By Gareth A Davies
UFC lightweight Ross Pearson believes Team Alliance training partner Alex Gustafsson could overwhelm Brazilian Shogun Rua next weekend in Seattle and become the next challenger to UFC light-heavyweight champion and wunderkind Jon Jones.
British UFC stand-out Ross Pearson revealed yesterday that Team Alliance training partner Alex Gustafsson has â€œsome tricks up his sleeveâ€ for his light-heavyweight showdown against Shogun Rua in Seattle next week and â€œcould finishâ€ the legendary Brazilian MMA fighter if he sticks to the strategy devised in camp.
Pearson, in San Diego preparing for his Dec 14 TUF Smashes finale against the Australia coach George Sotiropoulus, in a fight the Sunderland mixed martial artist insisted he â€œwill be fuelled by anger in all the right waysâ€ after developing a personal dislike for his rival coach on the televised series, views Gustafsson as the next contender to UFC champion Jon Jones.
â€œIâ€™ve been around Alex for the last four weeks of his training camp at Alliance in San Diego, and heâ€™s peaking right now. Heâ€™s looking great in the gym, and everything is on point: his boxing, his timing, his wrestling, everything is looking really good, as is his jujitsu,â€ Pearson said yesterday.
â€œHeâ€™s been working with my BJJ coach, Jimmy Harbison, and Alex has been upping his game on the ground. Heâ€™s ready to go in there and fight and take it to the next level.â€
Pearson believes a victory over Shogun would propel Gustafsson into a match with the seemingly peerless UFC light-heavyweight champion Jones.
â€œThis fight with Shogun will be a very tough fight for Alex. Shogun is a warrior, heâ€™s a legend in the sport, heâ€™s been in there with the best guys in the world, so heâ€™s not going to show Alex any great respect. Alex will be seen as the up-and-coming fighter and it is a step up for him.â€
â€œBut I feel that once Shogun feels Alexâ€™s power, and feels Alexâ€™s speed and that range he can use, thatâ€™s when Shogun will gain Alexâ€™s respect, and I reckon Shogun will be the one looking to take this fight to the floor.â€
Gustafssonâ€™s greatest weakness in his career to date has been his ground game, after his only career defeat to Phil Davis at UFC 112 in April, 2010, when he was submitted. Since then, the Swedish fighter has won five contests on the bounce.
Pearson revealed to The Telegraph: â€œBut Alex has got some tricks up his sleeve, a game plan that heâ€™s been working on. I just canâ€™t see Alex losing the fight. If everything goes well and Alex sticks to the game plan, does what he has to do and listens to his coach I think Alex could quite easily finish Shogun.â€
â€œItâ€™s the biggest fight of Alexâ€™s career, his biggest challenge. I definitely feel that after this fight, after he beats Shogun, he should be the next guy to fight John Jones. Iâ€™m sure Jones will beat Chael Sonnen in his next outing, but I think Alex is definitely the next guy in line. Heâ€™s young, heâ€™s hungry, he hits hard, heâ€™s powerful, heâ€™s dangerous, and he brings the fight every time.â€
Gustafsson meets Rua on the main card in Seattle, with the headline event Benson Hendersonâ€™s much-anticipated defence of the UFC lightweight title against Nate Diaz. Veteran former UFC champion BJ Penn also faces exciting Canadian welterweight Rory Macdonald on the main showcase.