UFC Fight Night 153 results: Anthony Smith submits, retires Alexander Gustafsson in Stockholm
Smith rebounded from a tough defeat earlier this year to establish himself in the 205-pound division
Nearly three months to the day of his one-sided title defeat, light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith bounced back in a big way.
Smith (32-14), who survived five brutal rounds against 205-pound champion Jon Jones in March, controlled Saturday's main event at UFC Fight Night in Stockholm, Sweden, throughout before submitting three-time former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson in Round 4.
Gustafsson (18-6), who also entered the bout fresh off a title loss to Jones in their December rematch, left his gloves inside the cage after the bout to signify his retirement. Fighting in his hometown, the 32-year-old closes his career with four defeats in his final six bouts.
"What can I say?" Gustafsson said. "The show is over guys."
The win was an impressive one for Smith as he landed the cleaner shots throughout and silenced any criticism that he was taking such a difficult fight too soon after a hard loss. Smith, who signed for the bout just two days after losing to Jones, initially admitted publicly he didn't want to fight again so soon but knew he couldn't pass up such a big opportunity.
Considered an exciting matchup on paper, the fight failed to deliver many fireworks in the opening two rounds. Not only did Smith claim he hurt his hand early, but both fighters were bleeding from their legs after Smith checked a hard kick.
"The first hard punch I landed in the first round broke my hand so I was just feeling around," Smith said. "I tried to throw some hard body shots after that but I could feel it on my glove. I think a lot of that was just panic."
Although his movement was constant, Gustafsson also failed to attempt much of anything offensively in the first two rounds. The veteran did step up his game considerably by letting his hands go to open Round 3 and appeared to hurt Smith with a late kick to the body followed by a big takedown to close the round.
That would be the last sign of life for Gustafsson, however, as Smith took over in Round 4 with clean punches. He later stuffed a takedown attempt from Gustafsson and turned the tables before quickly taking his opponent's back.
Smith eventually flattened Gustafsson from behind and applied a body triangle. Big strikes from top position followed until Gustafsson gave up his neck and tapped out to a rear naked choke at 2:38.
"I joke around all the time but [my coach] is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet and finally we are getting around to showing it," Smith said. "[Gustafsson] is one of the best light heavyweights on the planet. It just sucks that we had to meet up."
Should Gustafsson stay away from the sport for good, he will best be remembered as an elite fighter who was unable to get over the hump when it mattered most. Despite pushing Jones to the limit in their 2013 classic, Gustafsson came up short in similarly big fights against Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier, with the latter being an exciting split-decision title loss in 2015.
"I'm very disappointed. It happened again and I lost in my own home," Gustafsson said. "But you know what? It's a sport. It's hard to do it and you do it because you love it. It is what it is. Anthony Smith is tough as nails and a great guy. Every time I have seen him, he has always been great. He's a true warrior and a true fighter and is great for this division."
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