Well, that was both beautiful and hard to watch wasnt it. Alexander Gustafsson solidified his position as the third best light heavyweight in the world with an absolutely dominant performance over the tough Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 109. It was bloody, it was brutal, and it was a true masterclass in striking. Watching the battle unfold before my eyes, I caught glimpses of pure brilliance from Alexander Gustafsson who lived up to his moniker as The Mauler as he showed off is fast hands en route to a knockout victory. There was boxing and kickboxing on full display with some shades of karate mixed in. But not everyone was a fan of Gustasfssons style.
Several different times the Swedish warrior would dodge heavy leather, duck out to the side, then sprint around the octagon and back to the center of the cage. Many people, including middleweight champion Michael Bisping and lightweight legend Gilbert Melendez, were outraged with Gustasfssons willingness to turn tail and run.
Its totally understandable how this could be frowned upon, particularly when you consider that Gustafsson could have turned his sprinting into legitimate counter opportunities.
But you know what, I didnt mind the tactic one bit and heres why.
Alexander Gustafsson has been in a few wars already in the cage. Taking punishment shouldnt be par for the course of being a warrior. Yes, perhaps he could have weaved, pivoted out and landed the same beautiful fight ending combination he showed off in the fifth round. But maybe he could have pivoted out and come face to face with a Teixeira left hook and see his title hopes vanish in an instant. The art of fighting isnt about how much damage you can take and throw back (though that is a great Rocky quote). Nope. Its about dishing out the punishment and avoiding punishment at all costs.
To some of you, simply saying that may sound like a cop out, but lets really consider this for a moment. Ive been punched in the face enough times to realize that staying in the pocket and brawling isnt my cup of tea. No one goes into a fight just for the hell of it. You go in to win it and that means not getting your head knocked loose from your body. Alexander Gustafsson took the path of least resistance and at the end of the day secured a big win.
As for the actual fight itself, Alexander Gustafsson showed much improvement in his striking game. Not only did he land his jab on numerous occasion, he also seems to have become proficient in setting up elbow strikes as well.
Gustafsson also showed off a few karate based attacks with a spinning back kick, a blitz, and even fighting from both orthodox and southpaw stances.
By the end of the fight, Glover Teixeira had no clue what his opponent would do next, yet he valiantly hung in there. But despite his heart, we saw no real versatility from Teixeira. Barely any kicks, not enough feints, and a willingness to throw all his punches to the head rather than varying the levels of his attacks.
When all was said and done, it was Gustafssons uppercuts that won the day as he finished with a flurry. The work he was doing with his lead hand throughout the bout made it easy for him to gauge the range for his uppercuts of death followed by the overhand right of doom that closed the show.
While the haters and uninitiated will talk crap about Gustafsson and even this very article, The Mauler will be collecting checks and readying himself for another crack at the UFC light heavyweight belt. Lets just appreciate the fact that Alexander Gustafsson figured out a way to beat the opposition without taking punishment in return and adding to his highlight reel. But though he may have had success getting away with the sprinting in this fight, it may not work against a man like Jon Jones you isnt shy about throwing kicks.
Is Alexander Gustafsson the best striker at light heavyweight?