If UFC 133 was Alexander Gustafsson's coming out party, then UFC 141 last night (Dec. 30, 2011) was his full on arrival in the light heavyweight division.
"The Mauler" beat former top 205-pound stalwart Matt Hamill into retirement back then and when he stepped into the cage against seasoned veteran Vladimir Matyushenko on the "Lesnar vs. Overeem" main card, he appeared to be a man on a mission.
Let's just say, "Mission accomplished."
It only took 2:35 for Gustafsson to clean the clock of "The Janitor" after dropping him and finishing him off with some ferocious follow-up strikes.
So how did he beat the 14-year mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran so easily? And where do both men go from here?
Gustafsson was very patient early, taking his time to gauge the proper distance and utilize his length in his striking attack. If he threw anything in the first minute, it was a kick from distance, which was very safe.
Matyushenko, on the other hand, was having serious issues with his boxing attack as Gustafsson was too far away for him to properly close the distance and land anything significant.
Perhaps as a sign of frustration, he charged in recklessly after over two minutes of this "cat and mouse" game and he was quickly about to regret it.
Just as "The Janitor" lunged forward, Gustafsson threw out a stiff jab. Matyushenko's forward momentum only compounded the force of the blow, which landed with a direct hit on his exposed face and the nearly 41 year old former Belarusian wrestling star dropped to the canvas.
Gustafsson pounced with heavy punches and the referee wisely stepped in before anything regrettable happened, handing the Scandinavian prospect his second significant victory in a row.
For Vladimir Matyushenko, this was just a brutal match-up stylistically. Gustafsson was too quick, too lanky and too diverse with his strikes for him to sustain any significant offense. With only his boxing, it was like he was bringing a knife to a gun fight. His power is there if he could have landed a big punch, but his inability to close the distance safely was the key reason he was on the losing end here.
Despite the fact that he turns 41 in just a day or two, I don't think Matyushenko is done. His only losses in his current six fight UFC run are to two of the best and youngest prospects in the promotion at light heavyweight. He's still a durable gatekeeper that can serve a purpose. I'd like to see him against someone like Kyle Kingsbury, Forrest Griffin or perhaps the upcoming loser of the Ryan Bader vs. Quinton Jackson fight. This veteran definitely still has some gas left in the tank.
For Alexander Gustafsson, this was a terrific showing. He played it safe early and quickly realized he could dart in and out without eating anything serious. The set-up to the finish of the fight was practically an accident, dropping his foe with a jab, but the follow-up was all him. He's got great instincts and he's lethal both on the ground and in the stand-up department.
It's time to take it to the next level from here on out. Perhaps he could welcome back Thiago Silva to the UFC when his suspension is over. Another option could be the upcoming winner of Ryan Bader vs. Quinton Jackson. Lastly, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira also recently finished an opponent in the first round so he could be free as well. We'll see how quickly the UFC wants to push this young stud. He's definitely got a boatload of potential.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Was the outcome of this fight ever in doubt in your minds? How far do you see Alexander Gustafsson progressing in the UFC light heavyweight division?
For complete UFC 141: "Lesnar vs. Overeem" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.