I figured I had to introduce myself and let you know what this is, considering this past weekend’s UFC on Fuel TV 2 was the first event in six weeks.
That event, which took place in Stockholm, Sweden, featured a top prospect fighting in his hometown in Alexander Gustafsson. “The Mauler” took on Thiago Silva, who was returning from a year-long suspension. Although Silva was a replacement for Gustafsson’s original opponent, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Gustafsson had little trouble with the former top contender in Silva.
Gustafsson stifled the Brazilian with his speed, accuracy, and pace. Despite the strong and overwhelming performance, commentators Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian could not stop comparing Gustafsson to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. I understand wanting to praise Gustafsson’s performance, but the comparison makes little sense.
Jones overwhelms opponents with unexpected moves and positions, along with staying out of his opponent’s reach. Gustafsson did nothing of the sort, as he was simply precise with his strikes and outpaced Silva. Gustafsson compared more to his Alliance MMA partner Dominick Cruz than he did to Jones.
Regardless, Gustafsson deserves praise for his performance, specifically for doing so in front of his hometown crowd. The Sweden fans were loud throughout the event, and were deafening when Gustafsson came out for the main event. For this and his performance in the cage, Gustafsson deserves a top opponent. However, with the current rankings, along with Dan Henderson’s desire to wait for the Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans winner, Gustafsson’s next opponent likely will not test his weakness, which is his wrestling. That was the case in his lone UFC loss, when now-training partner Phil Davis exposed that hole at UFC 112 in April 2010. But since then, Davis has admitted that Gustafsson has improved immensely since that time, as they have trained together at Alliance MMA in San Diego since that fight.
At 25 years old, Gustafsson still has plenty of time to grow. Unfortunately for him, a 24-year old is currently the champion in his division. But that should not force others to rush him up and prematurely make him the top contender for Jones. Gustafsson should and will likely fight at least two more times before he fights for the title, regardless of who the champion is.
Biggest winner: Siyar Bahadurzada
Bahadurzada has been gracious during his time in the UFC, specifically with making his nickname “Siyar the Great” which allows us writers to call him by his easier-to-type first name. Aside from that, Bahadurzada impressed in his UFC debut against Paulo Thiago. Coming into Saturday, Thiago had never been finished during his MMA career, which included losses against Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez. But Bahadurzada took just 42 seconds to knock out the Brazilian. After the win, Bahadurzada was ecstatic after the win and stated to Fuel TV “I just want to put Afghanistan in positive news headlines”.
Biggest loser: Diego Nunes
“The Gun” has long been one of the most talented featherweights, but he has never been able to put that on complete display. Since joining WEC in December 2008, Nunes has fought 9 times. In that span, Nunes has gone to the judges 9 times, losing three of those matchups. Nunes always teases fans, showing off what he is capable of, but he never capitalizes on his opportunities. Surprisingly, the man named “The Gun” just never pulls the trigger.
Biggest question: Will Dennis Siver be able to remain at 145 pounds?
Siver failed to make weight on his first time on the scale at the weigh-ins, but was eventually able to make weight a few hours later. In his matchup with Diego Nunes, Siver faded at the end of the third round, which seemed inevitable given his size. While overpowering, and having the height of a featherweight, Siver’s base seems too big to remain at featherweight. If he is able to, though, he is a prime contender to fight for the title within the next year.
Future Matchups to Make:
Alexander Gustafsson vs. ‘Shogun’ Rua:
I predicted this matchup after Gustafsson defeated Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 141, so I am just going to keep trying this matchup until it happens. But actually, this is a solid matchup that would push the victor into the top echelon of the light heavyweight division. Rua would certainly take more chances than Thiago Silva did against Gustafsson.
Brian Stann vs. Costa Philippou:
Much like Stann and his matchup with Alessio Sakara, this would pit two top strikers against each other. Those usually end fantastically, something Stann has had a habit of doing since joining the UFC’s middleweight division. Since losing his UFC debut, Philippou has impressed in three consecutive wins. He deserves a chance to see just how far he can make it in the organization.
Dennis Siver vs. Hatsu Hioki:
It seems that if Hioki was to challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title at UFC 149, he would have been named the opponent already. After winning at UFC 144, Hioki stated he felt he was not ready for the title fight yet. Because of that, a matchup against Dennis Siver would really determine just who is ready to fight for the title later in 2012.
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. John Maguire:
Bahadurzada’s win over Thiago deserves quite a bit of praise. Unfortunately for him, it might not earn him a top welterweight because the division is so tied up. But Maguire cannot be looked over, as he was able to pull out a submission win over DaMarques Johnson on Saturday. The two prospects going against each other would help determine who truly is ready to become a contender.
Brad Pickett vs. Brian Bowles:
Pickett has quite a resume since joining the WEC in 2010. He holds wins over Demetrious Johnson and Ivan Menjivar, along with losses to Scott Jorgensen and Renan Barao. He has always seemed very close to moving to the top tier of the bantamweight division, but then suffers a setback. Bowles suffered a similar setback at UFC 139 against Urijah Faber, as he lost by submission in the second round. A win against the other would put the victor on the right track at 135 pounds.