to tap.

UFC Fight Night – Prediction: Gustafsson vs. Smith

Since joining UFC, Smith has been defeated by knockout due to punches just once. The American is well-conditioned and a tenacious fighter. Although he will be an underdog in Sweden, he has the chance to defeat the more favoured Gustafsson if the fight goes to the mat.

Although Gustafsson prefers to strike, he can grapple and could lure Smith into a false sense of security in the octagon. Gustafsson has never lost by knockout in his UFC career. Despite being two years older than Smith, Gustafsson has less experience. It shouldn’t play a part in the bout as Gustafsson has fought in some big-time matches in his career.

Smith was reluctant to accept a fight against Gustafsson. He signed the contract just days after losing to Jones in March. June’s bout will mark Smith’s sixth fight in less than 18 months. Gustafsson will have had more time to prepare and it should lend to him defeating the American on home soil.

Winner: Gustafsson by decision

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UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story

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UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249

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It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans

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UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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