Saturday’s UFC Stockholm event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Sweden, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Ericsson Globe.
There was a segment of the MMA population that believed Anthony Smith’s rapid rise at 205 pounds was thanks to spectacular wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua and little else. Those folks forgot his finish of Volkan Oezdemir, but I digress. Anyway, after Smith’s loss to Jon Jones earlier this year, there were doubters. I don’t think those doubters are still there today, as Smith delivered an impressive effort in Stockholm before finishing Alexander Gustafsson in the hometown of “The Mauler.” Smith is for real, and as interesting as 2018 was for “Lionheart,” it might get more interesting in the next six months.
It wasn’t too long ago that there was a call for new blood at 205 pounds. Well, that new blood is here, they’re real and they’re spectacular. From Anthony Smith and Johnny Walker to Dominick Reyes and Corey Anderson, there are so many great fights to be had in the light heavyweight division, and when that conversation is taking place, the name Aleksandar Rakic has to be in it. Rakic had already impressed in his first three UFC bouts, but Saturday’s knockout of Jimi Manuwa was next level. Of all the aforementioned names, don’t be surprised if Rakic is the last man standing when all is said and done.
It didn’t look good for Lina Lansberg when Tonya Evinger pinned her to the fence early in their Saturday bout and began trying to implement her grappling attack. It never does for fighters who are primarily strikers, but all of a sudden, Lansberg began not just holding her own, but taking over. And after 15 minutes, it was the “Elbow Queen” leaving the Octagon with the dominant victory. It was an important win for the Swedish striker, who has fought hard throughout her 3-3 UFC run. But after beating the former Invicta FC champ, it looks like it’s a fresh start for Lansberg at 135 pounds.
I don’t know why, but I’m amazed by the story of Leonardo Santos. Wait, I do know why. Here’s a 39-year-old fighter competing in the toughest division in the UFC and he’s 6-0-1 with four finishes and wins over the likes of Kevin Lee, Anthony Rocco Martin and now Stevie Ray. Of course, it’s taken six years for those seven fights, but hopefully Santos’ injury woes are behind him, because he’s fun to watch and obviously a player at 155 pounds.
Speaking of fighters we need to see more of, Makwan Amirkhani is near the top of the list. Owner of a 5-1 UFC record, with the only loss coming by way of split decision against Arnold Allen, “Mr. Finland” obviously has the talent to compete with the best of the best at 145 pounds, and he has the charisma to be a star. Now let’s see him in the Octagon more than once a year.