Alexander Gustafsson has established himself as the second-best fighter in the light heavyweight division and will be treated as such following a win over Jimi Manuwa.
Following a close decision loss to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, an immediate rematch between Gustafsson and the 205-pound titleholder was being considered. However, that fell through and the Swedish fighter was forced to earn another title shot by beating Manuwa, a rising contender with dangerous striking.
On Saturday, Gustafsson breezed through the Englishman, dominating Manuwa on the ground and when standing en route to a knockout victory. Now that Gustafsson has returned to the win column, here are three matchups that could be on the horizon for him.
The first meeting between Jones and Gustafsson produced one of the best fights in MMA history.
A rematch between the top two light heavyweights was the best 205-pound matchup the UFC could have put together since that bout happened. Many felt the UFC made a mistake in not booking an immediate rematch between Jones and Gustafsson.
Nonetheless, we are now one fight away from seeing the towering light heavyweights go at it again. If Jones beats Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, he'll have to defend his belt against Gustafsson again. Ignoring the possibility the champion could lose to Teixeira, Gustafsson used his post-fight interview at UFC Fight Night 37 to call out Jones.
While Jones is heavily favored, Glover Teixeira does have a chance to spoil the rematch between the 205-pound champion and Gustafsson.
One of the heaviest hitters in the light heavyweight division, Teixeira is undefeated since joining the UFC roster. It is also worth noting Gustafsson was a significant underdog prior to giving Jones the toughest test of his MMA career.
If Teixeira is also able to surprise Jones and come away with a win, the Brazilian's first title defense would likely come against Gustafsson.
While it seems a certainty Gustafsson's next fight will be for the light heavyweight championship, a few scenarios could arise where the Swede would have to step into the Octagon again before getting another shot at UFC gold.
Should an injury keep the winner of the fight between Jones and Teixeira out for an extended period, it might not make sense for Gustafsson to sit and wait on the champion. There's also the possibility Jones could be granted an immediate rematch should he lose to Teixeira in controversial fashion.
If either of those things happens, Gustafsson would likely find himself in a title shot eliminator with Daniel Cormier. Although "DC" has only beaten Patrick Cummins since moving to 205 pounds, he was an elite heavyweight and is becoming one of Jones' top rivals outside the Octagon. He also appears confident that he too could have defeated Manuwa on Saturday.
Those things make him an intriguing potential title challenger and worthy opponent for Gustafsson.