UFC on Fuel 2 broke the six-week break from action in the Octagon in a satisfying way, with plenty of high-paced fights and exciting finishes. The main event, of course, featured Sweden’s own Alexander Gustafsson fighting in his home country against the formidable Thiago Silva. While it wasn’t quite the star-making performance that Jose Aldo turned in during UFC 142 in Brazil, it was a nice step forward for the young star, nonetheless. Still, some can’t seem to resist the urge to get ahead of themselves when assessing the Swede’s progress.
Comparisons to Jon Jones are Hasty, Lazy
I was disappointed during the Gustafsson-Silva fight to hear repeated comparisons between Gustafsson and divisional champ Jon Jones. Okay, I get it. Gustafsson is young, tall, and talented (let’s forget, for the time being, that Jones and Gustafsson don’t even fight with similar styles). Does that really warrant a comparison to a guy who may have turned in the best year of any MMA fighter in history in 2011?
The answer, of course, is “no”.
Look, Gustafsson is obviously very good at what he does. He uses his range well, which may sound like a small achievement for a man of his size, but is definitely not a given in a sport where many tall fighters have no idea how to keep an opponent off of them. His footwork is good, he has great cardio, and he shows better movement than most fighters at 205 pounds. He stays busy even when he’s not striking and makes himself a difficult target. He’s also deceptively strong and has good balance that allows him to grapple effectively, utilize trips, and defend takedowns despite a lack of competitive wrestling experience.
But come on, now. Jones is six months younger than Gustafsson and has beaten three top five light heavyweights already (all within the last 13 months, mind you). Gustafsson just had his signature win in a three-round decision over Silva, who constantly resides in the top 15 or 20 in the world and has exploitable holes in his aggressive game. Let’s not forget that, though Gustafsson clearly won, he was rocked at least once by Silva’s straight-forward approach and is much more hittable than Jones has ever been. We’ve also seen him have trouble staying upright against Phil Davis, which leads one to wonder how he’d fare against good wrestlers like Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader, and Jones himself.
I’m not saying Gustafsson won’t ever be a champion. His ceiling is very hard to determine at this point. Hell, if he can continue to evolve as a fighter, he may be the perfect guy to give Jones a run for his money one day. However, that day is not anytime soon, and comparisons to Jones are lazy, inaccurate, and extremely premature.
–Color me surprised by Dennis Siver’s solid performance during his first fight at 145 pounds. When Siver struggled to make weight on Friday, I figured that the drop to featherweight was a mistake and that he would have a terrible time trying to keep up with Diego Nunes. Siver proved me wrong and may have a good future in his new weight class, if his win over Nunes is indicative of what we can expect.
–I don’t wanna toot my own horn here (okay, I do), but “Maguire by submission” was a pretty good call, eh? Especially when I added the caveat that DaMarques Johnson’s “mental miscues” would be his downfall? Hey, it’s hard to predict the outcomes of fights in this crazy sport, so sometimes you have to forget taking the high road, stick out your tongue and say, “Nah-nah, nah-nah-nah!”
–How intriguing was that Brian Stann video package? I suppose it’d be hard to be scared to fight another unarmed guy in a cage after being through what Stann’s experienced.
That is a look of frustration similar to the looks the opponents of Jon Jones have had many times.
-Mike Goldberg, continuing to reach a bit while comparing Gustafsson to a young Jon Jones. Wait a minute…Jones is younger than Gustafsson? And he just got done finishing Lyoto Machida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua? Well, then. Oh, and by the way, Jones’ opponents don’t look like that at all after their fights, because they’re usually heaped on the mat, unconscious or too busy being rescued by the referee.
Movin’ On Up Award
Dennis Siver goes from lightweight also-ran to just outside the featherweight title picture with a win over a top ten fighter at 145 pounds on Saturday night. While Gustafsson, Brad Pickett, and Siyar Bahadurzada all took big steps forward themselves, nobody made a bigger leap than Siver.
Beautiful Loser Award
This time around, Bob Seger is singing for you, Diego Nunes. Nunes gave Siver a run for his money in all three rounds, and I wouldn’t have been surprised or particularly appalled to see the fight go his way. Nunes will be unfairly dismissed by many after two wins in his last three fights, but I still believe in him as a perennial top ten/top fifteen kind of fighter.
Holy $#!& Award
This is a tough one. You’ve got two fights that were definite Fight of the Night material (Siver-Nunes and Brad Pickett-Damacio Page), as well as two vicious knockouts. At first, I thought Bahadurzada was a lock for this award. While his slick right hand to Paulo Thiago was not visually impressive, seeing Thiago drop like a sack of potatoes while Bahadurzada was the type of moment for which I created this imaginary award, which incidentally only exists in the realm of this website and confers no monetary or other prizes to the “lucky” recipient.
However, you rarely see a guy knock someone out with punches from the guard. It’s even more rare that you see it when the fighter on top isn’t even bothering to posture up as he throws the fight-ending punch(es). Brian Stann reminded us all why he’s the spiritual heir to Wanderlei Silva in the middleweight division when he knocked Alessio Sakara out cold with a brutal left hand while Sakara counted on the supposed safety of his closed guard. Props to Stann for immediately recognizing that Sakara was out after the follow-up punch, after which he showed admirable restraint in pausing and allowing the referee to stop the fight without getting another unnecessary shot in. Again, there’s more immutable proof that fighters are more than able to stop themselves in the heat of the moment when they see that an opponent is unconscious, if they only choose to. Stann did the right thing and still got a brutal KO for his resume.
Tags: Alessio Sakara, Alexander Gustafsson, Brad Pickett, Brian Stann, Damacio Page, DaMarques Johnson, Dennis Siver, Diego Nunes, John Maguire, Jon Jones, Siyar Bahadurzada, Thiago Silva, UFC, UFC on Fuel 2