The of a European flavour, which can only be a good thing, and this bout will potentially be a major stepping stone to getting one more European fighting for another belt before the year is out.makes a welcome return to Germany on September 3rd, when UFC Fight Night 93 struts into town – that town being Hamburg, where the promotion will be making its debut. As you would expect there have been the usual changes to the card, but one very mouth-watering addition has been the Gustafsson vs Blachowicz match up. MMA and the UFC is gradually getting more and more
It could all have been so different for the Swedish light heavyweight, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to see that he could be lining up at the Barclaycard Arena defending his title, instead of attempting to get his career back on track. From his first bout in the UFC where he knocked out Jared Hamman after 41 seconds of the very first round, Gustafsson has made a name for himself as a potential title contender. Since then he has concentrated on and eliminated some of the perceived weaknesses in his all round game, and he looks more and more the complete MMA fighter every time he steps into the octagon. It is his two championship fights he is best known for, certainly outside of his immediate fan base. Both those title fights–against Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier–were incredibly close, and but for slightly more favourable judging, or crucial incidents going fractionally differently he could have become the first Swedish UFC champion.
The orthodox fighter who has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu first got a title shot against Jon Jones at UFC 165. A massive underdog going into the fight, Gustafsson astounded critics, the audience and Jones himself by taking the champion into places no one had taken him before. In what would later be awarded the fight of the year, and is still in many people’s opinion the greatest light heavyweight title fight of all time. The Swede took Jones down for the first time in his career, and picked him off at will, badly cutting the American’s right eye in the process. Despite a late Jones rally, when it went to the judges’ scorecards it really could have gone either way, many feeling that Gustafsson was unlucky to lose especially on all three cards.
His next title fight, against Cormier, was even closer. Again, in what would be awarded a fight of the night, Gustafsson took the champion into deep and dark places, taking and knocking his opponent down several times. However, once again it was not to be, with Cormier winning by a split decision to keep his belt.
After those two losses, the number 4 ranked fighter in the division has probably done the right thing by stepping down in class to fight the Pole who will be coming in off the back of a winless 2015. No one knows what’s going to happen with Jones, so a big win in Hamburg – and that’s something that certainly the bookies are expecting, and 2016 could yet be the year that a Swede gets his hand raised in a title fight.
The six foot, 2 inch Pole has an impressive 19 – 5 MMA record, (2 – 2 since coming into the UFC), and Gustafsson will be unwise to underestimate his opponent. The Iron Bear has struggled when stepping up in class, losing to Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson in consecutive fights last year, but he has a good all round game, and has the ability to knock out and submit opponents. The Pole, who trains with the MMA Alliance team located in Chula Vista, California will be looking to build on his latest performance, a unanimous points decision victory over Igor Pokrajac at UFC Zagreb earlier this year. With what happened with Michael Bisping recently, it shows that anyone can take their chance and suddenly make a name for themselves.
It is the beauty of the sport that once the two fighters step into the octagon, all the records, the past and the talk are irrelevant. There is no doubt that Błachowicz has the tools to trouble Gustafsson if the Swede in anyway underestimates him, and he will certainly see this as a stage to propel himself and his career to where the big fights and bigger money are.
The Best of the Rest
The headline fight on the night is the matchup between two former UFC heavyweight champions Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski. The bill which features 13 fights, as well as the Gustafsson Blachowicz clash. Other highlights include the light heavyweight bout between Ilir Latifi and Ryan Bader, the bantamweight clash between Enrique Briones and Brad Pickett and Rustam Khabilov versus Leandro Silva in the lightweight division.
MMA is always well received in Germany, where it has a massive following. Come September 3rd, the atmosphere will be like no place else on earth, and for blood, guts and pure adrenaline, there is nowhere else to be.