Anthony “Lionheart” Smith went into enemy territory as a significant road underdog for Saturday’s UFC Stockholm main event against Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson. Both fighters were in bounce-back mode after losing to Jon Jones in title fights.
Smith, the Omaha native, got off to a fast start by mixing in kicks and punches to get the nod from MajorWager in the first two rounds.
The momentum seemed to shift in the third stanza, as Gustafsson came out with a sense of urgency. His movement and activity improved, and he generated a lot more offense compared to the first two rounds. MajorWager gave Gustafsson Round 3 to make it 29-28 Smith going to the fourth.
As Gustafsson went for a judo throw in Round 4, Smith was able to defend it and cause his opponent to lose his balance. Smith took advantage and worked Gustafsson down to the ground. He quickly took his back, although it appeared the Swede was going to be able to slip out.
Smith wasn’t having it, though. He put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt skills to work. Smith flattened Gustafsson out and landed several huge elbows and punches to the ear hole.
With Gustafsson covering up, Smith worked the hooks in and forced him to tap with a rear-naked choke. Smith silenced the raucous crowd and cashed tickets as an underdog in the +260 neighborhood. The “over” (3.5 rounds) was a winner by only eight seconds.
Proposition bets on Smith to win by submission paid out at 12/1 odds. He also hooked up prop backers to win inside the distance (+330) and in Round 4 (22/1 odds!).
In his post-fight Octagon interview with Dan Hardy, Smith offered props to the crowd in Sweden and to Gustafsson. Smith said, “First punch I landed broke my hand. [Gustafsson] is one of the best on the planet, it just sucks we had to meet up. Part of me is sad for him.”
Then Hardy went over to interview Gustafsson, who was clearly trying to get his gloves off during the interview. The Stockholm product was clearly disappointed.
Gustafsson said, “I did it again, lost in my hometown. It is what it is.” Then as he finally had his gloves off, he took the microphone away from Hardy. “What can I say? The show is over, guys.”
When MMA fighters retire, they take their gloves off and leave them in the center of the cage. Gustafsson didn’t take his to the center, but he dropped them and left them in the Octagon. At the age of 32, Gustafsson called it a career.
Without question, it will be remembered as a distinguished one.
Although the announcement was stunning, it makes sense upon more thought. He’s already had three title shots, giving Jones his toughest career bout (by far!) and losing to Daniel Cormier via split decision in two of those.
Another shot at UFC gold isn’t coming anytime soon and certainly not without a string of victories. With another setback, his path toward his goals must’ve felt like an enormous climb that couldn’t be overcome. Gustafsson confirmed that he’s retired when he came on the set of the UFC Post-Fight Show.
As for Smith, the victory sets him up to move into the third spot in the light-heavyweight rankings. Potential opponents next probably include Volkan Oezdemir, Dominick Reyes or Glover Texeira.
Aleksandar Rakic made quick work of Jimi Manuwa in the co-main event. Rakic improved to 4-0 in the UFC with a sensational head-kick knockout just 47 seconds into the bout. Rakic garnered an extra $50,000 with a Performance of the Night bonus and entered the conversation for KO of the Year in 2019.
Rakic won as a favorite in the -250 range. The ‘under’ (1.5 rounds, -115) was an easy winner (per my suggestion). Proposition bets on Rakic to win in Round 1 (+215), inside the distance (-150) and by KO/TKO (-110) were winners.
I would love to see the 27-year-old Rakic take on another up-and-coming light heavyweight in Johnny Walker in the fall. At the age of 39 with four losses in a row, including three by knockout, I think it’s time for Manuwa to hang up the gloves.
Makwan “Mr. Finland” Amirkhani beat Chris Fishgold with a second-round anaconda choke as a -125 “chalk.” Amirkhani improved to 5-1 in the UFC with is 10th career submission victory. Gamblers backing ‘under’ 2.5 rounds cashed at a +110 price.
Christos Giagos was victorious over Damir Hadzovic as a +130 underdog in a lightweight showdown. Giagos won by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-27) thanks to six takedowns on 10 attempts. Giagos also thrived on the feet, connecting with multiple uppercuts that hurt Hadzovic in the first round.
The main card’s lid-lifter saw Daniel Teymur get his first win in the UFC. The Swede cashed tickets as a +110 home underdog and handed Sung Bin Jo his first career loss in a unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Leonardo Santos stole the show during the prelims. The 39-year-old Brazilian has been plagued by injuries recently, with his last two scheduled fights scrapped. Santos had not graced the Octagon since winning a split decision over Adriano Martins at UFC 204 on Oct. 8 of 2016.
Santos showed no signs of cage rust whatsoever, dropping Stevie Ray with a one-punch knockout at the 2:17 mark of Round 1. Santos improved to 17-3-1 overall and 6-0-1 in the UFC. He took home an extra $50,000 with a Performance of the Night bonus.
In a women’s bantamweight showdown, Lina Lansberg dominated former Invicta FC bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger in a unanimous-decision win (30-26, 30-27, 30-26). Lansberg hooked up her betting supporters with an outstanding +325 payout. She opened a nasty cut next to Evinger’s eye while dealing out ground-and-pound treatment with multiple elbows in the opening round.
Evinger hung in there, though, but was unable to generate much offense. Lansberg’s wrestling and grappling was superior for 15 minutes. Evinger remained winless in three UFC fights, although we should note that her first two defeats came against former UFC featherweight champ Cris Cyborg and unbeaten Aspen Ladd.
Bea “Bad News Barbie” Malecki made the most of her Octagon debut. The 27-year-old Stockholm native submitted Duda Santana via rear-naked choke early in the second round. Malecki hooked up her backers as a -125 favorite, while ‘under’ 2.5 rounds paid out a +155 return.
Smith and Amirkhani joined Rakic and Santos in earning an extra 50K and POTN bonuses.