Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira try to re-establish their relevance this May 28, 2017 at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
One sentence summary:
David: “Counting and breathing...disappearing in the fade...”
Phil: This fight would have been awesome a few years ago!
Record: Alexander Gustafsson 17-4 vs. Glover Teixeira 26-5
Odds: Alexander Gustafsson -330 vs. Glover Teixeira +270
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
David: Gustafsson’s record looks sketchy over the last five bouts on the surface. But he’s only lost to Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones in fantastic five round bouts, and suffered a quick knockout loss to Anthony Johnson who just might have been the rock between the paper and scissors of Cormier and Jones, respectively. In other words, there’s no shame in Gustafsson’s struggles. His resume took a step backwards with the Jan Blachowicz fight but it was well deserved, in my opinion. I’m a little old school when it comes to matchmaking. I didn’t like Fedor’s fights against Zulugorganzola and Japan’s heel of the week, but only because he was already a champion. Otherwise I appreciate the spirit of said matchmaking, and why I’d like to see stuff like Gustafsson vs. Blachowicz happen more often. Let the superheroes fight the superheroes once they’ve destroyed the henchmen.
Phil: Gustafsson has had a rocky path. He underperformed against a fading Shogun, and was an absolute afterthought against Jones, following one of the most pitiful marketing campaigns for a fight I've ever seen ("Greatness Within Reach" - Jones has long arms, and now his opponent does too!). That legendary fight did a lot for his stock and confidence. The Rumble loss, however, was another matter: getting brutally knocked out in front of a sold-out hometown crowd was heartwrenching. Even though he put on a great fight against Daniel Cormier, he looked frankly out of sorts- looking nervously back towards his corner, turning his back and running. It's also notable that he's only really fought about once a year, largely due to battling against nagging back injuries. Physical and confidence issues isn't an inspiring mixture.
David: I don’t know that Glover is much of a henchmen. And even if he is, he’s like that badass souped up Ray Charles looking henchmen from the 1989 Batman who takes Bruce Wayne to the fucking woodshed in the cathedral. You don’t underestimate Glover for a second, no matter how old you think he should get overnight. Like Gustafsson, he’s only taken a dirt nap once: when he fought Johnson. And like Gustafsson, he was given a softer touch in his return. The UFC gave each man room for one breather because there’s nothing soft about this matchup.
Phil: Glover has pretty much been holding the gate firm against Old Father Time. Every time the UFC has tried to test him with an up-and-comer like OSP or Cannonier, someone who might conceivably beat him if he's faded enough, he's shown that he's pretty much just as rawhide tough and consistent as he ever was.
What's at stake?
David: Kind of a lot. Light Heavyweight is on the verge of a not-Arab Spring. The signing of Gokhan Saki can be seen as an injection of life into LHW or - given Saki’s retirement from kickboxing and 17 years in K-1 - a flaccid hail mary. After all, I would not personally trust Jon Jones to pass a drug test if he were randomly inspected this Memorial weekend. Johnson is obviously a non-factor now that he’s selling weed. And after that we have the winner of Cirkunov vs. Volkan? Gustafsson and Teixeira are in a good spot to challenge for the title, and even a loss keeps them relevant given the competition.
Phil: I guess, yeah. I think that Glover in particular will never sniff anything like a UFC title again. He had his huge streak and underground king vibe when he came to the UFC and fought for the title, but at the moment he's very much a known quantity, and not one which jibes with UFC notions of saleability. So I think Gustafsson likely has more to lose here: this is a referendum (fair or not) on whether that Jones fight was just a fluke, and whether he belongs in the upper tier of this division.
Where do they want it?
David: Gustafsson is an intriguing fighter. Despite his long frame, he’s not an adept range fighter so much as he’s an efficient one - a piercing right low kick punctuates part of his perpetual attack and flicks a left jab from his orthodox stance that works like an umbrella, warping the nearby space like a hadron collider made of smashing cheesepuffs. He’s not a powerful puncher at range, but he’s accurate and committed. He gets a lot better in close quarters - kneeing with thunderous volition, and owning a set of wrestling options that’s hard for anyone to beat. Even Jon Jones struggled maneuvering inside the clinch and he’s still the best fighter LHW has seen. Gus is at his weakest trying to work at midrange - because he’s a pressure fighter by trade, he’s always working angles to land strikes. Fighters like Jimi Manuwa found success countering Gus’ rigid movement as he moves from punch entry A to punch entry Z. A combination of faulty footwork and zero head movement make him a constant pin cushion upstairs.
Phil: Gus' movement is at the core of his game, but its issues gets to the Rogan misconception that constantly covering ground is the same thing as footwork. I mean, it is sometimes! Constant lateral movement does make Gustafsson notably difficult to take down, because shots are difficult to line up. However, he tends to get his feet out of position, and struggles to reset. He also burns a lot of energy moving around the cage. However, if he's given his range, he's an extraordinarily effective offensive fighter, with a subtle and variegated jab. That being said, working past the jab exposes some fairly ragged holes: defense is limited to skittering back to range, hand parries, or trying to counter with his beloved right uppercut. His best trick is really to counter those who press in with a surprisingly wide array of takedowns: Metzgers, knee-taps, and even doubles.
David: Glover might not be the fighter he once was - or I should say the fighter he used to be hyped to be - but he’s still every bit as dangerous as you’d expect an overfed man named “Glover” to be. Teixeira (why do I do this to myself?) is a unique mixture of violence - this hulking man enacts his brutality through the grace of submission grappling. He’s downright scary on top. Impossible to sweep and a constant threat for chokes, cranks, and clamps. On the feet he has some of the most brutal uppercuts at light heavyweight. His boxing works like those gas station car washers - sweeping the proximity from both sides with broad brain smashing wipes. This will be an interesting fight in the clinch.
Phil: Glover is a fighter where we know almost exactly what we're getting. A probing jab, a counter overhand, and a sweeping left hook, then moving into the clinch, and single and double-leg takedowns, into the aforementioned brutal top control. Like Gustafsson, his problems are primarily defensive in nature. He doesn't have much in the way of head movement on the way in, although his chin saved him against everyone but Rumble. Similarly, he's shown to be one of those BJJ players who is devastating from top position, but is comparatively inert from the bottom; just too big, too slow to effectively scramble his way back to the feet. This may be interesting depending on how the wrestling game cancels out.
The basic dynamic of the fight is clear: Gustafsson will try to keep Glover out; Glover will almost certainly be able to close in. The question is what happens in the grappling and clinch exchanges once that happens.
Insight from past fights?
David: Gustafsson didn’t look perfect against Blachowicz. But I felt like Gustafsson’s issues against Blachowicz were vacuum problems. Glover has experienced a broader decline that will factor into the outcome. Glover used to be more active at midrange, closing the distance quicker. Now his first step is slower and I think that’s a huge red flag against potential success against Gus.
Phil: I felt like much of Gus' problems against Blachowicz were that he was unprepared to deal with movement- like Jones, he's over-used to opponents playing a static or forward pressure game, and struggled with someone who skipped away from his set-up jabs. Glover absolutely will not do that.
The Gus-Shogun and Glover-Rumble fights were interesting- Alex loves the uppercut which nailed Glover, but he's also shown a pronounced weakness to counter overhands, which Rua exploited multiple times.
David: This section feels like an exercise in mental gymnastics more than logical x-factors but Gustafsson is a rare example of a fighter who has been physically and mentally exhausted over the years. The story about his dad is truly heartbreaking. The sport is a brutal exercise in all encompassing duress enough.
Phil: If Gus is fighting against existential demons, then I also worry a little how much Glover has left in terms of his durability. He's been wobbled multiple times in his UFC career (Bader, OSP) and got put out for the first time by Rumble. Cannonier's dismal defensive wrestling made his chin a non-factor in their fight, but I do worry if he can keep it up.
David: I think this will go one of two ways - neither guy backs down and it turns into a brutal clinch war or one of the two take over the clinch and steadily dominates. I’m thinking it’s the latter. Gustafsson should be able to score takedowns from the clinch and likely in the center of the ring. Alexander Gustafsson by Decision.
Phil: I tend to agree. I think Glover absorbs damage at range, probably successfully closes in, but is likely still at an offense disadvantage. Both men have excellent top games, but I actually expect Gustafsson to be able to neutralize Glover's wrestling moreso than vice versa. I also have a bit more faith in Gustafsson's durability and gas tank. Alexander Gustafsson by TKO, round 3.