Photo via Esther Lin for SBNation
Imagine you're a professional fighter and you've stepped inside the cage for the first time. You win, choking your opponent out in the second round. Despite this, you can't hit up a bar for a post-fight celebration beer.
Reason being you're not 21 yet.
This was the situation Alexander Gustafsson found himself in after his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in November 2007. Granted, the fight took place in Finland where the legal drinking age is 18 but the point remains the same. He was barely a man and yet had chosen one of the most manly professions to earn a living.
And he was good at it, to boot.
So it was no surprise when Dana White and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) came calling a couple of years later. At 22 years old and with a flawless 8-0 record to his name, "The Mauler" stepped into the Octagon for the first time at UFC 105 in a preliminary bout.
The performance was so impressive -- and short -- that the bout was broadcast during the event anyway and fans around the world got their first taste of what could very well by the future of the light heavyweight division.
He headlines his first event Saturday (April 14) where he'll take on Thiago Silva in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva." It will be the Swede's seventh bout inside the Octagon and he'll look to extend his winning streak to five when he faces off with the returning Brazilian.
Before he does, let's take a look back at his UFC 105 debut against Jared Hamman, a 41 second shellacking which was more statement than fight.
Let's dive in.
That night in Manchester, both men were making their UFC debuts. Hamman was five years Gustafsson's senior and had a bit more experience than "The Mauler." None of it would end up mattering.
The bout is underway and the American looks to pressure his opponent early. He begins swinging leather wildly, backing Gustafsson towards the cage but the 22-year old remains calm. Almost none of Hamman's punches are connecting and those that do aren't landing cleanly enough to rattle the Swede.
Hamman nails his opponent with a leg kick that lands with a thud. Gustafsson nearly counters the kick but the American is able to stay just out of reach. Hamman walks his opponent down, crossing the Octagon and throws a body kick which is blocked. The American then opens up his hands again, landing a huge overhand right as he presses Gustafsson against the chain link fence.
The American backs away, allowing Gustafsson some room to breath. They exchange punches before an errant finger catches Hamman in the eye and the referee calls for a break in the action. The American recovers quickly, however, and the fight is restarted. They touch gloves and begin bouncing on their feet, looking for just the right opening.
Gustafsson finds it.
He barrels a vicious straight right through Hamman's arms and cracks him square on the chin. Hamman drops like a sack of potatoes and "The Mauler" begins to live up to his moniker.
More straight punches lead to hammerfists and after a couple land, the referee is forced to step in and save the American from further harm.
It only took the 22-year-old 41 seconds to score his first UFC win. The walk to the Octagon from backstage and the introductions probably took five times longer than Gustafsson's debut did.
The Swede would hit a bump in the road six months later when he was choked out by Phil Davis at UFC 112 but he's remained perfect ever since. Four straight wins and four consecutive finishes is what "The Mauler" can hang his hat on these days. Combined with the Hamman knockout, Gustafsson have five Octagon wins to his name and he only turned 25 a few months ago.
Will Thiago Silva be victim number six?