This Saturday (June 1, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Stockholm, Sweden, for UFC Fight Night 153. Stockholm’s own Alexander Gustafsson will return home in the main event, competing against recent title challenger Anthony Smith. In fact, the top trio of bouts on the main card are all Light Heavyweight clashes featuring a prominent member of Allstars Training Center looking to get back into the win column. All in all, UFC “Stockholm” is better than most European “Fight Night” events, so let’s take a closer look at these main card bouts!
Remember: Later in the week, MMAmania.com’s Jesse Holland will preview and predict the main- and co-main events.
Light Heavyweight: Jimi Manuwa vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Best Win for Manuwa? Corey Anderson For Rakic? Devin Clark
Current Streak: Manuwa has lost his previous three bouts, whereas Rakic is undefeated in three visits to the Octagon
X-Factor: How much does Manuwa have left in the tank?
How these two match up: Someone is likely getting knocked out.
Manuwa has fallen on hard times, but it’s hard to know exactly why. The English knockout artist is 39 years old, so despite his impressive physique, it could simply be a case of Father Time knocking down another athlete. However, Manuwa has also been facing top contenders, so perhaps this step back in competition will allow “Posterboy” to shine.
Rakic is no pushover. The Austrian athlete has won 11 straight, picking up eight knockouts in that time. At 27 years of age, Rakic has already shown a fairly well-rounded and dangerous game, but he’s primarily a Muay Thai-style striker.
This is a difficult match up to pick because it’s so incredibly obvious why either man would win, yet both options seem likely. In Manuwa’s case, he’s the far more composed boxer, and Rakic was there to be hit last time out. Rakic has never faced someone with Manuwa’s punching power, so a quick boxing showcase from the Englishman would hardly be unexpected.
At the same time, Rakic has momentum and youth on his side. He can shoot for takedowns, kick plenty hard, and hold his own in a slugfest. If he’s able to force a relatively even trade of power punches, it’s probably the younger man who remains standing when the dust settles.
In truth, your prediction should depend on how much you believe in Rakic as a future contender. From what I’ve seen, he’s going to be a divisional mainstay for some years to come, so I’ll side with the younger man to find his foe’s chin before the experience advantage matters too much.
Prediction: Rakic via knockout
Featherweight: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Chris Fishgold
Best Win for Amirkhani? Jason Knight For Fishgold? Daniel Teymur
Current Streak: Both have won their previous appearance
X-Factor: Amirkhani’s potential boxing improvement
How these two match up: With a bit of luck, there should be some fun grappling scrambles in this 145-pound battle.
Makwan Amirkhani is an explosive wrestler with some tricky Brazilian jiu-jitsu. After several tough fights in his last two appearances, however, “Mr. Finland” has recognized that his striking needed improvement, leading him to dedicate the better part of the last year to boxing training.
Liverpool’s Fishgold is a wrestling-heavy finisher as well. There’s nothing overly complicated about Fishgold’s game, as he pushes forward behind combinations of power punches until an opportunity for the takedown emerges.
Amirkhani working on his striking was a smart move, but frankly his larger issue was conditioning. Amirkhani pushes a real hard pace, and he tends to slow down badly in the latter half of fights as a result. Against an aggressive younger grinder like Fishgold, fatigue is likely to be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Fishgold via decision
Lightweight: Christos Giagos vs. Damir Hadzovic
Best Win for Giagos? Mizuto Hirota For Hadzovic? Nick Hein
Current Streak: Giagos won his last bout, Hadzovic has picked up a pair of victories
X-Factor: Who wins the wrestling battle?
How these two match up: This should a competitive scrap between Lightweights trying to gain momentum.
Giagos and Hadzovic are fairly similar in approach. Both men are tough, well-conditioned fighters who tend to strike but are certainly willing to wrestle. Neither man has one exact specialty, which can leave them vulnerable to opponents who are fantastic in one area (like when Giagos was submitted by Charles Oliveira, or Hadzovic battered by Mairbek Taisumov).
I fully expect a back-and-forth fight, full of momentum shifts and big strikes from either man. There are reasons to side with either man, as Giagos is a bit more active a wrestler while Hadzovic tends to throw more punches. For me, the deciding factor seems to be that Hadzovic is more of an imposing physical athlete. In a close bout, that physicality can mean he muscles one key takedown or that his punches count just a bit more on the judges’ scorecards.
Prediction: Hadzovic via decision
Featherweight: Daniel Teymur vs. Sung Bin Jo
Best Win for Teymur? Manolo Scianna For Jo? Yoshifumi Nakamura
Current Streak: Teymur is winless in three trips to the Octagon, whereas Jo makes his debut following nine straight wins over mostly bad competition
X-Factor: How well will Jo handle a major step up in competition?
How these two match up: This bout serves to test whether Jo is ready for UFC.
In truth, Teymur has proven to be a step below his Featherweight peers. Despite his kickboxing background, Teymur has been knocked around the Octagon quite a bit, usually after gassing terribly a few minutes into the fight. Worse still, Teymur’s defensive grappling is a major liability.
I don’t mean to stereotype, but Jo fits the mold of many South Korean prospects: large and strong for the weight class, aggressive and powerful, and unlikely to move his head no matter what comes flying toward his jaw.
I have very little faith in Teymur, who wings easy-to-see haymakers until he’s exhausted. One of those whipping hooks could catch Jo, but “The Korean Falcon” trains at a solid camp and has a couple decent wins. I’ll trust him not to get hit with anything massive and rely on toughness to survive the smaller shots — he only needs to do so for a few minutes before Teymur is gasping for air.
Prediction: Jo via submission
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC Fight Night 153 results on fight night, which is as good a place as any to talk about all the action inside the Octagon, as well as what you’ve got riding on the sportsbook.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 153: “Gustafsson vs. Smith” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.