September 2, 2016

UFC Fight Night 93: Alexander Gustafsson Is Determined Not To Throw Away His Shot

By Raphael Garcia

The UFC light heavyweight division was once one of the deepest divisions in the sport. As of late, things have changed, as it’s become what some consider a placeholder for Jon Jones’s return, even though Daniel Cormier holds the title and seems to be headed towards a rematch with Anthony Johnson. Alexander Gustafsson, however, sits on the outside of the title picture, looking in. With losses to Jones, Cormier, and Johnson, even if he finds a way to win at UFC Fight Night 93, there remain questions as to what is next for his career. Although a well-timed injury could open up a title opportunity for him, the bigger question is whether or not he deserves to get that shot.

Gustafsson boasts a 16-4 professional record, which includes an 8-4 career in the Octagon. Looking deeper at his list of wins, however, creates a particular question that will not sit well with Gustafsson’s biggest fans: Where are the wins over dominant competitors in the prime of their careers? At this time, his 2012 win Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is the only victory that Gustafsson has over a former UFC champion, and even that win came after many people recognized that Rua wasn’t the same fighter that tore up Japan.

Without that huge, staple win on his ledger, some may turn the conversation to whether or not Alexander Gustafsson is “overrated.” However, this is still the same man that pushed Jon Jones to the brink of defeat at UFC 165, a fight that many of his fans still debate about to this day. His mix of boxing and wrestling abilities on that night really surprised those watching a fight he was expected to get dominated in. Even though Jones spoke about his lack of preparation heading into that fight, Gustafsson was still minutes away from taking his title, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, since that contest he hasn’t looked the same against the best men in the division, even if he still remains near the top of the weight class.

When he steps into the Octagon to face Jan Blachowicz during their co-main event bout, he’ll face a man ranked outside of the Top 15 with a 2-2 UFC record. This certainly isn’t a fight on par with Johnson’s 13-second win over Glover Teixeira at UFC 202. Would a win for Gustafsson keep him on the short list of title challengers? Or should he be expected to dominate in this tune-up fight before facing a more dangerous fighter in the near future?

At 29 years of age, Gustafsson is at a point in his career where he’s reaching his athletic prime and still has the potential to grow in skill. However, before he can be pushed back into the limelight as a title challenger ready to take the belt, he needs to get a defining win over a fighter that’s not considered beneath the upper echelon in the division. That won’t happen this weekend in Hamburg.


UFC Fight Night 93: Arlovski vs. Barnett takes place on September 3, 2016 at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

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