At UFC on Fox 5 Saturday night, light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson controlled legend and former Pride and UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua en route to a unanimous decision victory.
As in previous fights, Rua tired over the course of the fight, growing sloppier in the later rounds and more susceptible to takedowns. Gustafsson was only too happy to take full advantage.
Rua is undoubtedly the biggest scalp Gustafsson has taken in his young career. The 25-year-old from Stockholm is now 15-1 as a professional fighter and 7-1 in the UFC.
But it might be about to get even more interesting for Gustafsson. On Thursday, UFC president Dana White said the winner of this fight will get next crack at champ Jon Jones.
Because of the title-shot line of succession, things sometimes have a way of being, uh, not so linear; the question came up at the UFC on Fox 5 post-fight news conference. When asked if he felt he'd earned the title shot, Gustafsson simply answered "absolutely."
Though White did not attend the presser, UFC PR rep Dave Sholler did note that White was "going to go back and chat with (matchmaker) Joe Silva" about the next title shot. In an interview on Fuel TV with journalist Ariel Helwani, White indicated he'd like to see Gustafsson fight again.
"Anytime you beat a guy like Shogun, it means something," White said. "Shogun is a warhorse, man. Alexander didn't finish him, but he busted him up bad...if I was him, I'd want to get another fight in."
White also added that Gustafsson may need to replace Dan Henderson against Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 in February if Henderson's problematic knee continues to be problematic.
"Henderson, I keep hearing his knee isn't better right now, so maybe (Gustafsson) gets a shot at Machida," White said.
For the moment, Jones has his hands full coaching against Chael Sonnen on The Ultimate Fighter. The two will then fight for Jones' belt in April. Gustafsson would appear to have the inside track for the title fight after that.
If Henderson and Machida do fight and a spectacular finish ensues, maybe that winner could vault over Gustafsson. You know how White himself loves the finish. But right now, at this minute, I'd have to guess Gustafsson waits patiently for—and gets—his shot for the strap.