Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (13-1-0) vs. Thiago Silva (14-2-0-1)

When fighters are brought up on who could be next to challenge for the title after Rashad Evans, Alexander Gustafsson’s name is always in the mix. Thiago Silva is a forgotten challenger after suffering injuries, losses, and most recently a failed drug test. Before his win against Brandon Vera was overturned, he was set to fight Rampage Jackson, but Matt Hamill filled in for him. Depending on the outcome of this fight we could have a former contender rise, or a streaking newcomer continue his rise toward the title.

Alexander Gustafsson is 5-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming to Wrestling standout Phil Davis. After that loss, Gustafsson went on to train with Davis and improve on his wrestling. He has only been competing for four years and has taken out such veterans as Vladimir Matyushenko, Matt Hamill, and Cyrille Diabate. It’s not that he just beat them, but in the fashion in which he did it. With Vladimir, he was able to take him out in a little over two minutes which is almost just as fast as Jon Jones, he finished Hamill by dropping him with straight punches something very few have done, and with Cyrille he showed adaptation taking him down and submitting him. With his ever growing ground arsenal, Gustafsson is one to watch as he could be a title contender by the year’s end.

Thiago Silva is once again looking to come back from a year long layoff. He took over a year off before he fought Rashad in a losing effort because of injuries, then he took a year off before beating the tar out of Brandon Vera. Now it is a year for his match with Gustafsson. Some people like to point out that long periods of inactivity can hurt a fight, but they need to remember that Thiago was not out from injury this time. He was out from a failed test. This fight he has to be ready for.

There styles would lead you to believe that this whole fight could play out on the feet, which it could. The problem is that we have seen Alexander take it to the ground in fights, and with a brawler like Thiago he may want to bring it there. There could be a problem there too, as we saw what Thiago did to Vera when they were on the ground. I think this is a battle that will not end early, and it will be battled in every inch of the octagon. Alexander needs to use his precise striking to keep Thiago away from clinching and using his power,  just like Machida did. He needs to clinch and take away Gustafsson’s range order to take it to the mat for an even playing field.

The Bottom Line: A lot of pundits are picking Gustafsson to beat Thiago and part of me wants to lean toward popular belief. The problem is Thiago fights not just for himself, but for his family and Country as well. I am going to go with Thiago by decision because we all make mistakes, but their is always room for redemption.