Alexander Gustafsson, 13-1, Could Be Seen As A Potential Nightmare For UFC Champ Jon Jones
By Tom Taylor
Without overlooking the dangerous test that is Thiago Silva, Alexander Gustafsson could be seen as a potential nightmare for UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Boasting an impressive record of 13-1, Gustafsson is making a serious statement in the 205-pound division. Most recently the 25-year-old Swede blasted Matt Hammill and Vladimir Matyushenko, securing vicious knockouts against both.
The lone loss on his resume was dealt by NCAA standout Phil Davis. Where others might flee their victor, Gustafsson took a different path, joining Phil Davis at his gym, Alliance MMA, to learn what he could from the man who handed him his first loss.
Alliance MMA is home to another notable fighter—Joey Beltran. Having spent more time with Gustafsson than most, Beltran gave Full Contact Fighter an honest assessment of his young teammate’s standing.
“I’ve never seen anybody walk into Alliance MMA and just clean house on all of us,” Beltran said. “We’re like, ‘Who the hell is this kid?’ He was like 23 at the time – this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed little baby from Sweden who comes in and just smashes.”
Beltran has helped Gustafsson prepare for his most recent fights, and will do the same as he prepares for his next fight against Thiago Silva.
“I spent his last two training camps doing my best Matt Hammill impression and then trying to be Vladimir [Matyushenko]. It definitely wasn’t fun. My face felt pretty bruised up afterwards, but it was definitely great training.”
Gustafsson has become famous for his striking, blending precise counter-punching with fight-ending power, Beltran explained.
“He has that ace up his sleeve. He has that dynamic one punch knockout power,” Beltran said. “He’s getting deadlier and deadlier with those hands.”
Striking is Gustafsson’s bread and butter, but Beltran says the Swede’s most impressive trait is his diligence and dedication to training.
“When it comes to training, he’s definitely all business. He’s one of the hardest workers in the gym, and you’re talking about a gym that has a world champion. He’s always willing to learn and willing to listen. If you just look at his performances you can see that he’s constantly improving.”
Beltran’s praise for Gustafsson’s striking and work ethic is ample, but he is realistic in his criticism as well, pointing to the ground game as the obvious hole in Gustafsson’s arsenal.
Gustafsson’s grappling is far from poor, simply a few steps behind his striking, Beltran said. Therefore he believes if Thiago Silva wants to win, taking Gustaffson to the ground may be the safest course of action.
“I think if he [Silva] is intelligent, he’ll try to get the fight to the ground, because as great as Alex is on his feet, it’s no secret that his ground game is still a few steps behind. But you know he’s working hard every day to improve that.”
Yet against Silva, Gustafsson will face a fearsome striker with big power and an attitude to match. Like Gustafsson, Silva has become renowned for his violent finishes and is not known as a ground fighter. Silva is coming off a long layoff after being suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs, and he’ll be looking to make a statement upon his return. Given this, Beltran expects a quick finish by Gustafsson to be the end result.
“I’m predicting a knockout in the first round. If Thiago is aggressive, it’s only going to play into Alex’s game.”
Beltran expects Gustafsson to improve even further, perhaps to the point of being a legitimate challenge to the current and dominant champion, Jon Jones. He also believes that the young Swede could tangle with and win against of the likes Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans.
“As long as Alex keeps his nose to the grindstone and keeps trying to get better every day, which he is right now, he can beat any of those guys.”
Is Alexander Gustafsson the real deal? Only time will tell, but for Joey Beltran, the answer is simple.
“Not only do I think he’s the real deal, I actually think he doesn’t get enough hype. After this fight we’re really going to see him take off. He’s the real deal.”