If there’s a device that can measure hunger, it would be off the scale at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, where two great light heavyweight contenders can almost smell a shot at the title.
Cage veterans Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson and Glover ‘Hands of Stone’ Teixeira know a win, and a big performance, will almost certainly put them on the path to the top of 205lb mountain. Mark Sylvester eyes up a potentially seismic clash.
A battle from pillar to post
I wouldn’t be surprised if Gustafsson and Teixeira trained for this fight in underground pits, wrestling wild beasts and eating raw meat – it’s that important.
Here are a pair of cage warriors who’ve been among the top light-heavies for years, had near misses with the belt, and pressed their noses against the glass ceiling separating Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier from the rest of the division.
And it’s more than likely the winner here will face the victor of the Jones v Cormier tear up in July.
The fact is, they’ve been round the Octagon block a few times and you only get so many chances at the big time.
It’s not exactly the last chance saloon
But it’s near enough to guarantee that they’ll throw everything at each other, including the kitchen sink if the UFC allowed it.
It’s in Gustafsson’s back yard, and he’ll be desperate to erase memories of his last Stockholm outing when ‘The Mauler’ was mauled by Rumble Johnson. The same beast who left Teixeira face-painting the canvas after 13 seconds of UFC 202 last August!
How this fight goes down largely depends on which Gustafsson turns up on the night. If it’s the one who comfortably beat, but got tagged multiple times, by Jan Blachowicz last September, he’s likely to remember the sound of a bell and then see cartoon birds flying around his head.
He can’t afford to get hit like that this time.
Brazilian tough guy Teixeira lives up to his nickname, and he’s dispatched 15 of his 26 opponents for early baths, primarily with a right hand that should, by rights, be checked for concealed lumps of lead. Maybe that Gustafsson will turn up, and Teixeira to stop him may be worth a tickle at 13/2.
Strangely, if the version of Gustafsson that LOST a fight turns up, Teixeira could be in serious trouble. Back at UFC 165 the Swede took on light-heavyweight godfather Jon Jones and battered him from pillar to post, pulping his face and battering his body.
But the great Jones is made of the same stuff they clad space shuttles with to stop burn-up on re-entry, and he weathered the storm to score a narrow but unanimous victory.
However, in defeat Gustafsson showed the kind of fighter he can be at his best. He took Jones to the ground in a way nobody does. The big Swede has serious take down skills and with Teixeira likely to be looking to fight up close, a submission for the home side isn’t impossible. That’s a decent shout at 8/1.
To be fair though, while Gustafsson has one of the best skill sets in UFC – even if he doesn’t always bring it out to play – Teixeira is a solid lump that’ll take a bulldozer-sized force to tip over.
And, added to the fact that he hits with the power of a full-blown heavyweight, the Brazilian comes with a locker-full of wrestling skills. The de-bagging by Rumble is his only loss in five, and he pinged back from that by upsetting rising star Jared Cannonier at UFC 208.
Teixeira looks to pressure his opponents, stalking them around the cage, pressuring them, looking to stun or finish things with his right, or bring them to the canvas for a lesson in ground ‘n’ pound, crushing, grinding and pummelling them to submit.
He’s managed to take down most of his opponents, including Rampage Jackson, and you’ll get Teixeira submitting Gustafsson for 10/1.
Long, but not out of sight.
But Gustafsson in is rangy and will want to keep the fight at distance. Both have serious strike force and if they end up trading blows it’ll be a feisty affair.
If that scenario plays out my money’s on the big Swede to land the better shots. Adding Teixeira to his existing record of 10 KO’s is an easy 11/10.
Personally though, I don’t see it. I think Gustafsson will struggle to find a finish and that’ll leave him beating up the Brazilian from afar, peppering Teixeira from the souls of his feet to the top of his head with vicious shots. The Brazilian will suddenly realise it’s round five and there’s no way back.
Gustafsson by a decision, the crowd goes wild, Jones and Cormier start eating raw meat.
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