Alexander Gustafsson drew a lot of attention to himself on Saturday night with a shut-out win over the more experienced Thiago Silva in the headline fight of the Ufc’s first trip to Stockholm, Sweden.
The style he employed to achieve that, coupled with his body structure, prompted comparisons with the light-heavyweight division champion Jon Jones.
Is Gustafsson the ‘white Jon Jones’? Is he ready for a title shot after that performance?
Here's what the Fighters Only team think:
Editor, Fighters Only and Train Hard, Fight Easy
Alexander Gustafsson really showed his star potential over in Stockholm and proved he’s one of the true shining lights of European MMA. The way in which he handled himself, both inside and outside of the cage, signified he genuinely is a man for the big occasion and potentially a future UFC champion.
He was the only Swede who wasn’t sweating inside the Globe Arena on Saturday, and was coolness personified as he moved effortlessly through his game plan to pick apart Thiago Silva. His hand speed and footwork were excellent, while he never got greedy and took any unnecessary chances.
It was a polished, professional performance from start to finish, and he deserves all the plaudits he’s been afforded since. But let’s not programme the SatNav for Crazy Town just yet. Any possible talk of him matching up against Jon Jones, or one or two others at the very top of the 205lb ladder, remains a little premature.
Silva’s last victory was against Keith Jardine back in the summer of 2009 and he’d been out of the Octagon for 15 months - and you could tell. His timing was miles off and he had absolutely no answer for the young Swede’s ring craft. Indeed, while Alexander enjoyed a perfect evening, the burly Brazilian’s couldn’t have been too much worse.
What we now know is that Gustafsson has the mental fortitude to deal with the big occasion. But what he now needs is a scalp from within the light heavyweight division’s top 10. If I was him, I’d be campaigning for a fight with ‘Rampage’ Jackson, as that victory would throw him right into the title mix. But a showdown with Ryan Bader is definitely the most intriguing future title contender match the division has to offer.
Fighters Only Consultant Editor, MMA Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph
Alex Gustafsson had a fine gameplan, and it worked. Don't listen to the ludicrous naysayers who judged him as having 'run away' in the third round. It was ludicrous to expect him to stand in front of Thiago Silva, and bang. Too much risk involved. In case any critics hadn't noticed, this is not PRIDE.
He handled huge pressure and expectation in his own country very well indeed.
Gustafsson is on a steady rise to a title shot, and this was a step up. He had moments of vulnerability, but when he moves - like a giant Dominick Cruz - he is a difficult target and can use his own long tools with aplomb. Dana White says "a top 5 guy next". Fine. But the likes of Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans et al, could be a challenge. I'd like to see him fight Rampage Jackson next. Or if they really want to test him, Shogun Rua.
Thiago is still a 'live' main card Top 10 fighter. Loads of miles in him yet.
The first UFC in Sweden was a riveting success, and the crowd added to it with their knowledge of the sport, obvious from the applause. The key to expansion in Scandinavia will be based on two things: success of the fighters from that part of the world, and the UFC's willingness to return with regularity. This was the honeymoon.
Fighters Only Website Editor
You could forgive the UFC for being a touch nervous as they prepared to stage their first event in Sweden, because Europe has thrown up some surprises for them in the past. Germany was expected to be a huge breakthrough market but proved to be the total opposite, which left the UFC scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong.
All their worries were blown away three hours after putting tickets on sale for Sweden - the event completely sold out. And by the time fight night came around, the UFC was positive that Sweden is up there with the UK as a viable fight market. Not only was the Stockholm arena fantastic venue logistically, the crowd was one of the most knowledgeable of recent times, applauding guard passes and guard retentions as loudly as head kicks.
The main event iced the cake. Alexander Gustafsson, 25, had the crowd in raptures as he executed a carefully-calculated plan to neutralise the fierce brawler Thiago Silva. At that age, with near 16,000 countrymen urging him on, it is not at all easy to hold back from engaging in a toe-to-toe war and throwing caution to the wind. Gustafsson did, and he cruised to a one-sided decision victory which showcase intelligence and maturity.
True, Silva had not fought for one yer, three months and two weeks - he was definitely rusty. But it was clear by the second round that he had no ideas how to handle Gustafsson. At one point Silva heaved a big sigh and plodded forward for the umpteenth time as his tormenter peppered him with shots then wheeled away from his wild counters. The only time he landed anything significant is when Gustafsson made momentary errors and stood in front of him too long.
Silva didn’t attempt any takedowns, which I thought was interesting. He has had severe back problems for a long time and that may be affecting his ability or willingness to try and wrestle opponents down. He also seemed to lack his previous size and ferocity; his next outing will be the key test of where he is up to. I suspect he is finished as contender material and will have to content himself with being a gatekeeper to the top ten.
Associate Editor, Fighters Only and Train Hard, Fight Easy
Alexander Gustafsson is wise to refrain from leaping into the UFC's light heavyweight title picture just yet. His dominating performance against Thiago Silva in the main event of UFC on Fuel 2, cheered on in the Swedish capital by 16,000 compatriots, indicated the hype was worthy while nodding toward his need to improve.
Had his opponent on Saturday possessed as much technique as Silva had power, Gustafsson's often unconventional defence could have been penetrated and his winning streak abruptly snapped. His poise, on the other hand, was remarkable. Anyone would tip their cap to a 25-year-old perfectly executing such a cerebral game plan in front of screaming Swedes in his first UFC main event, which so happened to be the promotion's debut in his home country.
He certainly has the ability and the physical gifts, but he needs to refine before title shot talk. For Thiago Silva, expect him to follow what looked to be a highly frustrating loss with a highlight-reel finish, ring rust now entirely shed.
Fighters Only Assistant Editor
A few people have recently stated that Alexander Gustaffson is the 'white Jon Jones' due to his recent performances in the UFC. In my opinion, this couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, they have some similarities, as they're both light-heavyweights, are both very talented and they're both young, but that's about it
Gustaffson's performance against Thiago Silva was tremendous and you could see that his time at Alliance MMA has paid dividends, as he's developed his own style of around what is starting to be known as the 'Dominick Cruz style'. Plenty of movement, lots of feints and jumping in and out of range. However, let's not jump to conclusions, as Thiago Silva has been out for 15 months and it showed in the fight.
Don't throw Gustaffson to the lions yet. Let him develop his skills and fight more top five opponents. Shogun Rua, Dan Henderson, Ryan Bader etc. Give the young Swede time to grow into the best fighter he can be.
Photo by Kate Silver (c)