Anthony Smith’s unlikely Cinderella run continued as the clock struck midnight on the only man to give Jon Jones a legitimate run for his money.
Smith submitted three-time Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenger Alexander Gustafsson with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round of their UFC Fight Night 153 headliner on Saturday at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. Gustafsson raised the white flag 2:38 into Round 4, then promptly shed his gloves and announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
The fight appeared to be there for the taking before the finish. Gustafsson outstruck “Lionheart” across the first 15 minutes -- he did so by a 38-15 margin in Round 3, where he also executed his only takedown -- but saw his situation unravel in the fourth. There, Smith bullied his way to a takedown, advanced to the back and flattened out the Swede. A series of ferocious elbows and punches followed, setting the stage for the choke. An immediate hush fell over the crowd.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Gustafsson vs. Smith,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Anthony Smith vs. Jan Blachowicz-Luke Rockhold winner: For all his flaws, Smith has crafted himself into quite the fighter. The 30-year-old journeyman turned contender has rattled off four wins in five outings since moving to the light heavyweight division, a decision defeat to the aforementioned Jones his only setback. The victory over Gustafsson leaves Smith in something of a holding pattern, the 205-pound throne still occupied by a man who soundly beat him just three months ago. Nevertheless, he remains a formidable obstacle for anyone hoping to reach the light heavyweight summit. Blachowicz and Rockhold have been booked opposite one another at UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas.
Aleksandar Rakic vs. Volkan Oezdemir: Rakic’s stock soared in the co-main event, where he cut down Jimi Manuwa with a head kick in less than a minute. Manuwa bowed out 42 seconds into Round 1, giving rise to a new contender in the light heavyweight division. Rakic followed a sneaky right hand with a left high kick, the concussive impact separating the Brit from his senses. An unconscious Manuwa fell backward and struck the canvas stiff as a board. Rakic, 27, has won 12 fights in a row, 10 of them finishes. Some big-game hunting appears to be in the Austrian’s future. Oezdemir saw his UFC Fight Night 153 pairing with Ilir Latifi fall through at the last minute and remains saddled by a three-fight losing streak.
Makwan Amirkhani vs. Julio Arce: Amirkhani has become MMA’s answer to Santa Clause, as he appears once a year bearing gifts before disappearing into the ether. The SBG Ireland export made his annual stop inside the Octagon on the main card and submitted Chris Fishgold with an anaconda choke in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Fishgold conceded defeat 4:25 into Round 2, as he was submitted for the first time in his 22-fight career. Inactivity seems to be the only impediment standing between Amirkhani and potential stardom. He has not fought more than once in a calendar year since 2015. A winner in eight of his last nine bouts, Arce has not competed since he vanquished Julian Erosa with a third-round head kick at UFC Fight Night 152 on May 11.
Christos Giagos vs. Luis Pena-Matt Wiman winner: A former Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Tachi Palace Fights champion, Giagos seems to be hitting his stride in his second run under the UFC flag. The 29-year-old Azusa, California native posted his second win in as many outings, as he took a unanimous decision from Damir Hadzovic in a three-round lightweight feature. Scores were 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28, all for Giagos, who evened his organizational record at 3-3. Pena, aka “Violent Bob Ross,” will lock horns with the returning Wiman at UFC Fight Night 154 on June 22 in Greenville, South Carolina.
Lina Lansberg vs. Macy Chiasson: Lansberg had a surprisingly easy time with former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Tonya Evinger on the undercard, as she cruised to a unanimous verdict in a three-round encounter at 135 pounds. The “Elbow Queen” returned to her native Sweden and swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-27 and 30-26 marks from the judges. Lansberg did her best work in the third round, where she took down Evinger and nearly finished her with a volley of punches and elbows. She has alternated wins and losses in each of her last six outings. Chiasson, 27, improved to 5-0 at UFC Fight Night 151, where she put away Sarah Moras with second-round punches on May 4.