Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight strikers Alexander Gustafsson and Jan Blachowicz will collide this Saturday (Sept. 3, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 93 inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. In a match up of boxer and kickboxer, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let's break it down.
Gustafsson is in a unique position. Even though he’s lost three of his last four bouts, those defeats came to the top three fighters in the division, and two of them were incredibly close wars. With that in mind, this is a bit of a step back for the Swede, as he needs a rebound fight. Of course, Blachowicz has little intention of just lying down opposite "The Mauler." While the Polish striker is just 2-2 inside the Octagon, he is a very experienced veteran with 12 finishes to his credit.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Mauricio Rua (UFC on FOX 5), Thiago Silva (UFC on Fuel TV 2), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 37)
Key Losses: Daniel Cormier (UFC 192), Jon Jones (UFC 165), Anthony Johnson (UFC on FOX 14)
Keys to Victory: Gustafsson is a very skilled boxer with a great build for the division. One of the taller and longer men in his division, Gustafsson does a fine job of controlling range and attacking his opponent from the outside.
Additionally, Gustafsson's deep gas tank and underrated grappling help carry him to victory.
This should be something of a layup for Gustafsson, and that's definitely the UFC's intention. He needs to get back into the win column before being thrust back into the title mix, and that's the main purpose of this bout. Still, to defeat Blachowicz, Gustafsson needs to avoid making any critical mistakes. He's more skilled in pretty much every area and is the superior athlete, which means he simply needs to perform without leaving his foe any openings.
Perhaps Gustafsson's biggest advantage is his conditioning. He can push a hard pace for five rounds, whereas his opponent tires quickly. Whether Gustafsson chooses to box or wrestle, he can be patient early on and wait for his opponent to slow down before really turning up the pressure.
Key Wins: Ilir Latifi (UFC Fight Night 53), Igor Pokrajac (UFC Fight Night 86), Houston Alexander (KSW 20), Goran Reljic (KSW 22)
Key Losses: Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 64), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: Blachowicz is very much a representative of the regional European scene. He can kick hard from the outside, but his boxing isn't particularly complex. Similarly, Blachowicz is a dangerous submission fighter, but he's not the most dominating wrestler.
In short, his back is definitely against the wall stylistically.
To defeat Gustafsson, Blachowicz will have to make something drastic happen. If he tries to have a technical kickboxing match with Gustafsson, he's going to have a bad time that only gets worse.
Instead, the pressure is on for Blachowicz to switch things up and really attack Gustafsson. He's generally a measured fighter, so a surprise all-out offensive could shock Gustafsson and really turn the tide in his favor.
Bottom Line: This is a bounce back fight for Gustafsson.
Since this is such a favorable match up, it’s really a must-win for the Swede. If Gustafsson somehow lets the victory slip through his fingers, it will be a massive setback that will take some time to regain his former status. In the more likely case that Gustafsson wins, he’s primed to make another run at the strap. He won’t receive a title shot following this win, but he could end up fighting someone along the lines of Ryan Bader or Glover Teixeira to get closer to that goal.
On the other hand, this is a massive opportunity for Blachowicz even if his chances at victory are slim. By taking out Gustafsson, Blachowicz will jump into the Top 10 and be reasonably close to the title mix, which is a dramatic shift from his current position.
At UFC Fight Night 93, Alexander Gustafsson and Jan Blachowicz will square off in the co-main event. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?