Hometown fighter Alexander Gustafsson is a large betting favourite in opposition to Anthony Smith in Saturday’s UFC Battle Night time fundamental occasion in Stockholm, and Gustafsson can be a transparent favourite in most of the statistical comparisons between the 2 fighters. Smith has excelled lately regardless of his statistical shortcomings, although, so can he proceed that development and pull the upset?
Whereas the next classes element Gustafsson’s benefits, in addition they depict Smith’s potential paths to a victory.
Smith’s late-career run to a title shot was stunning and surprising for a variety of causes. One of the notable was his profession placing numbers. His placing differential, which is critical strikes landed per minute (SLpM) minus vital strikes absorbed per minute (SApM), is useless final amongst ranked gentle heavyweights at -1.22.
On the most elementary stage, a fighter with a destructive placing differential is absorbing extra vital strikes than he’s touchdown. A fighter with a less-than stellar placing differential will usually excel offensively whereas having poor placing protection, or vice versa. Nonetheless, that’s actually not the case for Smith. He lands solely three.09 vital strikes per minute, which ranks him second-to-last within the class amongst ranked gentle heavyweights. He absorbs Four.31 per minute, which places him final in that very same group.
Then again, Gustafsson lands Four.01 vital strikes per minute, whereas absorbing solely three.51, and thus has a +zero.5 placing differential. Whereas his differential is far more spectacular than Smith’s, it does put him within the decrease half of ranked gentle heavyweights. Nonetheless, lots of Gustafsson’s placing metrics had been closely impacted by a pair of fights in opposition to UFC gentle heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Excluding these two fights, his placing differential is +1.12, which might be proper round common for a ranked gentle heavyweight.
Whereas Gustafsson’s numbers take successful due to his fights in opposition to Jones, it’s arduous to see how Smith has remained aggressive with such paltry placing numbers, not to mention constructed himself right into a contender who additionally fell brief in opposition to Jones. In terms of placing numbers, Gustafsson is the clear favourite on this combat. Nonetheless, Smith has continued to win regardless of his statistical shortcomings, so these figures might not be totally determinant.
One of many components that has allowed Smith to achieve success with out outlanding his opponents has been his skill to attain knockdowns and end fights. Whereas this has contributed significantly to his current run, he could also be overly reliant on his knockdown skill. Since 2016, he has scored just one UFC victory with out a knockdown, and he’s solely Four-6 within the UFC and Strikeforce when he hasn’t scored a knockdown.
Sadly for Smith, he doesn’t have a standout knockdown charge. He lands solely zero.58 knockdowns per 15 minutes of combat time over the course of his UFC and Strikeforce careers. Not solely is that charge not notably robust, it additionally lags behind Gustafsson’s. The Swede has landed zero.82 knockdowns per 15 minutes in his UFC profession.
If Smith’s plan is to take a seat on his energy pictures and hope for a knockdown, he could be in bother in opposition to Gustafsson. “The Mauler” has the superior knockdown charge and has been dropped to the canvas solely as soon as in his UFC profession — in opposition to Anthony Johnson in 2015. This technique has labored for Smith up to now, however it’s unlikely to supply a constructive consequence right here.
Anthony Smith’s takedown protection could be one of many greatest weaknesses that Alexander Gustafsson can assault on Saturday. AP Picture/John Locher
Gustafsson’s robust chin shouldn’t be the one issue that might make it unwise for Smith to patiently load up on energy pictures. The Swedish fighter can be prone to overwhelm his opponent with placing quantity if given the prospect. He makes an attempt 10.1 vital strikes per minute. Despite the fact that he has the worst accuracy of any ranked gentle heavyweight (39 p.c), Gustafsson greater than makes up for it together with his persistent quantity.
Smith makes an attempt solely 6.47 vital strikes per minute, so it’s unlikely he’ll be capable to maintain tempo with Gustafsson in a placing contest. On prime of that, he has the second-worst placing protection amongst ranked gentle heavyweights. In his UFC and Strikeforce careers, he has prevented solely 43 p.c of his opponents’ vital strike makes an attempt.
Gustafsson has been profitable up to now despite his poor accuracy, because of his placing tempo. In opposition to an opponent as hittable as Smith, he might be able to actually rack up some lofty placing totals and placed on a dominant efficiency.
Whereas Gustafsson has the well-earned fame of being an efficient striker, he isn’t above taking a combat to the bottom to attenuate threat when given the prospect. For instance, he acknowledged he had a large wrestling benefit in opposition to Jan Blachowicz in 2016, and he proceeded to land 4 of his 5 takedown makes an attempt and out-land his opponent 33 to 1 on the ground.
Over his UFC profession, Gustafsson has averaged 1.63 takedowns per 15 minutes, and he would possibly contemplate counting on that ability on this bout. Smith has allowed his opponents to land 2.21 takedowns per 15 minutes. He stops solely 50 p.c of the takedowns tried in opposition to him, which is the third-worst charge amongst ranked gentle heavyweights. Gustafsson seems to have the benefit in quite a lot of statistical classes. Nonetheless, the benefit within the wrestling sport could be his greatest edge and his clearest and least hazardous path to victory.