Alexander Gustafsson returned after an 8 month layoff to dismantle #2 Light Heavyweight Glover Teixeira to move his way up the 205 lb ladder now that Rumble Johnson is retired.
The title picture looks similar with only a handful of fighters involved, but potential rematches are always exciting especially when bad blood and disputed victories are in play. The Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier saga is likely to end at UFC 214 in late July if Jones is victorious, which opens the door for a rematch of the exciting Jones-Gustafsson battle that took place in 2013 at UFC 165. Although Dana White stated Jimi Manuwa would be the stand in should either Jones or Cormier be unable to compete in their rematch, the spotlight is now on Gustafsson and what’s next for him. Gustafsson took little time in taking shots at Jones at the post fight presser.
“He is the biggest enemy, I don’t like him… As a person, as a champion, he’s not a champion in my eyes. He’s not a good person in my eyes. That’s why I always tell the guys I hope DC wins because I like the guy, he’s a worthy champion.”
Nearly 4 years ago we witnessed a brutal unexpected back and forth brawl between both men in something out of a Rocky movie as the underdog Swede fell short at the end. A rematch was expected but a knee injury to Gustafsson opened the door for DC to step in and the rest is history.
Gustafsson had the opportunity following Jones’ title defense against DC at UFC 182 in 2015, but he was quickly knocked out against Anthony Johnson a few weeks later. The devastating loss occurred in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden and led to a nine month sabbatical that included comments on considering retirement following the defeat.
The light heavyweight division moved on and following Jones being stripped of his title due to the infamous hit-and-run incident, Johnson and Cormier battled for the title, which ended with DC submitting Johnson in round 2. That’s when the UFC were placed in a difficult position of whether to book DC’s first defense against Ryan Bader who came off a split decision win over Phil Davis or Rashad Evans who hadn’t fought since defeating Chael Sonnen back in 2013. Instead, the title shot went to Gustafsson who was coming off a loss as well as the previously mentioned 9 month layoff.
Despite the somewhat unpopular decision in booking and the idea of Gustafsson being outmatched, the fight delivered at UFC 192 as Gustafsson dropped DC in the third round of their affair, but in the end he didn’t do enough in the judge’s eyes.
Gus finds himself in a comfortable position as he can sit back and wait for the outcome of UFC 214 and despite being 0-3 against Jones, Johnson and Cormier, he has new life and has the championship rounds under his belt. What he can do differently against either Jones or Cormier has yet to be seen, but he did allude to fixing one particular area I think it’s fair to say he needed to work on.
“It’s all about the last rounds. I’ve been so close to winning the fights. I lose a little bit in the end. We changed our camps. Our conditioning is on another level today. I’m not going to lose on the finish line again, it’s not going to happen. Today I could go ten rounds. I could go ten rounds next time I fight DC or Jones.”
The division is starting to generate interest via familiar faces, but with hints of DC retiring soon, we might get some new blood in the division courtesy of middleweights such as Luke Rockhold or Chris Weidman who both hinted at moving up to 205. Maybe someone like Jacare Souza could make the jump if he gets tired of the weight cut.