Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson will go to war in a five-round, light heavyweight bout at UFC on Fox 14 to determine who will face Jon "Bones" Jones later this year.
The 28-year-old Swede will be fighting in Stockholm for the second time in his career and is coming off of a second-round TKO of Nigerian knockout artist Jimi Manuwa. Johnson is in the midst of an eight-fight win streak, including two UFC victories over Phil Davis and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
In the card's co-main event, mixed martial arts legend Dan Henderson will grace the Octagon for the 14th time to face the No. 8 ranked middleweight Gegard Mousasi. The 44-year-old Henderson desperately needs a win, after going 1-4 in his last five fights. The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Mousasi, who is 2-2 under the UFC banner, is coming off of a third-round submission loss to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
Rounding out the main card are matchups between light heavyweight contenders Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis and Ryan Bader, and a featherweight meeting between Akira Corassani and Sam Sicilia. But there is much more to watch than what you will just see on Fox Sports 1. Here are the five reasons to check out UFC on Fox 14.
Bellator veteran, and Russian striker, Aliev makes his UFC debut in preliminary action against veteran wrestler Kenny Robertson.
Aliev, who boasts 10 career knockouts to his name and his spent most of his career fighting at middleweight, will drop down to welterweight for his initial bout. The 30-year-old is on a four-fight winning streak and is content trading shots or taking the fight to the ground. Aliev also does a good job of evading his opponents power.
His opponent, Robertson, is 4-3 in the Octagon and has struggled to gather momentum in his UFC career. However, the 30-year-old is a winner of two straight, including his last victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Illdemar Alcantara at UFC 175.
Stylistically, this will be one tough outing for the NCAA Division I wrestler out of Eastern Illinois University but, as with his last matchup, anything is possible.
4. Rising Swede Nico Musoke looks for fourth UFC victory
Musoke, a promising 28-year-old prospect in the 170-pound division, will get set to face another heavy handed Russian in Albert Tumenov in the preliminary headliner.
The Swede has a 3-1 record — his lone UFC loss coming at the hands of Kelvin Gastelum — and defeated Alexander Yakolev in his last outing back in October 2014. Musoke's problem, in his fight with the wrestler Gastelum, was his lack of a game plan after failing to control the 23-year-old welterweight contender on the ground.
Since then, he bounced back with a victory over the well-rounded Tumenov. In the victory, Musoke dominated the Russian on the feet for all three rounds, notching a unanimous decision in his native Stockholm.
Musoke's improved striking will be tested by Tumenov, who is coming off of back-to-back first round knockouts wins of Anthony Lapsley and Matt Dwyer. Tumenov, who owns six other first-round knockout victories, is a highly decorated standup fighter, holding a Master of Sports rank in boxing in Russia.
Both fighters will be looking for a dominant win to continue their rise into the top-15 of the 170-pound division.
3. Perennial light heavyweight contenders Phil Davis and Ryan Bader battle
Two talented 205-ers face off in a bout that will inch the winner closer towards a potential title shot when Mr. Wonderful takes on Bader.
As the light heavyweight division continues to thin, Bader and Davis are aiming to prove that it's still very much alive. Bader is 4-1 in his last five fights and is on a three-fight winning streak, sporting victories over former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante and Ovince St. Preux.
The 31-year-old Bader has gone back to his roots, using his NCAA Division I All-American wrestling background to stifle the attacks of his heavy-handed opponents.
Davis is an equally impressive collegiate wrestler, who most recently defeated former number one contender Glover Teixeira in a one-sided drubbing down in Brazil in October. There's a reason they call him the "Brazilian Killer"; he has also defeated notable countryman Lyoto Machida and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Each man has been on the cusp of a breakthrough into the top 3 of the division but never quite made it over the hump. Davis has lost to Rashad Evans, while Bader has fell victim to Machida and Teixeira.
What this bout will answer, is who looks to be the most ready out of these top-notch wrestlers for the elite members of the 205-pound division.
2. Will Dan Henderson’s struggles continue against Gegard Mousasi?
The current version of Hendo has been looking rather unimpressive and bleak as of late.
Gone is the mystique of the H-Bomb, Henderson's favorite weapon to which he relies on dearly. There's no more threat of a takedown and opponents like Shogun Rua and Vitor Belfort have relieved his chin of its duties.
Henderson will more than likely not be fighting for a title anytime soon; he's fighting to hold onto the sport. And like his former foe Rua, the Team Quest fighter has been relegated to the role of gatekeeper.
It's up to Henderson, who takes on a very dangerous competitor in Mousasi, to keep his career alive. Mousasi is a Dutch-Armenian kickboxer, who possesses a black belt in Judo.
The 29-year-old has never been knocked out before and absorbs very few significant strikes per minute. If Henderson lands a looping over hand right, expect Mousasi to immediately tangle him up and look for the Judo throw.
If Hendo can defeat a threat like Mousasi, which will be no easy task, then he may have staved off retirement just a little bit longer.
1. The pride of Sweden looks to claw past Rumble for Jones rematch
The Mauler will be looking to put on a show in the enormous Tele2 arena in Stockholm on January 24.
Gustafsson arguably gave the current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones his most difficult test to date back at UFC 165 in September 2013. Since then, injuries have kept him sidelined and have forced him out of a rematch with Bones. His lone victory since then was his second-round TKO of Jimi Manuwa in March 2014.
Jones and Gustafsson have traded barbs publicly and it's a rematch that many want to see happen. With this matchup against Johnson on deck in his backyard, The Mauler has the keys to the drivers' seat. All he needs to do is floor the gas pedal.
Unfortunately for him, it won't be that easy against Rumble. The 30-year-old Johnson is one of the UFC's best success stories.
Once cut after a series of failed attempts to make the 170-pound barrier, Johnson has now run through each opponent at his most comfortable weight of 205-pounds. Rumble, who's undefeated at light heavyweight in his career, has defeated two, top-10 opponents in a row and has showcased his striking prowess as of late.
Johnson is more than just a powerful standup fighter though; the former junior college wrestler is more than capable of taking the fight to the ground. However, he does have a habit of giving up his back. Johnson has been submitted three times in his career via rear-naked choke.
This fight between the two of the best light heavyweights in the world has the making of a Fight of the Night candidate written all over it.