By Justin Faux
One of the key breakout stars of the year has been Alexander Gustafsson.
Beginning his year in Sydney, Australia Gustafsson submitted local hero James Te Huna with a rear-naked-choke with only seconds remaining in the opening round. He bettered that impressive outing at UFC 133 in August by destroying UFC mainstay Matt Hamill and putting him away in the second frame.
Tonight he put the icing on the cake that was 2011 by collecting his fourth straight stoppage victory tonight against grizzled veteran Vladimir Matyushenko. Matyushenko has seen and done it all when it comes to mixed martial arts. A veteran of 31 professional bouts “The Janitor” has faced some of the best in the game including Tito Ortiz, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski and reigning light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones. It was safe to say the Belarusian striker had a trick or two up his sleeve and was set to be one of the toughest tests of Gustafssons young career. Once again he passed the test with flying colors, Gustafsson showed off his incredibly long limbs picking apart the veteran on the outside before catching him with a brutal right hand while he was coming in. It took a little over two minutes for Matyushenko to become just another notch in the young Swedes belt.
Now the talented young kick-boxer sits in a spot very similar to where the reigning king at 205-pounds, Jon Jones sat 12 months prior. Jones had two back-to-back opening frame stoppages of Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko in 2010 and had to fight fans and media aficionado’s questioning his potential as a player in the light-heavyweight landscape. Little did we know that merely three months later Jones would have ten-pounds of UFC gold wrapped comfortably around his waist. To predict that Gustafsson will have a year similar to Jones’ is outrageous since Jones only got a chance at being the top dog due to his fellow Jackson’s training partner Rashad Evans being forced out of his title bout with “Shogun” Rua.
Is it crazy to think that when 2012 comes to a close that “The Mauler” wouldn’t be a fight or two away from challenging for a championship? I don’t think so.
Gustafsson was blessed with a natural athleticism and competitive nature that has taken him a long way in a short period of time, and at 24-years-of-age, the sky is the limit.