Almost out of nowhere, Alexander Gustafsson has become a top 10 light heavyweight.
Many thought that streak would end when he was booked against Vladimir Matyushenko. The veteran's grinding wrestling acumen was thought to be a great style match-up against the young Swede's crisp stand-up. The experience "The Janitor" had under his belt was another talking point as some felt it might have been enough to give Gustafsson fits because surely, anything the youngster could throw at "Vladdy," the veteran has seen before.
This Saturday (April 14), "The Mauler" takes on Thiago Silva, a fighter more in line with his own skill set and experience range. The Brazilian is known to stand and bang with his opponent and only has three more fights than the Swede which is almost nothing compared to the near 20 "The Janitor" had on the Swede going into their UFC 141 bout.
While those facts may come into play when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rolls into Sweden this weekend for UFC on Fuel TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva," the disparity in facts and figures in Gustafsson's bout with Matyushenko didn't matter one bit.
Before "The Mauler" looks to extend his winning streak to five, we'll take a look at his impressive knockout win over "The Janitor."
Are you ready?
Both men begin their campaign in the center of the Octagon. As Gustafsson begins to employ his superior reach, he quickly takes the center of the cage as Matyushenko is kept at bay by the Swede's long reach. A front kick from the younger of the two men fighters connects with little else but air and the Belarusian answers back with two huge hooks, the second of which nearly causes him to slip when it, too, hits nothing but air.
"The Janitor" regains his footing quickly and Gustafsson begins to circle around the veteran, looking to employ his youthful speed as a means towards victory. "The Mauler" misses with a leg kick but connects on a second attempt which is very nearly countered by Matyushenko. The Swede then begins throwing his jab, keeping his opponent at a very long arm's length.
Matyushenko lunges forward and very nearly gets cracked with an uppercut counter but Gustafsson misses his mark. A second punch from the younger fighter also misses but it's a good sign for his corner and his supporters that he's looking to put together combinations instead of depending on the one-punch knockout. On the other end of the spectrum, "The Janitor" is having an impossible time figuring out the riddle of "The Mauler's" reach.
Gustafsson then looks ready to reel off a high kick as his hips turn but his foot never leaves the mat as his opponent bounces backwards. Seconds later, he does it again but instead slams his leg into Matyushenko's body. The Belarusian, despite being over 40 years old, still has the instincts of a well-travelled veteran and is able to catch the kick and begins to open up with his fists.
He clinches the Swede and delivers a few punches to the body and a few to the head before Gustafsson is able to shrug him off. The younger fighter quickly learns muscle memory slows down much slower than reflexes do.
Another high kick is dodged by "The Janitor" and the follow-up front kick smacks against the veteran's arm. Flat-footed and mostly stationary, Matyushenko is a stark contrast to Gustafsson's constant movement, bouncing on his feet and constantly feinting strikes. A leg kick from the Swede smacks against the veteran and it seems at the moment, we may see more of them.
If it was to be Gustafsson's gameplan, we'll never know since seconds later, the two fighters exchange punches and Matyushenko finds himself crumbling to the mat.
"The Janitor" lunges forward and "The Mauler" needs to do little else than stick his fist in front of his opponent's chin. Matyushenko immediately falls to the canvas and covers up. There's no other choice for the referee than to stop the fight.
Thiago Silva represents Gustafsson's stiffest test since losing to Phil Davis almost exactly two years ago. Has "The Mauler" evolved enough in the past 730 days to get past the light heavyweight contender?
Or will the Swede's homecoming party be ruined by the Brazilian knockout artist?