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Home favourite Gustafsson to tame ‘Lionheart’? Get UFC on ESPN+ 11 tips

Leigh Copson 28 May 2019
Alexander Gustafsson (right) in action (credit:SIMON HASTEG?RD/Imago/PA Images)

UFC on ESPN+ 11 predictions for Saturday, June 1. Can Anthony Smith bounce back from his title-fight defeat by beating long-time light-heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson in his home country? Read on for all of our free predictions and betting tips for UFC on ESPN+ 11.

Alexander Gustafsson v Anthony Smith

The move up to light-heavyweight has proved to be a fruitful one for Anthony Smith, even if he did fail to dethrone Jon Jones back in March. Smith went the full 25 minutes with Jones before losing out on the judges’ scorecards, but the closest he ever came to winning the bout was when he was struck by an illegal knee that could have resulted in the controversial champion being disqualified. Smith opted to fight on though, earning him plenty of plaudits, and after claiming a ‘moral victory’ by taking Jones the distance, the challenger insisted that he is capable of knocking off a man who has dominated the division when he has not been failing drug tests and running foul of the law.

However, before Smith can even think about facing Jones for a second time he has to get the better of long-time light-heavyweight title contender Alexander Gustafsson – in his home country!
‘The Mauler’ has been a mainstay near the top of the 205lb ladder for several years now, despite going 3-4 in his last seven fights. That recent record does not look great at first glance, but two of those losses came at the hands of champion Jones, another came against two-weight champion Daniel Cormier and the other came against the absolute wrecking ball that is Anthony Johnson. So while Gustafsson’s recent form has hardly been great, this is a man who only tends to lose to the best of the best.

The biggest question mark is how much does the Swede have left in the tank? Gustafsson, who previously retired in 2016, has not fought more than once in a single calendar year since 2015 and two of his last three outings have seen him get stopped via strikes. That does not bode well for a meeting with a fighter like Smith who has been blasting out fighters with strikes for several years now. In fact, all three of his light-heavyweight wins have come via stoppage and two of those were by KO, so he certainly has the stopping power that could silence a nation and have Gustafsson looking up at the lights. But can he land that huge fight-ending shot?

While Smith has stopped two former champions since stepping up to 205lbs, they were hardly fighters in the prime of their careers. In fact, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua were a long, long way past their prime when they stepped into the Octagon alongside Smith. That makes me nervous about backing him – until he beats a true top level fighter in the light-heavyweight division I am always going to be cautious when he faces the cream of the crop.

Can ‘Lionheart’ finish Gustafsson? Of course - he has the power to stop just about anyone in the division. But as I said previously, ‘The Mauler’ only loses to the very best and that is why the bookmakers have made him the odds-on favourite here. I expect him to live up to that tag. Gustafsson may not be able to match his opponent in terms of power, but he is technically the better striker with better fundamentals. While Smith can be somewhat wild with his striking approach, ‘The Mauler’ throws crisp combinations that are the perfect complement to his superior footwork and movement. This should help him get the nod from the judges in Stockholm.

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Home favourite Gustafsson to tame ‘Lionheart’? Get UFC on ESPN+ 11 tips

UFC on ESPN+ 11 predictions for Saturday, June 1.

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