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.
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.