Article By Riley Kontek
Although the UFC has been on hiatus for a couple weeks now, it returns the 14th of next month with its first show in Sweden. Headlining the card is Swedish superstar Alexander Gustafsson and hard-hitting Brazilian Thiago Silva.
Silva was set to fight later in the year, but agreed to take this fight when Antonio Rogerio Nogueira backed out. Silva has just completed a one-year suspension for a failed drug test and will be chomping at the bit to get back in action.
Let’s look at the head-to-toe breakdown for this great fight.
A very interesting stylistic matchup here, as Alexander Gustafsson is more of a boxer and Thiago Silva is more of a Muay Thai-based striker.
Gustafsson has very technical boxing. He has been training as a boxer before he got into mixed martial arts. Nine of his 13 wins have come via knockout, including UFC knockouts of Vladimir Matyushenko, Matt Hamill and Jared Hamman. Although he is very technical and accurate, he also does have power in his fists.
Silva is more of a power puncher, but don’t be fooled because his punches land. Eleven of his 14 wins have come by knockout, including UFC knockouts of Keith Jardine, Houston Alexander and Tomasz Drwal. He has a natural killer instinct, which allows him to finish the fight when he smells blood.
Neither of these men is a power wrestler, but both have the ability to take the fight to the mat.
Gustafsson has decent takedown defense, but was exposed in his fight against Phil Davis. Since then, Gustafsson has started training with Davis and has sharpened that part of his game. He does not usually go for takedowns, but that doesn’t mean he can’t, especially when he has been working on it with Davis.
Silva has a very aggressive takedown game when he wants to use it, which almost resembles a wrestling background. His fight with Rashad Evans exposed this takedown defense, but Evans can do that to a lot of fighters.
Both men are more than happy to stand and bang with each other.
This one is pretty simple if you ask me. Gustafsson is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Silva is a black belt. You do the math.
Three of Gustafsson’s wins have come via submission, as well as his lone loss. All of his submission wins are by rear-naked chooke, but were usually set up with his hands and dropping his opponent.
Only two of Silva’s wins have come by submission, but that might be because he uses brutal ground- and-pound to win his fights. A testament to his submission skills is his heel-hook victory back in 2006. When he is in top position grappling, he is almost impossible to deal with.
Conditioning may be a huge factor here, and it may not be on the side of the returning Silva.
Although I have never seen an issue with Silva’s cardiovascular shape, he has not competed in the Octagon for more than a year, which may hurt his conditioning. Ring rust can take that toll on people.
Meanwhile, Gustafsson has stayed busy in the last year and has looked in great shape every time. If the fight goes deep, do not be surprised if Gustafsson is the fresher of the two men.
Gustafsson: The key here for Gustafsson is to stick and move. He does not want to get into a brawl with the scrappy Brazilian because that is where he can get hurt. Keep the fight technical, use the reach advantage he will have and score points. An occasional takedown can go a long way in winning rounds for the Swede.
Silva: The key here for Silva is to get the fight to the ground and use his brutal ground strikes to go for a stoppage. He is obviously the better ground fighter, but Silva often times likes to engage in striking battles. Although it rarely fails him, the key with this fight is to get a win to erase the memory of the suspension.