Anthony Smith showed why he earned his “Lionheart” moniker against Jon Jones earlier this month in a gutsy fight he was thoroughly outclassed in.
The American doubled down once accepting the fight with Alexander Gustafsson in Stockholm, Sweden, getting back on the saddle quickly for 1st June.
Like Smith, Gustafsson is coming off a loss to UFC light heavyweight champion Jones. While Smith went five rounds with “Bones,” Gustafsson succumbed to a third-round TKO loss at the end of 2018 in their long-awaited rematch.
A two-time title challenger “The Mauler” Gustafsson has respect for Smith, but indicated he would doubt his standing as one of the best light heavyweights competing today if he were to lose to his upcoming opponent.
“He’s a big hitter and he has a lot of heart and he has a lot of fights behind him,” Gustafsson said on the MMA Hour [H/T MMA Fighting]. “He’s a guy with a good team behind him, and this is going to be a real challenge. And that’s why I’m doing this, to challenge myself. When I beat him, I’m going to just move in the rankings. If I don’t beat him, if he beats me, then maybe I don’t have it anymore. So I’ll just take it from there.”
Given the duo’s most recent opponent-in-common, it would be easy to compare the two and their performances against Jones. Even Gustafsson sees some similarities in Smith and how they didn’t fight to their best abilities in the Octagon last time out.
Because of that, Gustafsson is unwilling to judge Smith on his performance against Jones on the big show.
“He’s in shape and he feels like I feel,” Gustafsson said. “Like, he just lost and he wants to prove that he’s better than what he showed, and he just wants to get back to fighting and winning again. So I think he’s in shape and I think he’s ready for this, and he’s ready to fight me and he wants to beat me, so I understand him perfectly.
“I’m not the right guy to judge him,” Gustafsson continued. “I just fought Jon and lost myself. He showed some heart and he took some damage and just kept moving, so he’s a warrior and I can’t wait to have him over and give the fans a really good show.”