Article by Dave Coulson
The UFC makes its debut in Sweden next week with the UFC on FUEL 2 card and in the main event, hometown hero Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson is hoping to make his big mark on the UFC light heavyweight division.
Gustafsson takes on the always dangerous Thiago Silva in next Saturday’s main event. The 13-1 Gustafsson will try and win his fifth straight fights and sixth win inside the octagon. He’s facing an opponent in Silva who has not competed in over 15 months due to a suspension from Nevada.
While Gustafsson’s original opponent was to be Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, a win against Silva will do more for his standing in the 205 pound division than it would have if he’d defeated Lil Nog. And with the UFC’s light heavyweight division seemingly evaporating from the scene, the time for Gustafsson to be contending could be sooner than he had expected.
Gustafsson’s rise up the rankings has been at a nice pace. Following his loss to Phil Davis at UFC 112, Gustafsson began taking his training in wrestling up a notch by training alongside Davis at Alliance MMA in California. Gustafsson is undefeated since he began doing some of his training at Alliance and that includes wins over wrestling based fighters such as Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko.
Gustafsson made his UFC pay-per-view debut last December at UFC 141 and immediately impressed those who had not seen him before. Gustafsson dismantled Matyushenko in just over two minutes, immediately cementing himself as a threat to the division.
When taking a look at the current landscape of the light heavyweight division, the options for current champion Jon Jones are thinning quite quickly. Aside from Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, there aren’t many names out there that have earned their right to a title shot. And with fighters like Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz making their way out of the division, Gustafsson’s time to shine may be as early as later this year.
While a win over Silva in front of his friends and family in Sweden would be a great start to the year, a shot at the light heavyweight championship at the end of 2012 would be an even better end to the year.
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