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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Stockholm: Gustafsson vs. Smith – Prelims preview

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How was your week off UFC action? Mine saw me take in other forms of MMA, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re back to our typical weekend schedule, this time coming to those of us in North America in the morning hours of Saturday. So wake up to a nice cup of joe, settle in on your couch, and begin your day with legal violence from Stockholm….

The prelims of UFC Stockholm begin at 10:00 AM ET/7:00 AM PT on Saturday on ESPN 2.

Tonya Evinger (19-8, 1 NC) vs. Lina Lansberg (8-4), Women’s Bantamweight

The UFC has not been kind to the notable career of Evinger. A veteran of the sport for well over a decade and one of the more notable champions the Invicta organization has seen, Evinger has struck out on all three occasions she has fought under the UFC banner, including a TUF exhibition contest. Her last loss to Aspen Ladd doesn’t look as bad given Ladd scraped and clawed her way to a tough win over Sijara Eubanks a couple of weeks ago, but it has silenced the questions that Evinger is slowing down as she approaches the age of 38. Never noted for her punching prowess, it has been grit, determination, and a plus wrestling game that has carried Evinger this far.

Lansberg’s nickname, the Elbow Queen, provides a glimpse into her prowess in the clinch. Unfortunately for her, there isn’t another area of fighting she is nearly as proficient. A limited athlete who got into the sport late – she is already 37 despite having started her career in 2012 – Lansberg has often had to rely on being the grittier fighter, much like Evinger. However, Lansberg doesn’t have the wrestling of Evinger. In fact, her takedown defense has been atrocious. Throw in that her striking is even more limited than Evinger’s and it feels like the longtime veteran finally picks up her first UFC victory. Evinger via TKO of RD2

As for the rest….

  • For some reason, the UFC has chosen debutants Sergey Khandozhko and Rostem Akman to do battle in the featured prelim. Khandozhko is far more experienced than Akman, but also doesn’t appear to have anything special in his skill set to be anything more than a veteran test on the regional scene. Alas, he’s in the UFC and Akman isn’t far enough in his career for us to get an accurate reading on his ceiling, even with his extended amateur career. Even without knowing the extent of his ceiling, I still feel more confident going with Akman. Akman via decision
  • You wouldn’t think a lightweight undefeated in the UFC – including a win over Kevin Lee – would be buried on the prelims of a European card, but that’s where Leonardo Santos finds himself. What’s holding back the longtime Nova Uniao member is an absence of 31 months. Throw in that he’s now 39 and it isn’t hard to see where the UFC has doubts about his viability. His opponent, Stevie Ray, has traditionally been known for shoddy submission defense, Santos’ specialty. However, Ray is in his fighting prime and hasn’t been submitted in over five years. It’s a risk, but I think the Scot catches the Brazilian as he begins to decline. Ray via decision
  • If there’s one thing anyone knows about a Frank Camacho contest, it’s that he’s must-see-TV as his three FOTN bonuses in four UFC contests will attest to. He’ll throwdown with Nick Hein, a judoka who doesn’t use his judoka skill set. Hein isn’t a bad counter puncher, but he lacks power and prefers fighting at a measured pace. Camacho won’t have any of that. Camacho gets the firefight he wants, overwhelming his German opponent. Camacho via TKO of RD3
  • Hoping to expand the women’s featherweight division, Duda Santana and Bea Malecki make their official UFC debuts. If I’m being honest, neither are ready for the big stage, but the UFC is hoping they can develop along with the rest of the division. Santana is a volume striker who is still growing into her frame. Malecki is an amateur Muay Thai champion who showed well on the feet against Leah Letson in the TUF house. Malecki’s combat experience should push her past the Brazilian. Malecki via TKO of RD2
  • Many were impressed by Darko Stosic’s UFC debut, eliminating Jeremy Kimball in less than a round. Then again, it was Jeremy Kimball he beat. Regardless, Stosic has serious power and thudding low kicks to go with his surprisingly technical wrestling game. His opponent, Devin Clark, is one of the better athletes at 205. Unfortunately for Clark, he doesn’t rate very high in the disciplined scale, tending to exhaust himself in a hurry as he goes full throttle at all times. I like Stosic’s chances of finding a finish, though the odds are almost as likely Clark does the same. Stosic via KO of RD1
  • The card opens with little-known lightweights Joel Alvarez and Danilo Belluardo squaring off. Alvarez was buried in his UFC debut by Damir Ismagulov, leaving many believing the 26-year old was rushed to the big show too soon. Belluardo appears to be a more reasonable step down, though few will find Belluardo’s wash, rinse, repeat style focused on takedowns. Alvarez is willing to take risks to secure subs and he’ll have to in order to escape that fate. Belluardo via decision

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