Two powerful light heavyweights entered the Octagon yesterday (April 14, 2012) in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Stockholm, Sweden, but only one was able to leave with his elite status still intact.
Alexander Gustafsson was searching for a career-defining victory on the big stage in front of his native countrymen while Thiago Silva was hoping to redeem himself after an extended break due to a suspension.
Gustafsson had the technique while Silva has the tenacity in what was a highly entertaining three round striking affair.
So what helped put "The Mauler" over the top against Silva in the end? And what's next for both top combatants?
Follow me after the jump for our Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva UFC on Fuel TV 2 post-fight review and analysis:
Early on, the fight played out exactly as many predicted, with Silva lumbering forward looking to land heavy power shots while Gustafsson circled on the outside waiting for an opportune time to strike. He found his opening when Silva overcommitted to a looping right hook and left himself exposed to a beautiful short right uppercut which sent the Brazilian down.
Gustafsson was not able to capitalize on Silva's position, however, although he did unleash a very nice flurry of strikes along the fence once the heavy-hitter got back to his feet.
From that point on in the fight, Silva changed his strategy a bit. He was not nearly as aggressive charging forward and he did a much better job of defending himself, making sure to cover up whenever Gustafsson attacked. He also didn't throw nearly as wildly from that point on either.
The rest of the fight basically featured both men occasionally pressing the action but Gustafsson was much more active, throwing a large volume of strikes although many were blocked. Silva found a strike which was working for him, the sharp right hook, although he adjusted it from the time he got dropped and made sure to only throw it when Gustafsson was closer instead of lunging with it and leaving himself wide open for a counter.
Gustafsson wasn't able to drop Silva for the remainder of the bout, but he did land some nice lead left hands and right uppercuts which busted Silva open and caused some serious swelling along his right eye. He also discovered an attack which became very effective as the fight wore on which was a quick reactive knee whenever Silva decided to duck down and get inside. This backed off the Brazilian on multiple occasions as Gustafsson has a lanky build which makes his knee that much more dangerous.
in the end, Gustafsson's high volume of strikes and effective attacks were just too much for Silva's aggression and power punches as the judges unanimously decided with the Swede, much to the delight of his hometown crowd.
For Thiago Silva, this actually was not a bad performance by him. He hadn't fought in 16 months and he made the proper adjustments to his game after getting dropped early. The second and third rounds were much closer and he definitely gained Gustafsson's respect with his power strikes on the few occasions he was able to land them. I'm surprised he didn't try to shoot for any takedowns just to at least test "The Mauler's" defenses, but I heard a rumor that his hips were bothering him and that could have played into it. Either way, it's good to have him back.
Silva shouldn't lose too much standing despite the loss because he performed pretty well. I'd like to see him get a bout against someone along the lines of Vladimir Matyushenko, Stephan Bonnar or maybe they'll even make a rematch between him and Brandon Vera.
For Alexander Gustafsson, he continues to grow and the Swede continues to impress. Many people weren't sure he'd be able to hang with Silva on the feet but he stood the entire bout and outstruck the powerful Brazilian. His hand speed is tremendous and when he gets in a groove, his accuracy is spot on. I definitely feel he's better while countering than being the aggressor, but Silva stopped giving him as many openings after that initial blitz and he had to make something happen. He's definitely a guy I can see potentially earning a title shot in a year.
There are only a handful of opponents that make sense for Gustafsson at this point. The most likely one would be Ryan Bader as both young men are coming off high profile victories against top 205-ers. It would also give Gustafsson an opportunity to showcase his takedown defense that he's been working on so hard. Other potential opponents include Lyoto Machida or potentially even his original intended opponent Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who should be healthy and ready for a fight soon.
Either way, Gustafsson is now clearly a top five or six light heavyweight talent after this strong showing and he's proven he'll be around for years to come in the division.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you impressed by Gustafsson's performance against Thiago Silva? Or were you disappointed by the lack of a finish in a bout between two high impact and powerful strikers?