Rising light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson has drawn comparisons to another 205-pound 24-year old in the UFC based on an explosive style and success against veteran competitors despite his age/experience.
Though Gustafsson has yet to achieve Jones’ championship status or dominance against former title-holders, “The Mauler” is poised to have a breakout year much like “Bones” did over the past twelve months. And, as chance would have it, the young Swede also happens to be facing the very opponent Jones mixed it up with before making his historic run in 2011 – Vladimir Matyushenko.
Gustafsson is well-aware of the challenges Matyushenko poses as a seasoned competitor with wins against respected adversaries as well as in five of his last six fights. However, the 12-1 finisher has been training rigorously for their bout this Friday night at UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem, including some time at Alliance MMA with the only man to have beaten him (Phil Davis).
“I’m a striker — that’s my bread and butter. I keep the fight on my feet and trade, but like everything else — all the other skills — you need to be good at them, and that’s something I need to train,” explained Gustafsson in an interview with the UFC’s website. “I train everything, even my striking, and that’s something you need to have with you all the time. Not just train what you’re good at, but also what you’re bad at — that’s how you get better.”
“I’ve had a lot of improvements. I feel much better in every category,” he continued. “I’m getting better every day, and improving every day. It’s the best coaches in the world, the best fighters in the world, and the best team in the world, so I’m just honored to be a part of the team, have a good time, and train hard.”
Not lost on Gustafsson is also the fact he and Matyushenko were supposed to mix it up earlier this year before an injury forced “The Janitor” to withdraw. Matyushenko was replaced by Matt Hamill who Gustafsson pummeled, then put away in the second round of action.
“Finally I can fight him; it’s been so long now,” said Gustafsson of Matyushenko. “He’s a really tough guy, and I want to fight the best, so I’m really looking forward to the fight. I think it will be a really tough, tough fight.”
Fans can catch Gustafsson-Matyushenko on the PPV portion of UFC 141 when things unfold starting at 10:00 PM EST. The show is headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem doing battle for top contendership in the heavyweight division with other match-ups including Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks and Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC