Fighter Profile: Alexander Gustafsson – The Show Is Over

Global Look Press / Simon Hastega
It seems Alexander Gustafsson has reached the end of his MMA story.

Stockholm son Alexander Gustafsson called time on his Octagon career in shocking fashion last night, bowing out to his hometown crowd as one of the best fighters to never reach the summit of UFC gold. A shattering fourth-round submission defeat to Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith spelled a second successive defeat for the 32-year-old, who in my opinion, has elected to prematurely hang up his gloves. The talented boxer has failed to claim the light heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, narrowly to Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones in two undisputed title tilts. Last night’s loss after his rematch defeat to Jones at UFC 232, looks to almost act as a misery compiler for the 18-6 Swede. Gustafsson’s ten-year stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship offered exciting fights aplenty, below, I offer a career retrospective on ‘The Mauler’.

Early Adversity

Stoppage after stoppage wins early in his mixed-martial arts career garnered some real interest from the Ultimate Fighting Championship before the turn of the decade. An undefeated 8-0 professional record followed Gustafsson to his UFC debut at UFC 105 in Manchester, England. Fellow debutant Jared Hamman served as Gustafsson’s premier opponent, with Alexander dispatching the more experienced knockout artist via strikes in the opening minute. Future teammate and Bellator 205 pound best Phil ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Davis awaited the Sweden native next, providing his first competitive MMA defeat. The vastly more dominant wrestler and overall grappler secured the takedown and eventual finish, late in the opening round via an anaconda choke. ‘The Mauler{s}’ head of steam had taken a hit inside the first round of just his second walk.

Premier Title Run

Displaying some phenomenal grappling of his own in his very next UFC appearance, Gustafsson overcame French kickboxing ace Cyrille Diabaté, scoring the first submission victory of his still naive professional career. Arboga born Gustafsson had made good on his return, again building up a considerable following after his win over the popular Diabaté. New Zealander James Te Huna was also submitted by Gustafsson, again via rear-naked choke as the smooth striker made a b-line for the light heavyweight throne. Four quickfire victories followed for Alexander Gustafsson, stopping both Vladimir Matyushenko and Matt Hamill, before picking up two decision wins over Thiago Silva and former champion and PRIDE FC legend Maurício ‘Shogun’ Rua.

A date with Jon Jones was set for UFC 165, with the youngest ever champion tying the record for title defenses with a stoppage triumph over Chael Sonnen before the clash. Voted as the 2013 Fight Of The Year by various MMA outlets, Gustafsson to this day has come arguably the closest opponent to ever defeat Rochester native Jones. A five-round unanimous decision win was handed to Jones, who was tested to a great extent for the first time in his so far unmatched career.

Cormier Challenge

It was once more time for Alexander Gustafsson to go back to the drawing board and regroup, this time paired against the heavy hitting but often inconsistent, Jimi ‘Posterboy’ Manuwa. After some eye-catching back and forths, a beautiful knee in the clinch staggered Manuwa in the second round, dropping the striker before ground and pound from ‘The Mauler’ spelled an end to the night for Manuwa. Dispatching the dangerous Jimi Manuwa was an incredible feat for Gustafsson, but a homecoming clash with perrenial contender Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson in his native Sweden proved a bridge too far for the title chaser.

A contentious headbutt stunned Gustafsson after a cagey opening round before Johnson swarmed and after some carefully selected strikes from the back, ‘Rumble’ broke the guard and finished Gustafsson in front of the Tele2 Arena to draw complete silence. ‘Rumble’ had earned a crack at light heavyweight best Jon Jones later that year. Jones’ antics outside of the Octagon including a hit-and-run incident with a pregnant woman, led to the Jackson-Wink MMA product being stripped of the title. Johnson met wrestling best Daniel Cormier for the vacant title, and despite rocking Cormier with an overhand in the opening exchanges, the American Kickboxing Academy mainstay rallied to secure a third-round rear-naked choke win.

After an initially unsuccessful scheduled showdown for UFC 191, Cormier vs. Gustafsson was booked for UFC 195 in Houston, Texas. Similarly to his clash with Jones, Gustafsson pushed Cormier to his absolute limits over the twenty-five-minute contest. Each judge handed three different scorecards to Bruce Buffer in a razor-thin split decision. 47-48 Gustafsson, 48-47 Cormier, and 49-46 Cormier. Alexander had once more fallen short at the final hurdle in his attempt to finally claim the title.

One Last Push

KSW champion Jan Blachowicz co-headlined UFC Fight Night Hamburg against Alexander Gustafsson, with both men poised to push for a title challenge with a victory. Gustafsson reverted to his early career tactic of grappling, landing eight of ten attempted takedowns, after some interesting exchanges with the Pole, claiming a unanimous decision to end a two-fight skid. Former title chaser Glover Teixeira presented the final obstacle for Gustafsson, ahead of a potential rematch with Jon Jones. A career highlight knockout win for ‘The Mauler’ awaited against the Brazilian. A trifecta of uppercuts in the final round dropped the wily Teixeira. Gustafsson had rightfully earned a second bout with Jones, this time with the belief he had made some serious inroads to finally prove to everyone, and himself, that he was capable of claiming Octagon gold.

The soldout Forum in California was the venue for a somewhat ‘grudge’ match between Jones and Gustafsson, this time with the vacant 205 pound crown up for spoils. Despite holding the underdog moniker ahead of the meeting, Gustafsson’s considerable success in the premier match offered some serious cause for concern for Jones. A much more patient and distance controlling approach from ‘Bones’ proved the difference in the opening rounds, also making use of leg kicks to hamper any forward momentum from the Swede. The now severely light footed Gustafsson was taken down early in the third round before Jones secured back mount and finished with really damaging ground and pound. Gustafsson’s third title tilt had incredibly, proved unfruitful. It seems three major frustrating clashes for the biggest prize in competitive mixed-martial arts has proved too much for Gustafsson to overcome, with last night’s loss to Anthony Smith forcing the talented striker to evaluate his career.