Preview: UFC Fight Night – Gustafsson vs. Teixeira

UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira will take place on Sunday from the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Former light heavyweight title challengers Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira will do battle in the main event and the co main event also comes from the light heavyweight division with Volkan Oezdemir taking on Misha Cirkunov.

Both men are in the top 10 of the division and are young for the division so it is a big fight for the future of light heavyweight. Elsewhere the card features the type of interesting prospects and potentially exciting action fights that have come to define the UFC’s trips to Europe in recent years, while these cards are low on name value, they usually deliver on entertainment.

Gustafsson has had a tough time in recent years, due to injuries he only competed once in 2014, twice in 2015 and once last year. He is 2-2 in those fights, with victories over Jimi Manuwa and Jan Błachowicz bookending defeats to Rumble Johnson and Daniel Cormier. The loss to Rumble was a crushing KO in front of his home fans, while he gave Cormier everything he could handle in an exceptional title fight. It is hard to tell how much the injuries have affected Gustafsson, he certainly did not look at his best against Blachowicz but I think it is too early to declare him over the hill at this point.

Gustafsson uses his long reach to stay on the outside and pepper his opponent with straight punches and kicks. He has great movement and is surprisingly agile for someone his size. An underrated aspect of Gustafsson’s game is his grappling. He is an excellent defensive wrestler, with Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier struggling to get, and keep him on the ground for extended periods when they fought. His offensive wrestling is also a potent weapon, he used it very effectively in his last fight to see off Blachowicz. His length gives him considerable leverage in the clinch and this is another area where Gustafsson is very dangerous.

Glover Teixeira has also had a rough few years, starting with his unsuccessful title challenge against Jon Jones. He then lost a decision at home against Phil Davis but was able to right the ship after that with three victories in a row before succumbing to a brutal KO from Rumble Johnson in a fight that lasted just 13 seconds. He returned in February to fight Jared Cannonier and while he pulled out a decision victory it was a strange performance. Teixeira looked hesitant to exchange and mainly relied on his sturdy wrestling ability to secure the victory.

Teixeira made his name as a puncher with vicious power in close and snappy counter punches at distance. He was never the most agile of fighters but he has looked increasingly plodding in recent outings. He will be looking to close the distance against Gustafsson and land hard shots in the pocket and rough the Swede up against the fence and work takedowns if he can. Teixeira has very underrated grappling himself and his ground and pound can be ferocious at times.

I expect Gustafsson to be able to see off Teixeira at this point in their careers. His takedown defence held up against two of the finest wrestlers in the sport in Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier so I do not think Teixeira will be able to get him down or keep him down for any real length of time. I don’t think Teixeira has the guile or the quickness to get inside regularly on Gustafsson to punish him there either. Cormier took an awful lot of damage from uppercuts and hooks as he tried to get close to Gustafsson and Teixeira will likely suffer a similar fate.

Gustafsson should be able to land clean shots at distance and I think he will eventually find a telling shot as the fight progresses and put Teixeira away.

In the co-main event I must first express relief and gratitude that the UFC re-signed Misha Cirkunov when it looked like he would leave the UFC after his last fight. Light heavyweight has been top heavy and ageing for a long time and it is coming to crisis at this point with the departure of Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Rashad Evans and Rumble Johnson. The UFC also lost young prospect Nikita Krylov, to lose Cirkunov would have been a huge blow to an already decimated division.

The fact that Volkan Oezdemir can vault into the UFC top 10 rankings after one fight in the promotion is testament to the state of the division. Although in saying that, it was an impressive performance against Ovince St. Preux who is a contender himself. Oezdemir is a good fighter, he is an aggressive kickboxer trained by Henri Hooft and he displays the trademarks of that style well. He is at his most comfortable when pressing forward and he has quite a varied attack mixing punches and kicks. He is durable and he has a passable gas tank, but he is not a top 10 fighter at this point in his career, at least not in any other division in MMA.

Cirkunov is an outstanding prospect and he can really push his career forward with a big performance here. He has won all four of his UFC fights by finish with the last three being submissions. He is an accomplished judoka and a BJJ black belt, you do not want to be on the ground with this guy. The stand up part of his game is coming along nicely. He is a little stiff and he isn’t the quickest or the most agile of fighters but he has the basic mechanics down and he packs a lot of power. At 30 years old he is a baby in the rather elderly looking light heavyweight rankings.

Cirkunov will eventually get Oezdemir down and get the submission, but Oezdemir has the skill and power to make things very exciting for us, and tricky for Cirkunov before he gets that takedown.

FIGHT PICKS

Main Card (BT Sport, 6 PM)

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira – Gustafsson 3rd round stoppage
Misha Cirkunov vs. Volkan Oezdemir – Cirkunov by submission
Ben Saunders vs. Peter Sobotta – Sobotta in a razor close fight
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Omari Akhmedov – Akhmedov
Oliver Enkamp vs. Nordine Taleb – Taleb
Jack Hermansson vs. Alex Nicholson – Hermansson

Preliminary Card (BT Sport, 4 PM)

Pedro Munhoz vs. Damian Stasiak – Munhoz
Chris Camozzi vs. Trevor Smith – Camozzi
Reza Madadi vs. Joaquim Silva – Silva
Nico Musoke vs. Bojan Velickovic – Musoke

Preliminary Card (Fight Pass, 3 PM)

Jessin Ayari vs. Darren Till – Till
Marcin Held vs. Damir Hadzovic – Held

 

BETTING TIP

Alhassan is very inexperienced, surprised to see him favoured so much over Akhmedov. If he can’t find an early knockout shot he is liable to tire out and lose a decision to the more experienced Russian fighter. Akhmedov to win 2/1