Style Showcase: Gustafsson vs. Smith

We have ourselves, (what I feel)will be an absolute barnburner between Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson and Anthony “Lionheart” Smith.Both fighters are coming off of losses to the king of the light heavyweight division, Jon Jones. Both fighters are tough as all hell. Both fighters like to pressure their opponents. This is a perfect storm of variables that will lead to a great fight between x-ranked Gustafsson, and x-ranked Smith. As the saying goes, styles make fights, so let’s dive deeper into how their styles match up.

Heart Of A Lion

Smith has often been touted the underdog or the rookie simply because he was new to the UFC, but make no mistake Smith is very experienced. With over 40 fights on his record, Smith has plenty of octagon time, including 25 minutes with Jon Jones. His experience and fight IQ are what I believe developed his simple but effective style. He knows where his advantages are and up until his latest showing always found ways to capitalize on them. His bread and butter from his showings in the UFC has been getting opponents up against the cage, pressuring them, making it nasty, and basically presenting the question. Who’s gonna break first?

The most dangerous weapon in his arsenal is his heart and toughness. No matter how beaten down he gets he will continue to move forward and press on. A testament to this was his decision to not accept the DQ and continue fighting against Jon Jones. You pair this unbreakable will with his size and well-rounded attacks, it’s no wonder that he went on such a tear en-route to his title shot.

Keys To Victory

  • Continued pressure, keeping Gustafson’s heels along the cage.
  • Landing takedowns, and keeping Gustafsson down. Maintaining top control, ensuring that even if he isn’t damaging Gustafsson, that he’s at least having to work to get up.
  • Threaten the takedown to set up power shots. Constant level changes will make Gustafsson hesitate and open up opportunities for him to land big shots.

Tactical Mauling

It’s no secret, Alexander Gustafsson is one of the most tactical and cerebral fighters in the light heavyweight division. He will walk forward and pick you apart and even take you down if he feels you starting to figure him out.(See Jones v. Gustafsson) Gustafsson is at his best when he’s on the edge of his range, dissecting his opponents and making reads, to set up his devastating combinations. His dynamic offense is what freezes his opponents and allows him to be so successful. You pair that with viking toughness and you’ve got a big problem ahead of you. He will eat a shot or two if it allows him the opportunity to throw his combination, and even in those instances he’s making reads. He’s also unafraid to get in the knitty gritty in the clinch and wrestling, especially if it opens up a striking opportunity in the later rounds.

Keys to Victory

  • Footwork: He has to circle when on the outside and beat the pressure superior footwork. Which will in turn, give him opportunities to apply pressure.
  • Dynamic Attack: He needs to be constantly attacking different parts of Smith’s body in order freeze him and slow down Smith’s pressure game. Head strike, leg kick, body, constantly working up and down the body, with feints as well.
  • Counter wrestling with the clinch: When pressured against the cage, moving forward and engaging in the clinch will allow him to prevent him Smith’s wrestling as well as opening up his offense, as he is extremely dangerous in the clinch.

The light heavyweight division is alive and well with this bout. I’ll go as far as saying that I foresee it being a fight of the year contender. This is one you don’t want to miss.


University of Limerick Economics and Finance Graduate. Editor for MMA Latest News and contributor to MMA Viking also featured on IMMAF, Fox Sports Asia, FanSided MMA and MMA-Today.

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