Following his fourth straight impressive stoppage victory with this one coming against MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko, fast-rising light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson is starting to catch some serious title attention.
After crushing Matyushenko much like another former prospect, some are wondering if Gustafsson possesses the skills to handle the title-holder: current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
For all the amazing skills that Jones has, in his last fight against former UFC champion Lyoto Machida showed there are some flaws and weaknesses to his game, no matter show small. With a record of 13-1 including 5-1 in the UFC, at the tender age of 24 Alex Gustafsson has the skills to challenge Jones and take the UFC belt from him.
One of Jon Jones biggest weapons has been his skills and use of the clinch to control his opponents and dictate where the fight goes. However if Jones was to get Alexander Gustafsson into the clinch he would not have the advantage he usually possesses.
Gustafsson has been unafraid to fight and proved that by taking the fight to Vladimir Matyushenko, even in the clinch. With Matyushenko being one of the powerful wrestlers in the 205 division, there was a fear he could overpower Gustafsson when they got close to each other. However, the young Swed proved that he could get into the clinch with a strong fighter and not be taken down, something that would be tested even more against UFC champ Jones.
Following a tough submission loss to former Division I National Champion Phil Davis at UFC 112, Gustafsson sought out the help of Davis and has since joined Camp Alliance in San Diego. Training with Davis as well as fellow UFC fighters Brandon Vera and Joey Beltran has improved his skills and takedown defense tremendously.
Against Jon Jones, one of the most skilled takedown artists in all of MMA, the 24-year-old Gustafsson will need to keep the fight standing to increase his chances at victory. People forget two big things about the potential grappling matchup between Jones and Gustafsson.
First, Gustafsson isn't a complete novice as he defended well and even attacked Davis when they fought, succumbing to Davis because the former NCAA Champ had more tools in his tool belt. Second, and most importantly, Jones had trouble with taking down Machida, only getting him down with a knockdown from strikes.
Why was Machida so successful? Because of the next reason...
One of Alexander's greatest skills is his footwork, making him so very elusive and tough to get hands-on. Some would point to Gustafsson's kickboxing experience while other say it's because he started training with the king of movement and elusiveness; UFC bantamweight champion Dominic Cruz.
Whatever the reason, Gustafsson has the skills to not only keep distance from Jones much like Machida did but also attack from range and hurt Jones much like "The Dragon" did.
Besides footwork and head movement, Gustafsson has something that Machida doesn't possess and that is reason number four...
Gustafsson has shown in his seven first-round knockout victories that he has the speed and skill to strike with anyone. With Jon Jones it is less about speed in his stand-up and more about his reach and unique style when he comes at you. The champion has never faced a striker with the speed and skill of the young Swed, making their possible matchup a true striking test.
The speed of Gustafsson's hands can hep lead the way to controlling a fight with Jones as his quick and precise jab is perfect to keep opponent's at bay and still be scoring points in the eyes of judges. His great speedy footwork will also work to keep distance and allow the better striker to inflict damage and win rounds. With all that speed though, Alexander's seven first round knockout finishes proves that with his hand speed comes the next reason...
In his current run in the UFC, Jon Jones has only fought one truly dangerous and powerful striker, all be in on who was past his prime and who's reach was at a huge disadvantage to the champ: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. If Jones was to fight Gustafsson he would fight someone with not only great striking skills but also the power to end the fight quickly.
Gustafsson showed in all of his UFC victories that he has the power to knockdown and out anyone that stands with him. His power will most certainly test Jones, who can be credited with taking some great shots from Machida even if Lyoto's punching power is questionable at times.
If Jones and Gustafsson were to stand and trade with each other it could be an explosive ending with Alexander showing more often that he has the skills to end fights. While they're striking my next reason would become even more evident...
Standing six feet, five inches tall, Alexander Gustafsson would not only be the tallest opponent UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has faced, he would be taller than Jones.
One of Jones biggest advantages, literally and figuratively, has always been his size as a way to not only intimidate his opponents but also control the fight. However in this potential matchup Jones would only possess the reach advantage while having to look up to his opponent.
With both fighters using their size to their advantage, this would be the first matchup for Jones where his size is not an advantage. For Gustafsson he has the skills to help get over the reach advantage thanks to my number one reason...
As one of the premiere kick-boxer in the division, Alexander Gustafsson has the skills to take the holes in the UFC Champion's game and blow them up. Jones would need to be on the defensive in the stand-up rather than continue to attack like he normally does.
Gustafsson's kickboxing has the ability to do great damage to Jon Jones normal gameplan by using leg kicks to slowdown the wrestler's movement and takedown attempts. With his hand speed and overall striking Alexander can hurt Jon and be the aggressive one in the fight. If Jones is pushed back and put on his heels, considered that against Machida he showed some resolve and worry before catching "The Dragon" and using his wrestling to lead him to victory.
In many eyes, Gustafsson has shown that with his great improvements that he has the skills to be Jon Jones greatest challenge, even greater than Rashad Evans