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UFC: Super Swede to topple Thiago Silva

Brian Mallon

With the recent dearth of UFC events finally coming to an end we can now look forward to a hectic period of Octagon action. This week we delve into the first part of our UFC Sweden preview, run our eyes over recent TUF Live happenings and examine why the build up to Evans versus Jones is somewhat muted…

ufc1 300x225 UFC: Super Swede to topple Thiago Silva

Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden catches James Te Huna of Australia in a choke hold during their light heavyweight bout as part of UFC 127

Let’s cut to the chase. UFC Sweden is going to be a landmark event for European MMA. The Stockholm card sold out in a breakneck three hour period. With local hero Alexander Gustafsson headlining, the Ericsson Globe Arena will not be for the faint of heart. This week we break down the main event and look at what a win could mean for the surging Swede.

Alexander Gustafsson will mature into a key player in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. There is no startling revelation contained within those words. The question is…when? Previously slated to meet Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a classic changing of the guard bout, alternate opponent Thiago Silva is in my mind an altogether stiffer proposition. No disrespect to “Lil Nog” (I, like many watched the Pride stalwart strut his stuff in his Japanese heyday) but I felt when the original match up was made that Gustafsson would comfortably prevail and move on to bigger and more pivotal match-ups in his relatively embryonic career. Silva is a tougher out. In last week’s column I referred to the imposing Brazilian as a “fearsome character” and I stand by that assessment. At 29 years old Silva is 6 years the junior of the Arboga native’s original opponent. Only those in the upper tier of the UFC’s 205 lb division (ie Machida and Evans) have gotten the better of Silva. Gustafsson is on the cusp of being included in this elite bracket. I believe he will finish Silva via strikes in the third round of a bout which will be looked upon as a rites of passage fight in future years. A win for “The Mauler” would further enhance his already glowing reputation. In a division which is being effectively cleaned out by Jon Jones Gustafsson may arrive just in time for an early 2013 title shot.

One fighter I’m pumped about watching in Stockholm is UK favourite Brad Pickett. Pickett had his UFC coming out party spoiled in November by Renan Barao. “One Punch” is still a force at 135lbs as evidenced by the match-maker’s choice of Damacio Page as his opponent hot on the heels of the Birmingham loss. Page is a tough nut to crack and dangerous in all areas but I can’t look beyond the man from the capital in this one. I see Pickett pouring on the stand-up pressure to garner a referee stoppage late in the second stanza.

Suga versus Bones…build up muted?

Perhaps I have gone all WWE but I did anticipate a more vitriolic build up to the April 21st meeting of Rashad Evans and Jon Jones. Given the animosity which was so prevalent in and around the time which Jones agreed that he would indeed fight his former team mate, recent weeks have seen a surprisingly low key, measured build-up. Whilst no-one wishes to see an Ortiz v Shamrock type pantomime, the caustic barbs have been conspicuous by their absence. There may be several reasons for this. The first is the importance of the fight itself.  The fact that the light heavyweight championship of the world is on the line renders the personal back-story between the protagonists of secondary importance. This is the title fight which Rashad Evans has waited so patiently for. He has chosen to remain relatively tight lipped as he knows that fighting on emotion will only lessen his chance of unseating his younger opponent.  Jones for his part is so empowered by self confidence that he doesn’t feel the need to antagonise Evans any further. My personal view is that both men have been mentally taxed to an extent by the whole fallout especially Evans. “Suga” having left his one-time spiritual home in Albuquerque will have a multitude of reasons to topple the seemingly unbeatable 24 year old New Yorker. I think when all is said and done they want to put the bout into the rear view mirror and move on with their respective careers. Greg Jackson’s decision to corner “Bones” is unsurprising and will add spice to an already must see main event.

TUF Live: Iaquinta shows mental strength

Al Iaquinta demonstrated superior mental fortitude to turn the tide against the talented Myles Jury in TUF Live last weekend. Iaquinta did look to be slipping out of the competition but dug deep to register Team Faber’s first victory of the season. I don’t believe that the Serra/Longo student will emerge as the Season winner but he will provide a stern test for anyone in the next round.

Whilst I do admire Urijah Faber’s all round positivity as coach this season I was surprised he didn’t target the injured Mike Rio in his fight pick this week. Rio against England’s Andy Ogle is a fight which could occur down the line so the Sunderland lad better get practicing his sprawls and ground escapes!

Chuck weighs in on judging

This week Chuck Liddell has pledged to do all he can to educate prospective judges of MMA bouts. Having an experienced fighter such as “The Iceman” get involved in this absolutely critical area is a positive step forward. Fighters work too hard to have their night and perhaps career ruined by inept adjudicating.

Lesnar returns to WWE roots

Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has this week officially returned to his WWE stomping ground. Whilst Lesnar has been mocked in some quarters for his return to the scripted arena many fail to acknowledge that the hulking Minnesotan was a four time All-American and a worthy possessor of the greatest title in mixed martial arts.

India embraces MMA

In a sure sign that MMA is becoming a global sporting force check out the debut of my UFC column in The Times of India by clicking here.

For more UFC coverage check out ESPN by clicking here.

As always, interested in your thoughts on all things MMA/UFC. Join me on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an article on upcoming UFC events…

@BrianMallonUFC

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