Though he is the owner of a nearly spotless record, a first-round submission loss to Phil Davis may have been the best thing that has ever happened to 24-year-old Alexander Gustafsson in his MMA career.
After suffering the first and only defeat he has had in the sport against Davis, Gustafsson recognized that he would need to make some changes in order to compete at the highest level of the 205 lb. division. So, what did he do?
The Swede packed his bags and took off for Chula Vista, CA, where he immediately began training with Davis at Alliance MMA. Home to other world-class fighters like Dominick Cruz, Alliance MMA helped Gustafsson begin to reach his full potential.
Since making the move, Gustafsson has finished all three of his opponents before the start of the third round. In his most recent appearance, Gustafsson became a borderline contender by sending Matt Hamill into retirement with a second-round knockout.
Gustafsson is a natural striker, picking up eight of his 12 career wins by knockout, but working with Davis has helped the Stockholm native take his ground game to elite levels as well.
When he meets high-caliber wrestler Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 141, all that work at Alliance MMA will certainly be important.
With his only loss in his past six fights coming against UFC champion Jon Jones, 40-year-old Matyushenko is looking to make one final run at glory. Unlike the up-and-coming Gustafsson, Matyushenko has already taken on some of the best fighters MMA has ever seen throughout his 31-fight career that has spanned the globe.
Matyushenko has a clear advantage when it comes to experience, but will that be enough to overcome the youthful athleticism of Gustafsson?
Unfortunately for Matyushenko, the answer to that question may be a resounding no. While he hasn't found himself on the losing side of many recent fights, Matyushenko has also not been beating opponents at Gustafsson's level of ability.
A majority of the opponents Matyushenko has been beating have been lower-tier UFC light heavyweights. The others, like collegiate wrestler Jason Brilz, were taken out of their element, which won't be the case for Matyushenko against the well-rounded Gustafsson.
Not since a win over Pedro Rizzo in 2003 has Matyushenko defeated a fighter as complete in all aspects of the sport as Gustafsson.
Look for Gustafsson to use his reach advantage to stay on the outside and avoid getting into a grappling match with Matyushenko. When Matyushenko is able to clinch, Gustafsson's work with Davis should pay dividends and allow the Swede to escape bottom positions without taking too much damage.
Matyushenko has a solid chin, but the accumulation of punches he will eat from Gustafsson will lead to a third-round technical knockout loss for "The Janitor." With a win over Matyushenko, Gustafsson will prove his big victory over Hamill was no fluke and that he is ready to take on the best in the division.
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