UFC 87 back in August featured some huge bouts in terms of relevance for MMA fans. Georges St. Pierre took on an able challenger in Jon Fitch to defend the UFC Welterweight crown, and Brock Lesnar defeated the always tough Heath Herring in a battle that not only tested Lesnar's conditioning, but gave fans a sense of what Lesnar can offer in upcoming fights.
One of the dark matches that took place that evening that many fans rarely saw was the absolute war between Jon Jones and Andre Gusmao. It was a 3 round barn burner of activity that mostly showcased Jon Jones' dynamic striking ability and power, but it also had some back and forth action that showed the quick Muay Thai abilities of Gusmao. Jones' power punching vs. Gusmao's Muay Thai clinch game made for some crazy exchanges. In the end, Gusmao lasted through the onslaught of a gassing Jon Jones, but he was defeated via unanimous decision.
Saturday evening will provide a proving ground for Andre Gusmao to sink or swim within the UFC's Light Heavyweight division. Jon Jones was a great surprise for many fans, but Gusmao isn't the type of fighter that fans should want to see cut from the UFC. He'll have a solid opportunity to bring his stock back into the mix with a win over Krzysztof Soszynski.
What makes me believe that Andre Gusmao's time has come to succeed in the big leagues? Although Gusmao is currently 5-1 in his MMA career, he's shown some positively destructive offense in the sport over the course of his career. Most notably, he defeated IFL veteran Mike Ciesnolevicz in only his second bout via a brutalizing knee strike from the clinch. The IFL managed to get Ciesnolevicz the rematch at the IFL 2007 Team Championship, but Gusmao's skill was proven to be legit as he once again defeated Ciesnolevicz via a crushing knee strike.
His Muay Thai is one of his more impressive base skills within his skillset. He has very smooth transitions from the standup game to the clinch, and he easily throws knees from his hips with precision and quickness. He has respectable striking, an impressive chin from what we saw in the Jon Jones fight, and his conditioning was an absolute suprise in that same matchup.
One of the attributes that seperates Gusmao from the pack is that he started his foray into mixed martial arts by studying and practicing Capoeira. Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that mixes martial arts and dance into one, and it is mostly practiced as an entertainment art. The Ginga movement is the base stance for Capoeira fighters, a side by side motion that resembles rocking back and forth.
How does this remotely tie into Gusmao's skillset? Interestingly enough, Gusmao has shown the ability to switch stances by using the Ginga at times in his career, and he showed some movement in the Jon Jones fight. It can be quite distracting to opposing fighters, and he can quickly change stances and throw strikes from that stance. Will we ever see it fully used in the Octagon by Gusmao? Probably not, but its base movements have no doubt given Gusmao some physical gifts.
Soszynski vs. Gusmao is currently lined up to be an even odds matchup, but I think this could be Gusmao's chance to put a solid win under his belt against a guy who has been exposed the casual fanbase via the Ultimate Fighter. It'll be a showdown between IFL veterans, and Gusmao will be seeking relevance in the division with a highlight win at UFC 98.