While the UFC hasn't officially put a label on the significance of UFC on FOX 5's co-main event between Alexander Gustafsson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, the outcome of the bout has major implications on the future of the light heavyweight division. Should Gustafsson emerge victorious at the event, he wants his next fight to be a shot at the title.
Swedish phenom Alexander Gustafsson is on the verge of the biggest fight of his life next Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2012) when he takes on former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua in the co-main event at UFC on FOX 5.
With just seven UFC bouts under his belt and sitting at the ripe age of 25, "The Mauler" has already built himself up as one of the best 205-pound fighters on the planet and is even being pegged a future champion by some.
Gustafsson enters his UFC on FOX 5 bout against "Shogun" riding high off five consecutive wins, and should he push the streak to six, would like for his next fight to be for UFC gold.
"I want fight the champ after this fight, that's what I want to do. My focus is on "Shogun" 100 percent, but when I win the fight I will - I want to fight for the belt."
Getting by "Shogun" next weekend will be no easy feat. The Brazilian is by far the most accomplished fighter Gustafsson has been paired against and it will take a career-best performance to take out the 2005 Pride FC Grand Prix champion.
Rua has been in countless wars in his time as a professional with the last two fights against Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera being perhaps the most grueling of his 28-fight career. "Shogun" has shown the ability to absorb tremendous punishment in his fights while continue to move forward.
It's an attribute that Gustafsson sees as his opponents biggest strength:
"What I really need to be looking out for when it comes to "Shogun" is his heart. He is willing to take a beating to get what he wants, so it's a fighter you have to - the more you punch him the better he gets, so it's a tricky opponent. Then he has really good knockout power, good kicks, he has a good double leg, take people down and leg locks, you know, that's his thing. So it's a tricky fighter and the best opponent so far."
Both Gustafsson and Rua like to keep their fights on the feet and finish opponents with strikes. In a combined 35 victories, the two men have won by (technical) knockout a total of 27 times.
Looking at the numbers, it's safe to assume a majority of the scheduled three-round bout will take place on the feet. Gustafsson agrees, and if the bout comes down to who is the better striker, the Stockholm native believes he will have the advantage.
"It will be a stand-up war. Shogun is a very aggressive fighter and he hits very hard, but he doesn't have proper technique. I will be fast, I will be keep my technique, keep my game plan and I will stay on the outside, and I will, you know, take my time."