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The Octagon returns to Stockholm, Sweden, this Saturday at Ericsson Globe for UFC Fight Night 153. The sportsbooks are offering odds on all 13 of the scheduled bouts, and my top plays are listed below in the UFC Fight Night 153 edition of Prime Picks.
Alexander Gustafsson (-325)The main event of the evening is a light heavyweight bout between Gustafsson (18-5) and Anthony Smith (31-14), and I like "The Mauler" to get the win on home soil. This is an intriguing fight as it pits Jon Jones’ two latest victims against one another, but I favor Gustafsson to win. Despite the brutal loss to Jones, the Swede is still the second-best light heavyweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in my eyes, and he’s proven that with his 10-5 career record inside the Octagon. The loss to Jones was no doubt devastating, but before that Gustafsson dominated Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz, and since then both those guys have gone on a tear. I’m not ready to write him off at 32 just yet because he lost to Jones. Smith, meanwhile, is in a similar boat. The 30-year-old American has been fighting forever but really came into his own once he moved up to 205, finishing Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and Volkan Oezdemir in his first three fights at his new weight class. Then he ran into Jones, and he got dummied for 25 minutes outside of one spot where Jones landed an illegal knee. It was surprising to see “Lionheart” take a fight so soon after the loss to Jones as he originally said he wanted to take a year off, but he took this fight with Gustafsson anyways, and I believe it’s a mistake. Although Smith had an amazing year in 2018, he’s still someone who has been finished 12 times in his career, including eight times by TKO. That doesn’t bode well against a powerful, technical striker like Gustafsson. I think “The Mauler” can get to Smith’s chin in this fight and hurt him and potentially finish him. At -325, look for the Swede to be a popular parlay pick this weekend.
Aleksandar Rakic (-220)Another big favorite I like in a light heavyweight bout is Rakic (11-1) to defeat Jimi Manuwa (17-5). There’s a couple key advantages here for the Austrian, including age, as he’s just 28 compared to the Englishman, who is 39. Rakic also has more momentum coming into this fight, as he’s currently riding an 11-fight win streak since losing his pro debut back in 2011. Rakic has looked incredible in the UFC, going 3-0 with a devastating knockout over Devin Clark in his last fight. Meanwhile, Manuwa is currently riding a three-fight losing skid that includes brutal KO losses to Thiago Santos and Volkan Oezdemir. He’s been a devastating finisher throughout his career with 16 victories by stoppage, but the fact he’s been knocked out four times himself in the UFC is very concerning considering his age. Manuwa appears to be a gatekeeper at this point of his career, and Rakic is getting the opportunity to beat him and take his spot in the rankings. I think this will be a coming-out party for Rakic and I see him getting the finish. At -220 Rakic makes for a solid parlay piece.
Volkan Oezdemir (-120)For a small favorite, give me Oezdemir (15-4) to beat Ilir Latifi (14-6). It’s a striker versus grappler bout and I favor the striker to get his hand raised. Although “No Time” is currently riding a three-fight losing skid, it’s fair to keep in mind his losses came to top-10 light heavyweights in Daniel Cormier, Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes. Those aren’t bad losses, and the fact Oezdemir was so competitive in a split decision loss to a top prospect like Reyes shows me he still has plenty left in the tank despite his slide. Just 29, the Swiss native has proven he can finish fights with 12 wins by knockout including brutal KO wins over Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov in the UFC. His losing skid is of course concerning, but this sport is all about matchups. “The Sledgehammer” is the older fighter at 35 and although he’s from Sweden, I don’t think the hometown advantage will be enough for him to win this fight. He’s a strong wrestler with finishing power on the feet, but Oezdemir is the more technical striker and that to me will be the difference here. I see Oezdemir picking apart Latifi on the feet and winning a decision, if not getting the knockout. At -120 I like “No Time” as a small favorite.
Darko Stosic (+100)For my dog pick of the week, I’m going with Stosic (13-1) to defeat Devin Clark (9-3). The Serbian actually opened as a -265 favorite but for some reason the early action has all come in on “Brown Bear” and the odds have flipped. At plus money, I think you have to take him here. Stosic is currently riding a nine-fight win streak that includes a TKO win over Jeremy Kimball in his UFC debut last summer, plus two decision wins over Strikeforce vet Dion Staring. He’s only lost once in his career, back in 2014 to current Rizin Fighting Federation standout Jiri Prochazka. Stosic has a ton of finishing power with nine of his 13 career wins coming by stoppage, including eight knockouts. At just 27, the Serb is still young and improving his game, and could soon find himself a player in the UFC light heavyweight division. Clark, meanwhile, is just 3-3 in the Octagon and has been finished in all three of his losses, including twice by knockout. The American is just 30, but he has taken quite a bit of damage in his young career and that doesn’t bold well against a power puncher like Stostic. I don’t see Clark’s chin holding up here and I like Stosic to get the knockout. At +100 there appears to be some good value here on the underdog to get the win.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.