UFC commentators Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian were pushing Alexander Gustafsson hard as a legitimate title challenger during and after his decision win over Thiago Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 2. Gustafsson, currently ranked as the #9 Light Heavyweight in the world according to the USA TODAY/MMA Nation Consensus Rankings handily beat the #15 ranked Silva.
There’s a not-too-awful case to be made that he deserves a title shot. First off, he’s riding a 5-fight-win-streak in the UFC. That’s a very impressive feat. More impressively 4-out-of-5 of those wins were by submission or KO/TKO. So he’s ready for Jon Jones right?
Gustafsson has beaten exactly two top 20 fighters: Silva and Vladimir Matyushenko who was ranked #18 when they fought. His other UFC wins came against Matt Hamill (now retired), Cyrille Diabate, Jared Hamman (now at middleweight) and James Te-Huna who may be a future top 20 fighter, but he certainly wasn’t one when he fought Gustafsson.
And let’s look at the two best fighters Gustafsson has beaten: Thiago Silva coming off a lay-off of more than a year and a 40-year-old Matyushenko.
His lone UFC loss to Phil Davis at UFC 112 is a good preview of what we might expect from Gustafsson in a title shot. Gustafsson had no answer for Davis’ wrestling or his BJJ. He’ll have no more for Jon Jones or Rashad Evans or Dan Henderson than he had for Davis.
There’s also the question of his promotional profile. Fighting on Fuel TV in the early afternoon U.S. time is not exactly a promotional bonanza. Maybe a couple hundred thousand fans will catch the fight. That’s not going to sell a lot of PPVs.
The one upside to a Gustafsson title shot would be to return to Sweden for the show. If the second UFC in Sweden features a Swede fighting for a belt that would be the rare 2nd appearance in a country that sells more tickets than the debut.
I’m not saying Gustafsson isn’t extremely tough, extremely talented and at just 25 still improving rapidly. But I am saying I don’t see him doing much more inside the Octagon in a title fight than taking a beating.