The Hype Train: Why UFC Star Alexander Gustafsson Still Has Something to Prove
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It's easy to get caught up in a UFC star. Because we only get to consume the sport in bunches, each event seems to take on undue importance. You can see it clearly every time Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre fight.
Isn't it funny how people only seem to realize they are among the top fighters in the world in the days after they compete? After a Silva fight, he's the best fighter in the world. When St-Pierre has finished laying on someone, he gets all the praise. Regard in MMA is certainly event driven.
That's part of the reason I'm cautious about stepping fully on board the Alexander Gustafsson hype train. Yes, the Swede had a great win over Thiago Silva in front of his countrymen, moving fluidly and dispatching a legitimate veteran fighter. But the questions that have hung over Gustafsson's head for years still remain.
Where are you on a Gustafsson title shot?
Silva is undoubtedly a real fighter, a human buzz saw with a mean streak we saw in full effect against Brandon Vera. But after a year on the shelf with a back injury (and suspension), he looked like he was moving in quicksand.
Besides, a win over Silva only confirms what we already knew about Gustafsson: he has long limbs, good movement and powerful strikes. As the ladies say in Game of Thrones, "It is known." The lingering doubts about Gustafsson have nothing to do with his striking.
Two years ago, he was manhandled by Phil Davis, another promising prospect at light heavyweight. Have you seen anything to convince you that wouldn't happen again? He beat two wrestlers in the days since, but that success is a little misleading. Vladimir Matsyushenko is 41 years old. Matt Hamill decided to retire immediately after his bout with Gustafsson. You'll excuse me if neither win fills me to the brim with confidence.
Gustafsson may indeed be the next big thing at light heavyweight, but he hasn't proven it yet. Put him in against a top wrestler like Ryan Bader.
If the "Mauler" walks out of that fight with his hand raised, then we can talk title shots. Before that? It's all Sturm und Drang.
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