Gustafsson and Smith preventing to show one thing … to themselves

It is arduous to measure what success seems to be like in opposition to Jon Jones. The person has been preventing professionally since 2008, and nobody has legitimately crushed him.

If we’re being sincere, although, the latest makes an attempt to halt Jones’ perfection — failed title bids by Alexander Gustafsson (December) and Anthony Smith (March) — had been downright disappointing.

Gustafsson (18-5) took Jones to the brink of defeat in a 2013 title combat, however of their extremely anticipated rematch at UFC 232, he managed to land solely 22 strikes. And Smith (31-14), who is called one of many scrappiest, most unbreakable athletes within the UFC, inexplicably froze in opposition to Jones. He survived 5 rounds however by no means actually went for broke. He has admitted as a lot since.

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Such is the buildup to Saturday’s UFC Battle Evening in Stockholm, Sweden. Gustafsson and Smith will sq. off in the primary occasion, every recent off a lackluster exhibiting in opposition to the dominant champion.

Neither is more likely to earn a title shot within the close to future, which raises the apparent query: What are they actually preventing for?

Take heed to their responses, and you will know. This combat shouldn’t be about finding out rankings or title alternatives. In a means, Saturday’s bout is going down for nobody aside from the 2 males concerned.

Gustafsson wants to determine who he’s, now that he is now not the person who “is perhaps Jon Jones’ kryptonite.” And Smith must make amends in his personal head, for his irritating efficiency in a bout he’d waited years to achieve. While you take a look at it that means, there’s really fairly a bit at stake.

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ESPN Stats & Data

By the numbers

Minus-89: Vital strike differential for Smith in his final combat, in opposition to Jon Jones, in response to UFC Stats. It was a profession worst — as was the minus-37 differential for Gustafsson in his most up-to-date combat, additionally in opposition to Jones.

9: Knockdowns for Gustafsson in his UFC profession, which places him fourth in mild heavyweight historical past behind Chuck Liddell (14), Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (14) and Lyoto Machida (11).

Three: Finishes for Smith in his 4 fights since transferring as much as mild heavyweight final 12 months. That ties him (with Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker) for many UFC mild heavyweight finishes because the begin of 2018.

84.eight: Proportion of takedowns efficiently fended off by Gustafsson in his UFC profession, the fifth-best quantity all time.

6: Consecutive victories for Smith by which he completed his opponent.

Supply: ESPN Stats & Data

A glance again

Nobody else has made Jon Jones appear to be a crushed man, as Alexander Gustafsson did in 2013. Jones received the choice that night time, and Gustafsson received followers. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Photos

5 vs. 5

Gustafsson’s most up-to-date outcomes

Smith’s most up-to-date outcomes

Combating phrases

“It is not likely about Gus, you already know? It isn’t even actually about successful or dropping. It isn’t about getting again to the title. I am not sitting right here saying I do not wish to win; that is not what I am saying. I am saying I have not even thought of the combat in a win-vs.-loss state of affairs, ‘trigger actually I do not give a s— what occurs. I simply wish to carry out. I wish to go in there, I have to destroy one thing to get this sense out of my abdomen, this burning, sick feeling that I can not shake. The one means I am going to do this is I gotta let it out on any individual. I wasn’t in a position to let that out on Jon, and I did not. So I nonetheless have it.” –Smith, speaking to ESPN about how the lingering disappointment of his loss to Jones shapes his mindset for the Gustafsson combat

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Dom and Gil’s movie research

The keys to victory for Gustafsson (in response to Dominick Cruz and Gilbert Melendez):

play

1:45

Dominick Cruz particulars how each Alexander Gustafsson’s mild footwork and energy within the takedown will play essential roles in his bout vs. Anthony Smith.

The keys to victory for Smith (in response to Cruz and Melendez):

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1:09

Gilbert Melendez says that it will be key for Anthony Smith to push Alexander Gustafsson up in opposition to the cage and win factors there, figuring out that Gustafsson will probably be mild on his ft.

And the winner is …

On paper, that is Gustafsson’s combat to lose. He is the extra technical striker and doubtless the higher athlete. Smith has ending prowess, which makes him a harmful underdog, however Gustafsson’s chin continues to be above common and his defensive wrestling is underrated. It is also a really fast turnaround for Smith. Brett Okamoto’s choose: Gustafsson will get it completed, third-round TKO.

What to observe for (past the primary occasion)

Prime-heavy with mild heavies

The sunshine heavyweight fisticuffs get going earlier than the primary eventers hit the Octagon, because the combat main as much as Gustafsson vs. Smith can be a 205-pound bout. One of many two fighters within the co-main occasion has one thing to beat.

Jimi Manuwa will probably be attempting to halt a three-fight skid when he faces Aleksandar Rakic, an Austrian who’s 11-1 and has not misplaced since his MMA debut in 2011. He’s Three-Zero within the UFC.

There was to be a 3rd 205-pound combat on the high of the cardboard, however Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi was canceled on Thursday after Latifi, who fights out of Stockholm, was pulled due to a again damage.

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Fighter, cop, actor … and matchmaker

Nick Hein, on the set of “Diese Kaminskis,” prepares to movie a combat scene. Dennis Grombkowski/Zuffa LLC/Getty Photos

4 belongings you may not find out about German light-weight Nick Hein, who faces Frank Camacho in a preliminary bout:

He’s a former police officer in Cologne — thus the nickname “Sergeant” — who wrote a e book about police work.

He additionally has labored as an actor, co-starring in a TV present, “Diese Kaminskis,” a few trio of hapless brothers who run a funeral parlor.

He’s a former two-time nationwide champion judoka who, whereas competing in Japan, met a neighborhood girl who would turn into his spouse.

And talking of marriage, Hein made his UFC debut in 2014 in opposition to Drew Dober, who after the combat would meet Hein’s sister and finally marry her.

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