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UFC 192 complete fighter breakdown: Alexander 'The Mauler' Gustafsson edition resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 192 headliner Alexander Gustafsson, who will look to become a champion this Saturday (Oct. 3, 2015) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas

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Swedish boxing specialist, Alexander Gustafsson, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, will clash this Saturday (Oct. 3, 2015) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Despite his upcoming title shot in the main event of UFC 192, Gustafsson is in the midst of a rough patch. It's already been two years since his razor-thin decision loss to Jon Jones, and "The Mauler" has competed just twice since then.

To his credit, Gustafsson did return to the win column with a solid victory over Jimi Manuwa. However, he crumbled underneath the massive power of Anthony Johnson last January, losing out on his opportunity to rematch with "Bones."

It may not be against Jones, but Gustafsson still has an opportunity to snag Octagon gold. Let's take a look at the Swede's skill set and see how he stacks up with Cormier.


Gustafsson is a very skilled and rangy striker. The former amateur boxing champion has brought his pugilistic skills into the Octagon nicely, and the rest of his mixed martial arts (MMA) striking is similarly dangerous.

Unlike many big men, Gustafsson heavily relies on movement and footwork. The title challenger is constantly circling around the outside of his opponent's range, changing directions and feinting. While he's looking for openings, Gustafsson keeps an active jab to prevent his opponent from closing the distance unobstructed.

The jab is actually a pretty big part of Gustafsson's game, and he uses it in different situations. When he's just flicking it out while circling, Gustafsson is largely using it as a tool to make his opponent hesitate and gauge reactions. As he establishes his range, Gustafsson will soon step into the strike, which allows him to land with power and set up his combinations. He can also double or triple up on jabs and will mix softer, flicking jabs with jabs that have his full weight behind them.

If his opponent steps forward at the wrong time, Gustafsson's jab can even be a finishing weapon.

One of Gustafsson's most important weapons in his bout with Jones was actually the body jab, an often overlooked punch. The body jab is fairly easy to land, often causing a fighter's hands to drop, and is a relatively safe strike to throw. Gustafsson began throwing the punch from the onset of the bout, allowing him to fatigue "Bones" a bit and build upon the strike later.

Jones proved his discipline by keeping his hands high and not reaching for the body jab, but it nevertheless created holes in his defense. Tensing up to absorb the blow is tiring and also slows reactions, allowing Gustafsson's punches that suddenly went high to break through the champion's defenses.

Gustafsson built from the body jab masterfully. After landing a body jab, Gustafsson would come up and throw three- to four-punch combinations. Later in the fight, he'd mix it up by attacking the stomach with straight right hands and coming up or jabbing to both the head and body in combination. This kept Jones guessing and allowed the Swede to land many more of his strikes than if he were just head-hunting.

As with any rangy boxer, Gustafsson very often follows his jab with a stiff cross. It's a very effective combination for Gustafsson, though he sometimes hangs around to long after throwing the punches, leaving himself in danger. To mix it up, Gustafsson will also lead with his right, darting in and exiting at an angle.

Gustafsson throws his right uppercut more often than almost any other fighter. The tall striker looks to time his opponent's attempts to roll under his punches and will also counter any ducking strikes. Even when he doesn't have a real reason behind it, Gustafsson will often look for this punch.

Since his Octagon debut way back in 2009, Gustafsson has come to utilize kicks far more often. It fits his style of fighting very well, as Gustafsson's use of angles often allows him to safely throw a kick that will hurt very badly. Plus, every lanky fighter should be kicking actively, as it wouldn't make sense to abandon such a significant range tool.

While Gustafsson does a nice job throwing kicks while circling around his opponent, he usually sets them up with a few punches first. In particular, Gustafsson likes to fire off some jabs or a lead hook to get his opponent moving backwards. Then, Gustafsson will smash the trailing leg as his opponent tries to avoid the punches.

Additionally, Gustafsson makes good use of the front kick, though it did bite him in the ass in his bout with "Rumble." Against shorter opponents or fighters looking to roll and slip, Gustafsson's front kick is a solid weapon that helps him keep range.


The Swedish athlete may not have a wrestling background, but he's a damn fine wrestler regardless. Look no further than his bout with Jones, in which he and perhaps the best wrestler in the sport ended up with one takedown a piece after the full 25 minutes of combat.

He doesn't turn to it often, but Gustafsson has a very nice double-leg. While moving laterally, Gustafsson will suddenly burst forward with a shot rather than a powerful strike. Since he's often at an angle and is usually surprising his opponent, Gustafsson has solid success with the shot.

Gustafsson will also look to run through his opponent with MMA-style spear takedowns. After drawing his opponent into a brawl, Gustafsson will change levels and run through his opponent's waist, blasting through him.

In addition, I have to cover the takedown Gustafsson landed on Jones, seeing as he was the first to ever do so. It really wasn't a technical marvel, as Gustafsson simple ducked under his opponent's punches and got in deeper on the hips than most fighters ever will. From there, Gustafsson spun the champion from a half clinch/half single leg position until "Bones" tumbled to the mat.

Defensively, Gustafsson is a truly expert wrestler. Fight fans that expect Cormier to toss Gustafsson to the mat with ease like he did to Anthony Johnson are very likely in for a big surprise.

For one, Gustafsson's style of striking is an excellent foil to the takedown. Since he keeps such a large amount of distance between himself an his opponent, rarely over-commits on his punches, and is rarely standing still, it's very difficult to line up a clean shot from the proper range on Gustafsson.

Regardless of whether his opponent takes a poor shot and doesn't fully get in on the hips or simply tries for a clinch, he's very often out of luck. Gustafsson does a truly fantastic job shooting his hips back and low while pushing away at his opponent. Once his opponent fails to gain control of Gustafsson's hips, his chances of success on the shot is basically gone, as "Mauler" will quickly fight for an underhook or frame his opponent's face.

Either way, Gustafsson will slip from his foe's grasp before long.

Furthermore, Gustafsson is quite skilled at scrambling back to his feet. Like many other strikers, Gustafsson uses the wall very well, scooting towards the fence until his back is leaning against it. From there, he can fight for underhooks and work to stand without much risk of getting hit hard or submitted.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Gustafsson is not often put on his back nor does he actively seek to put his opponent's there, meaning that there isn't a ton of recent ground work to analyze. This is especially true of Gustafsson's guard game -- he's either defending the takedown successfully or getting back to his feet too quickly to demonstrate any jiu-jitsu.

The only real use of jiu-jitsu in Gustafsson's career has been against heavy power punchers. When fighters really commit to punches in the hopes of scoring a knockout, it's generally pretty easy to take them down. This was the case in Gustafsson's fights with James Te Huna and Cyrille Diabate, as Gustafsson dropped down and threw them to the mat.

From top position, he used the cut pass to move through their guards, eventually transitioned into back mount, and locked in the choke.

Basic stuff, but basics win fights.

Best Chance For Success

For Gustafsson, this fight is all about takedown defense and volume.

The first half is pretty obvious. If Gustafsson is on his back, he's not going to win this fight, as Cormier is far too talented to be submitted by the boxer's guard. Gustafsson obviously knows this, and his usual style is great for defending takedowns.

Assuming Gustafsson can stay vertical, his next major key is volume. The Swede absolutely has to throw more strikes than his opponent, as Cormier and his vaunted wrestler will definitely be the aggressor. If Gustafsson successfully defends takedowns but is controlled in the clinch for a bit with an even exchange of strikes, the judges' scorecards will not be kind.

Instead, Gustafsson needs to be constantly working with punches. Not only will this help give him an edge in points, but it will slow Cormier down. This is particularly true if he targets the body with punches and kicks, much like his rival Jones did.

Will Alexander Gustafsson finally get his hands on the belt, or will Daniel Cormier defend his crown?

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