Plenty on the Line for Gustafsson and Teixeira at UFC Fight Night
The bout between Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night on Sunday has important implications.
Updated: May 24, 2017 • 11:46 PM ET
Dana White will have crucial decisions to make after UFC Fight Night on Sunday.
The last time Alexander Gustafsson fought in Stockholm, Sweden, he suffered a devastating knockout loss to now retired Anthony Johnson. The defeat was crippling for the Swede, as Gustafson couldn’t hold back his tears as Johnson had his hand raised in victory. Gustafsson felt he let the people of Sweden down that evening.
Now, Gustafsson has been granted another chance to represent his reputation and his people in Stockholm, as he headlines UFC Fight Night on Sunday in his native land. It won’t be easy, however, as he gets a date with the heavy-hitting Glover Teixeira.
The fight has major title implications in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Gustafsson is the top-ranked contender in the division with Teixeira right behind him at No. 2. The winner could be granted a title shot against the victor of July’s heated rematch between champion Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones.
Gustafsson could go down as one of the best fighters to ever fight in the UFC and never win a title. He has challenged for the belt twice, falling just short both times, the first of which he became the only fighter to ever push “Bones” Jones to the brink of defeat, leaving with fans’ respect after one of the best fights in UFC history. The second time he challenged for the title against Cormier, he again fell short after leaving fans with the experience of watching an all-time fight.
The best thing for the UFC and the light heavyweight division would be a Gustafsson win over Teixeira on Sunday. A rematch with either Cormier or Jones would please many fans worldwide and serve as more than a compliment to any pay per view — it could be a main event.
A Teixeira win over Gustafsson would turn the light heavyweight division upside down. The division and the rankings are full of holes, and many fighters are either one win away from a top 5 ranking or one loss away from falling out of the top 10.
Gustafsson last fought in September, scoring a unanimous decision win over Jan Blachowicz, and has only fought twice since February 2015. Teixeira scored a unanimous decision victory over Jared Cannonier at UFC 208 in February. Teixeira’s decision to fight conservatively against the heavy-handed Cannonier didn’t make many fans happy that evening. However, the victory was much-needed after being dismantled by Johnson in under 20 seconds at UFC 202. Both Teixeira and Gustafsson are 4-3 in their last seven fights.
At 37 years old, this could be Teixeira’s last chance at a title shot. A win by knockout or TKO would put Teixeira in a prime position for a second title shot, but it will likely take the best performance of his career for a second chance at the belt. Another calculated performance and a decision win will keep him in the top 3 of the light heavyweight rankings, but a decision victory likely won’t get him another shot at the title.
It was Jimi Manuwa who thought he might get the next shot at Cormier, but he was passed over for Jones. The carousel will keep spinning as Manuwa may be passed over again if Gustafsson can win in convincing fashion. Gustafsson’s biggest hurdle may be that he hasn’t fought in nearly a year and will have the pressure of fighting in front of his home crowd, dominated by the memory of what happened the last time he fought in Sweden.
The co-main event will feature two highly-touted light heavyweights ranked in the top 10, Volkan Oezdemir versus Misha Cirkunov. Oezdemir is coming off a split decision victory over Ovince Saint Preux in February, a win that landed him a confusing and highly-debated spot in the top 5. If anything, it was a great compliment to Saint Preux, who now knows that a victory over himself could propel a fighter, albeit with only one fight in the UFC, into the top 5.
Oezdemir will have his hands full with Cirkunov, who is riding a four-fight win streak with finishes in each. Cirkunov’s latest victim was Nikita Krylov via first round submission. The winner of this fight will certainly make a great case for a showcase bout against a top 3 fighter in the division, or perhaps a fight with the loser of the main event.
UFC Fight Night is making a grand international statement as it features fighters from not only Sweden but Brazil, Poland, Latvia, Ghana, Switzerland, Russia and France. Iran and Serbia will be represented on the prelims.
The UFC continues to take its brand worldwide, and it couldn’t have picked a better headliner in Gustafsson and Teixeira. Gustafsson will be fighting for a country and against tainted memories, while Teixeira will be fighting to prove that he’s still relevant and not the beneficiary of a flawed ranking system.