Uncrowned Kings of MMA is a sequence the place we take you thru eight fighters – each at a special weight class – who by no means achieved a belt in any main promotion. There are a couple of guidelines – they’ll nonetheless be competing however have to be out of the title image. Main promotions are the UFC, Satisfaction, Bellator, Strikeforce, the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions, and RIZIN’s bantamweight division. Interim championships don’t rely until the bearer is later promoted to undisputed champion. As we speak we will likely be trying on the gentle heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson – “The Mauler”.
That is half three of an eight-part sequence. To learn the earlier article, on John Dodson, click on right here.
Types make fights is without doubt one of the most typical sayings in all of fight sports activities. Its longetivity might be attributed primarily to the truth that it’s undeniably true. A fighter who beforehand appeared unbeatable might be made immediately mortal in opposition to an opponent with the proper instruments. And a fighter who appeared unremarkable can reveal hidden skills in opposition to the proper foe. That’s the story of Alexander Gustafsson; the proper man, in the proper place, on the proper time, to check a number of the greatest gentle heavyweights ever.
Definitely, Gustafsson couldn’t have clawed his option to prominence by probability alone. Educated in each boxing and the eclectic artwork of shootfighting, Gustafsson’s lateral motion and distance administration stood out as robust hanging parts. His jab was a relentless pressure and his robust feinting sport solely made it extra harmful.
Nevertheless, Alexander Gustafsson’s potential to be a nifty technician who constructed off of his lead was typically undermined by his opposing tendency to hurry himself and attempt to hit with bare rear hand energy photographs. As well as, his arms had been typically held low, possible to assist his motion based mostly type. However this meant that if he closed the space he was typically very hittable and it left him open for head kicks in any respect ranges.
A gritty combat with an aged Maurício “Shogun” Rua confirmed Gustafsson at his worst. Slightly than combat on the fringe of his jab, as he had finished in opposition to Thiago Silva, Gustafsson stored discovering himself being drawn into Rua’s vary. Gustafsson fought like a person with half his attain and top. As a substitute of making a basis to construct off of, he typically led with proper arms and needed to grind out a call. With a fighter so visibly previous his prime as Rua was connecting so repeatedly with overhand rights, few appeared assured that “The Mauler” would pose a lot menace to an opponent already cementing himself as probably the most dominant of all time.
The 205 pound division might be seen as going by three phases. The primary was the reign of Wanderlei Silva, who managed to go undefeated on the weight in PRIDE for a superb a part of a decade. The second is the free for all within the UFC after the demise of PRIDE, with the belt swapping arms by a sequence of vibrant contenders – Rampage, Griffin, Evans, Machida, Shogun. The third and last, that stretches to at the present time, is the division working below the shadow of Jon “Bones” Jones.
Jones’s fights instantly previous to Alexander Gustafsson had largely been over fighters who had been champions themselves. Certainly, such was his expertise for violence that few gave Gustafsson a lot of an opportunity. Nevertheless, Jones had regularly had the benefit of both age or dimension. Gustafsson would instantly match Jones in each like none earlier than had. However this was no mere query of dimension.
The place Gustafsson had typically gotten himself in hassle with fighters on the best way up by speeding ahead with a rear punch (similar to his weird fixation with a unadorned rear uppercut), Jones’s legendary popularity appeared to metal the Swede’s self-discipline. Even when Gustafsson did advance it was often a gentle marching mixture. Jones appeared uncomfortable boxing within the pocket, by no means one among his skills, and Gustafsson discovered enormous success with the jab and mixing up mixtures to the physique and head. Particularly throwing jabs to the top after which the physique was a technique that always reaped rewards.
Alexander Gustafsson: Lengthy-Vary Menace
Gustafsson’s distance administration was additionally enjoying havoc with Jones’s outdoors sport. Jones had already made the varied kinds of entrance kick to the leg his personal. However all too typically he discovered Gustafsson withdrawing, arms thrown excessive, within the face of this kick, reasonably than pushing by like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had. Both that, or he would take it on a braced leg. Gustafsson would then circle out and return to bringing the jab to lever. When used on an opponent retreating or standing nonetheless the kick, even when it makes contact, is far lowered; historically the power of the indirect kick is in damaging the knee of an advancing opponent.
Even Jones’s wrestling did little to assist him. Not solely did he concede an surprising takedown to Gustafsson – although little got here of it – he struggled to convey the big, highly effective Gustafsson down. This might be a battle fought on the ft.
The primary few rounds had been actually no blowout for the Swede. His chin would discover itself examined by the ordeal. When leg kicks failed Jones went to excessive kicks, which frequently sailed previous Gustafsson’s low arms and located their mark. Although Gustafsson efficiently foiled lots of Jones’s takedowns, he appeared to don’t have any reply for the kicks. However because the combat went into the fourth, it was trying like “The Mauler” had the momentum.
It appeared like Jones was headed for potential catastrophe and his will was being actually examined. He had been in hassle earlier than in opposition to Vitor Belfort. However that had been a momentary occasion of hazard when he was caught in an armbar. Now he was doubtlessly being outright outmatched over the rounds. Together with his again to the wall, Jones dug deep like he by no means had earlier than. What he discovered was a spinning elbow within the last minute of the fourth that narrowly missed Gustafsson.
Now Jones sensed a possibility. When Gustafsson went to the physique jab once more Jones timed him and cracked him with one other spinning elbow. Within the house of some seconds, the state of affairs had gone from a combat to a hunt. Because the Swede reeled again the champion stalked him, dragging him into the clinch and hammering him with knees and elbows.
Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson – the Remaining Spherical
Gustafsson started the fifth spherical a lot the identical because the others, however because the spherical dragged onwards it grew to become clear he was exhausted and the champion overtook him with a vengeance. Now the composure of the ultimate spherical was a race. May Jones end Gustafsson earlier than the ultimate choice? Three rounds had elapsed with shut preventing; neither might be sure of the judges’s verdict. Jones opened up together with his full arsenal as Gustafsson strove to maintain his head above water. Jones would throw 4 large excessive kicks within the last spherical and an enormous flying knee within the last seconds. By the tip Gustafsson was working on fumes, chin, and sheer willpower, however he ate every thing Jones threw at him and went the space.
At the same time as the ultimate bell rang the combat can be hailed as one of many best within the historical past of the sunshine heavyweight division. Finally Jones’s work would win on the scorecards, however the combat might have simply been scored for the challenger. Each had proved a lot about themselves- Gustafsson his potential and abilities, Jones his chin and capability for willpower in a disaster. However Gustafsson’s highway that led again in the direction of the belt would show to be a rocky one.
A brief introduction to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson can go as such: he holds a reliable declare to being the toughest hitting MMA fighter ever beneath heavyweight. Whereas he would undergo a number of incarnations at completely different weightclasses, by far probably the most harmful was at gentle heavyweight. He would go on a tear, racking up 5 first spherical and one second spherical knockouts earlier than he was finished.
The combat with Gustafsson wouldn’t be lengthy. After a couple of preliminary exchanges that included Gustafsson eyepoking his opponent, Rumble would catch one of many Swede’s kicks and clobbered him to the bottom. Gustafsson returned to his ft however as soon as once more discovered himself on the flawed aspect of excessive roundhouse kicks as within the Jones combat. Lastly Rumble would ship him to the bottom with uppercuts and completed him with brutal floor and pound.
Fortunately for Alexander Gustafsson, regardless of his loss he himself can be given a second probability on the belt after Rumble misplaced his personal title shot. However this time, it will not be in opposition to Bones.
The vast majority of fighters on our checklist fought in divisions dominated by an all time nice champion who stored them from the belt. It was Gustafsson’s excessive dangerous luck that he occupied the sunshine heavyweight division throughout the time of not one however two such fighters.
After shedding to Jones in a call, Daniel “DC” Cormier would discover himself with the belt when Jones’s indiscretions outdoors of the cage started catching as much as him. Swiftly, the brand new champion started ensuring there was little doubt to his legitimacy. Cormier’s success was constructed on three important pillars that tended to play into one another: a powerful wrestling menace, distinctive handspeed, and a deadly clinch sport.
The combat didn’t start auspiciously for Gustafsson. As he fended off a number of the champion’s kicks DC took the chance to shut in. Nearly instantly, Cormier caught him in his iconic excessive crotch takedown and threw him to the canvas. Gustafsson spent a lot of the primary spherical on the underside in consequence, however gave the impression to be having extra success within the second. Certainly, Gustafsson typically discovered success together with his personal takedowns, catching Cormier utterly off guard. It appeared he was beginning to flip the combat round.
Nevertheless, Gustafsson discovered himself making the identical mistake he had with Rua. As a substitute of diligently staying on the backfoot and circling off, he allowed himself to combat brief. Because of this, Cormier was in a position to catch him in his murderous clinch, dragging Gustafsson right down to his stage with a single collar tie earlier than blasting him with uppercuts. Caught within the clinch, Gustafsson’s distance administration, jab and footwork had been ineffective.
By the third each time Gustafsson would stand to fireplace off punches Cormier would weave in to enter the clinch and and go for uppercuts. Gustafsson managed to reverse one of many clinches on Cormier and rocked him with knees earlier than dropping him with punches.
When the fourth arrived it appeared Gustafsson had momentum on his aspect as soon as once more. He discovered higher success in protecting out of clinches and imposing the jab. Gustafsson additionally made positive to make use of knees and hooks to work Cormier’s uncovered physique. Cormier’s gradual lumbering footwork meant that when Gustafsson was disciplined in staying away he was profitable. Nevertheless, by the fifth Gustafsson was beginning to change into exhausted and couldn’t preserve that distance. Cormier started to trace him down and drag him into the clinch as soon as extra.
It was a sport effort for the Mauler. However as soon as once more he had fallen brief. Cormier took the choice and Gustafsson returned to cobbling collectively one other title run.
Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson – the Rematch
Gustafsson would get one last shot on the belt. His rematch with Jones, lengthy delayed by Jones being stripped of the belt, taking a layoff after which returning to a rematch with DC lastly got here to bear. Instantly Jones confirmed a scarcity of willingness to let the combat play out the way it had the primary time. There was rather more aggressiveness on the a part of “Bones” to forestall Gustafsson from establishing the jab as successfully as he had within the first combat.
Regularly Gustafsson started uncorking the combinatons that he had been so profitable with initially. However Jones had additionally learnt from the primary combat. Slightly than attempting to indirect kick Gustafsson he hammered away at his legs with more durable to keep away from inside leg kicks.
It was clear that age had regularly taken the sting off of the pace Gustafsson had possessed in his early profession. Nevertheless it was possible this leg injury that lastly rendered Gustafsson weak to Jones’s takedown photographs which he had fought off so diligently within the first combat. As soon as down, Jones steadily moved up and took the Swede’s again, earlier than ending him with savage floor and pound.
That was the tip of the title ambitions of the Mauler. It was additionally the tip of his profession. After a last loss to Anthony Smith by submission, Gustafsson eliminated his gloves. In his personal phrases, the present was over.
Conclusion – Alexander Gustafsson
Frustratingly, a lot of the story of Gustafsson’s profession is unrealised potential. At his greatest, Gustafsson married wonderful boxing method with dimension, pace and good takedown defence. However all too typically he discovered himself abandoning his true benefits and fought inside his vary with bare rear arms. As well as he by no means appeared to develop a correct methodology to take care of excessive roundhouse kicks, which took benefit of his low arms and his emphasis on lateral motion as a defensive possibility.
When Gustafsson was on level, he was in a position to push one Jon Jones to his absolute restrict. However when he wasn’t he gave up rounds he might have received convincingly to a on-paper extra beneficial matchup within the type of Daniel Cormier. An inconsistent fighter in the end is determined by luck to achieve success in a title run. For Alexander Gustafsson, luck was briefly provide.
Nonetheless, this yr, his legendary first combat with Jon Jones will likely be added to the UFC Corridor of Fame, a worthy legacy of what had been. However it’s bitter too, to see it there. To see that what everybody considered on the time was the coming-of-age was in the end the excessive watermark.
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