Alexander Gustafsson can still be the UFC light heavyweight champion. The Swede’s loss in January showed more that MMA is a sport of inches, where one punch can change the outcome of any fight… not that there is a ceiling on the Swede’s potential.  Talks of Gustafsson not being able to handle the pressure or not winning the only title shot he will have are wrong and misguided.

Alexander Gustafsson
Gustafsson Put Jones to Test in 2013

There has been claims about the lanky European fighter from the beginning of his UFC career. Gustafsson’s first loss came at the hands of Phil Davis back in 2010, which lead to claims that Gustafsson couldn’t wrestle. But if you actually watch this fight, Davis didn’t get several take-downs over three rounds. It was an anoconda choke in the first round, but the ability for Gustafsson to defend the take-down prior showed his take-down defense was solid with his training and athleticism.

The Allstars Training Center fighter has amassed a 16 win and 3 loss pro record since stepping into the pro ranks in 2007, and there have been improvements in each of his fights. Gustafsson trains and works to continually improve, and if you study his fights, you an see this.

Gustafsson began taking his career seriously in 2010, following his first loss, where he began conducting his training as a true professional. This resulted in the devastating stoppages over Cyrille Diabate, James Te Huna, Matt Hamill, and Vladimir Matyushenko in consecutive fights.

The Swede moved on to show his improved footwork and boxing in the his next two bouts, taking lopsided decision victories over Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua. The Silva fight was a hometown fight that he headlined, taking all the press and promotion obligations for the card, and the Shogun fight was on big Fox attracting global attention and media obligations. This man showed that he was built to handle pressure, in putting together a 6 straight wins over progressively more challenging fighters.

The Mauler Beating Manuwa


The 28 year old has now lost two of three fights, which doesn’t sound great until you break it down. When the Swede went to Toronto as a huge underdog to face champ Jon Jones, he didn’t back down. The Mauler rose to the occasion rocking the title holder with punches and putting the fighter down with takedowns. His ability believe in himself, where very few saw a chance, is a characteristic that only champions have.

While a re-match would be the appropriate action after the 2013 memorable battle, it was Gustafsson that took on an undefeated Mimi Manuwa in a lose-lose situation, but handled business in the UK to show he can stay focused and perform when everyone expected a win.

There is now a lasting memory of Gustafsson getting punched from all angles against Anthony Johnson at the Tele2 Arena. But it wasn’t because the Swede wasn’t a better fighter or knee surgery or a head butt or didn’t have proper training, it was because sometimes you get hit hard in the sport of MMA. Coming off a break in the action, Johnson landing a big counter punch off of a kick. Gustafsson fired back when he was stumbling with a kill shot of his own, but this one didn’t land… if it would have, just this one right, Gustafsson would be challenging for the #1 in the world claim. But again, in a sport of inches, it was Gustafsson face down on the mat.

Gustafsson Devastated After Johnson Loss
Gustafsson Devastated After Johnson Loss

It’s important to break down all the moments that the Swede has looked bad or was being outmatched by an opponent in his career, there are really only a few moments. In 33 rounds and 19 fights the overwhelming majority of the minutes have been Gustafsson beating up the best in the world, including what is considered one of the greatest fighters to ever exist.

Don’t let one punch dictate the Mauler’s future.  I think the Swede will rise again, and the UFC title is still within reach… just watch.