The UFC visits Stockholm, Sweden, this week. They’ll kick off the prelims at 10 a.m. ET with the main card dropping at 1 p.m. ET.
The final three fights on this Stockholm card feature light heavyweight (205 pounds) matchups that will go a long way in determining pecking order in a weight class depraved of any viable threat to champion Jon Jones. I’ll briefly break down each of these three fights, the first of which will go off around 2:15 p.m. PT.
ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON -300 VS.
ANTHONY SMITH 240
Light heavyweight main event
Both lost to Jones in their last fight. Gustafsson has faced the far superior level of competition. He is a boxing-based fighter with an effective kicking arsenal and excels in the clinch, where he can use his knees to inflict damage. Gus wants to employ distance, so he may effectively use his length to precision strike opponents’ legs, body and head. He fights at home and will look to make a statement regarding his top ranking in the hierarchy of this division come Saturday.
Smith is also a boxing striking-based fighter who uses less movement and more pressure to unleash his power punching.
Gustafsson is a worthy chalk here, but I don’t chase -300 chalk. I’ll look for props/rounds lines when they’re released as I believe it probable that Gus finishes Smith.
VOLKAN OEZDEMIR -115 VS.
Light heavyweight co-main event
Two Swiss fighters face one another to determine who steps up in this division and who falls back into the mosh pit.
Latifi is appropriately nicknamed “The Sledgehammer” as he is stocky, quick, explosive and powerful. He relies on destructive roundhouse punching early in fights. He has a solid wrestling base, which allows him to keep his fights standing. That way, he can pressure opponents to get inside their reach to deliver punishment. In this fight, I could see Latifi trying to work Oezdemir to the ground because Latifi may find the stand-up challenging. Latifi can also counter well, but his biggest concern is his ability to fight effectively past 6-7 difficult minutes as his size requires massive amounts of energy use. His history shows that he tends to wear down quickly with his style of explosive offensive output.
Oezdemir is 5 years younger. He’s also the taller, longer fighter versed in BJJ, but he wants to use his kickboxing background to batter opponents and finish them.
Oezdemir, who I believe is a top-5 fighter in this division, impressed me in his last outing against up-and-coming Dom Reyes, losing a split decision that could have gone either way in my judgment. He’ll be focused on getting back into the win column.
Oezdemir faces a stylistically “made” opponent for his skills as evidenced in his opening price of -175, which I handicapped as spot on. A steady flow of Latifi money has compressed that line to its current -115, creating great value on Oezdemir.
ALEKSANDAR RAKIC -220 VS. JIMI MANUWA 180
Rakic is 12 years younger, 4 inches taller and will look to knock out the more experienced Englishman in this fight. Manuwa has power, but unfortunately he telegraphs his “Sunday shots” and has an extremely short fuse (cardio). If he is to win this fight, he must immediately take this fight to Racik and engage him from the inside. This will allow Manuwa to fight without threat of Racik being able to use distance to unleash his power as well as allow Manuwa to unleash his damage up close and personal.
Racik is taking a big step up class in this fight. While he holds some physical advantages, he has not been really tested by a top talent at light heavyweight and a desperate Manuwa trying to retain his top ranking and fight credibility in the division will be a great test for the young Serbian.
Racik opened -285, and I tend to think Manuwa is live in this spot. This line may creep back up, so let’s monitor it, pending weigh-ins and further developments later this week.
So far this year I stand 7-9 (-1.75 units), which means it’s time to close in on some winning fighters. We’ll start with Volkan Oezdemir.