Anthony Smith wins the battle of the Light Heavy contenders in Sweden.
Alexander Gustafsson went into UFC Fight Night 153, a strong favorite to come out the victor against a highly-motivated Anthony Smith, but alas it wasn't meant to be. Unfortunately for Gustafsson, a fitting comeback story eluded him on the day, as Smith leveraged his position on the ground to apply a decisive rear-naked choke hold in the 4th round. Ironically, Smith is regarded as a stand-up fighter that doesn't particularly enjoy "ground and pound" action.
with little interest in taking the fight to the ground.
Entering the fight, both men were coming off demoralizing losses. Smith lost to a superior opponent in Jon Jones, although he could just easily plead with the ref to halt that contest in the middle rounds, over a strike that landed "below the belt." By choosing not to entertain the notion of a DQ, Smith would invariably endear himself to core MMA fans. Gustafsson entered the contest having garnered the same kind of reputation for good sportsmanship. In the immediate aftermath of their contest, Gustafsson had to ask himself, before a home crowd, whether he still had the will to compete in the sport of MMA after suffering such an emotional loss.
"The show is over, guys," Gustafsson addressed the home crowd. "... It feels like I don't have it anymore. I have done it for a long time. I'm 32 years old, I have kids, built the life that I wanted thanks to this sport. It feels like I'm getting old. We all have to realize that it's the end of the story." And with that, Alexander Gustafsson retires as one of the finest "big men" the sport has ever produced. Before stepping away for good, Gustafsson reflected on what motivated to persist as a UFC fighter all these years, after which he alluded to opening a gym in the not so distant future. Congratulations Anthony Smith (31-14) and all the best to Gustafsson as he contemplates retirement.