It has been a banner year for the team at Alliance MMA.
The San Diego-based collective has quickly established itself as one of the premier gyms in mixed martial arts, and it is due in large part to the gym housing two of the top 205-pound fighters on the planet in Alexander Gustafsson and Phil Davis.
Both fighters have made an impressive impact on the light heavyweight divisional landscape in 2012. The 26-year-old Swede put on a career-turning performance against Jon Jones at UFC 165, and despite suffering a loss in the tilt, "The Mauler's" stock skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath.
As for Davis, the former Division I National Champion wrestler from Penn State University has collected victories this year as he defeated former M-1 champion Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159 in April then edged out former 205-pound title holder Lyoto Machida at UFC 163 in August.
Both fighters respective trajectories have them hovering around title contention, and every bout going forward will carry heavy implications.
While neither fighter has anything booked, Coach Eric Del Fierro has potential opponents in mind for both fighters.
The Team Alliance leader told UFC Tonight he would like to see the Swedish striker face either Ryan Bader or Antonio Rogerio Nogueira early next year. With the UFC planning a return to Sweden in 2014, Gustafsson's placement in the main event of the card is all but set in stone, and Del Fierro believes either the former TUF winner or "Lil' Nog" would be suitable opponents.
With Mr. Wonderful making his way up the ladder at 205-pounds, Del Fierro would like to see the UFC match him up with Gegard Mousasi. "The Armenian Assassin" turned his long-awaited UFC debut into a successful showing back in April when he defeated Ilir Latifi at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Sweden. Following the victory, the 28-year-old Mousasi was forced to the sidelines as he recovered from multiple knee surgeries.
Mousasi is projected to return in early 2014, and Del Fierro believes a bout with Davis would make sense for both fighters. That being said, Mousasi had committed to making a drop to middleweight prior to the knee injury, and there is no guarantee he would be interested in another bout at light heavyweight.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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