Granted, Jared Hamman is not exactly a world-beater, but the bout marked Gustafsson’s Octagon unveiling. It was also an excellent indication of what was to come with Gustafsson knocking Hamman out in 41 seconds. Unfortunately, Gustafsson followed up the performance with a submission loss to Phil Davis, showing he was also still raw and needed some fine tuning before being unleashed against the upper echelon of the 205-pound division. When Gustafsson submitted Cyrille Diabate fans wondered if it was a fluke based on the Swedish scrapper’s propensity for putting opponents away with strikes prior to the victory. However, he picked up a second tap-out against James Te Huna, sinking in a Rear-Naked Choke in the first frame of their fight. For the first time it was clear there was more to Gustafsson than his stand-up. While Matt Hamill has never been a title-contender, he is no pushover in the ring as indicated by past wins over Tito Ortiz, Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz, and some other tough opponents. He’d gone 5-1 in six bouts before meeting Gustafsson with the loss coming in a closely-contested, though ugly, affair with Quinton Jackson. He would never get the chance to put a similar showing together against Gustafsson, as “The Mauler” punished him from the opening bell to the clash’s conclusion via TKO in the second stanza. In addition to battling a Brazilian with Thiago Silva’s skill-set, Gustafsson’s match-up at UFC on Fuel 2 was his first headliner and the company’s first card in Sweden. The pressure to succeed didn’t stymie Gustafsson in the Octagon, shining throughout the tilt with slick combinations and superior grappling. Simply put, he was never in trouble and ultimately brought home an easy decision nod. Fans who have been following MMA for long enough know Mauricio Rua is a legend in the sport. “Shogun” owns victories over opponents like Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Alistair Overeem with memorable outcomes in each and has been part of some all-out wars as well. Still, Gustafsson handled him with relative ease when the two faced off on FOX. He out-struck the Muay Thai specialist and made it clear he was the superior competitor.
Light heavyweight title-contender
Alexander Gustafsson has spent years studying inside an eight-sided classroom for the test he’s scheduled to take on Saturday night when he faces champion at Jon Jones . The 26-year old Swede has racked up a 15-1 record in his career including success in six straight showdowns and should be fully prepared to try and deliver the first legitimate loss of Jones’ career. Aiding “The Mauler” in his quest to wear divisional gold will no doubt be the experience he has compiled in the cage against a number of tough opponents including a former UFC 165 UFC champion. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images)