Saturday, April 14, 2012

Could this be the next Jon Jones?


Following his fifth consecutive win in a row and his sixth of seven fights in the octagon, Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson, (pictured @ left), left people asking the question, could this be the next Jon Jones? Standing @ 6'4" and fighting 205 lbs., the similarities to the light-heavyweight champion do not end there; but beyond their very similar fighting styles as well, I think the comparison is a bit overblown.

Jones is the champion of the world, though I'm not sure he'll be that after next weekend; but that's fodder for another day. Meanwhile Gustafsson, who has been quite impressive thus far in his UFC career, is nowhere near the discussion of pound for pound best where Jones easily rests in the top five. Nonetheless, 'The Mauler' Gustafsson, as he is called, handled his business once again Saturday against his toughest opponent to date Thiago Silva (14-3, 11 KO's 2 subs).

Using constant lateral movement and a consistent jab, the Stockholm native used his reach effectively to his advantage, ala the way champ Jones does his, thus the comparison. He busted up Silva with boxing combinations, including stiff uppercuts, and kept his distance en route to a three round unanimous decision. It's his first decision win in his UFC career and first in three and half years.

Up next for Gustaffson, it remains to be seen; especially considering the champ Jones defends his title next weekend against Rashad Evans. One thing's for sure, whether he's on Jones level yet or not, Gustafsson is a legitimate contender in this division and whomever he faces will be in the top tier of the light-heavyweight class.

As for Silva, this was his first fight in 13 months returning after a suspension for illegal substances and time off due to injury. Considering the long layoff, the fact that he was a late replacement in this fight and that it was against a top contender in his home country, Silva did not fight all that bad. If there is such a thing as ring rust, he looked like he had some of it, but he did have some moments throughout. I expect him to come back strong in his next fight.

In the co-main event, 'All-American' Brian Stann (12-4, 9 KO's 1 sub) got back to his winning ways by doing what he does best. He used a patient attack and eventually tattooed (no pun intended) the multi-tattooed Alessio 'Legionarius' Sakara (15-9, 9 KO's 2 subs) via ground and pound in the first round. He rocked Sakara with an elbow and two left handed punches that clearly had the Italian all but out.

Always classy, whether in victory or defeat, Stann saw his opponent was in trouble and pulled back even before the ref was able to step in. After a tough loss in his last outing against number one contender Chael Sonnen, Stann is right back in the mix in the middleweight (185 lbs.) division. As for Sakara, he had contemplated retirement due to multiple injuries and illnesses that restricted him to only four fights in the last four years; maybe this was the signal for him to do just that.

Finally, a major shout out to the country of Sweden, the city of Stockholm and their fans. The UFC's first stop in this country on their international tour was not only a major success, but the fans were great in every way. Classy, knowledgeable, boisterous and most importantly appreciative, the Swedish fans gave a lesson on how we here in the States should receive these fighters whenever they step in the cage to do what they do. If Gustafsson continues his winning ways, I can see the UFC making their way back there real soon.

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