By Lewis Mckeever:
Last night, Sweden’s star MMA pupil Alexander Gustafsson tallied up another impressive victory over a very game Thiago Silva, extending his career resume to 14-1, with the lone loss coming against wrestling juggernaut; Phil Davis.
Amassing a five fight winning streak in MMA’s premiere promotion has cemented Gustafsson’s spot in the top ten light heavy-weight rankings. At just twenty-five years of age and firmly holding position as the ninth ranked light-heavyweight on the planet, tailing directly behind Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the future looks bright for the young Swede.
Gustafsson’s five fight hot streak comes against solid and proven UFC competition. Cyrille Diabate, James Te-Huna, Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko and Thiago Silva are an imposing collection of UFC career victories. “The Mauler” is an apt nick name for the youngster, as four out of those five triumphant wins were finished by way of knock out or submission. An even more alarming statistic is the fact that only two of his total fourteen career victories were to be evaluated by the ringside judges. The rising star has proven to possess a lethal killer’s instinct and a well-rounded array of talents, successfully stringing together submissions as well knock outs.
It was Gustafsson’s contest with “The Snake”, Cyrille Diabate which really triggered the ringing alarm bells in my head. A seasoned veteran in the arts of Muay Thai, Diabate is notorious for his world-class striking ability. This didn’t seem to intimidate Mr Gustafsson however, as he immediately began blasting “The Snake” with a catalogue of boxing techniques. Lefts, rights and straights galore, “The Mauler” was all over Cyrille Diabate like a cheap suit. His crisp punching combined with sharp, elusive footwork led to the opening first round mauling of the Muay Thai veteran. Gustafsson then proceeded to use his commanding wrestling and BJJ prowess to lock up a rear naked choke midway through the second round. I for one never expected such a young up and comer to out strike a crafty Muay Thai specialist like Cyrille Diabate. Alexander Gustafsson was a hot prospect glowing on my radar at this point.
His dismantling of Te-Huna, Hamill, Vladdy and of course Thiago Silva support a strong case for Gustafsson entering title contention. “The Mauler” has proven to be a competent grappler while also possessing a very strong boxing pedigree. There are no qualms about Alexander being able to throw down with the best of strikers, but there are some doubts and concerns over how well his skillset stacks up against the elite, powerhouse grapplers of the division.
The Phil Davis loss serves as a humbling reminder towards Gustafsson’s blemishes in grappling. Although tested and proven against mid-tier wrestlers such as Hamill and Vladimir, there is a stark contrast between their abilities and the truly elite wrestling stand outs of the division. It’s very difficult to say whether a bout between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones would be any different to his loss against “Mr Wonderful”.
Gustafsson has just beaten the striker, it’s time for the Swede to prove his worth against an upper echelon wrestler. One name immediately springs to mind; Ryan Bader. After gaining some momentum over comfortably defeating movie star and long-time MMA fan favourite Rampage, Bader has shot through the light-heavyweight rankings, escalating to number seven on the leader boards. Before there is any talk of Alexander facing Jon Jones or Rashad Evans, it’s essential that he tests himself against a real wrestling bull, what better opponent is there than Ryan “Darth” Bader?