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Teixeira-Gustafsson is UFC’s Fight to Make

Photo Courtesy Of AP

Former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira proved that he’s still a major player in the division with his impressive performance against a game, but woefully outgunned Patrick Cummins at Fight Night 77. Teixeira employed his standout striking skills in Sao Paulo to batter Cummins until the contest was halted early in the second-round. It was the second consecutive victory for the hard-hitting Brazilian since a failed title challenge against long-time former divisional kingpin Jon Jones at UFC 172.

There’s no doubt that Teixeira has rejuvenated his standing after the first two-fight skid of his career. It was felt in some circles that the 36-year-old was on the decline when he followed up the Jones defeat with a lackluster showing against Phil Davis. However, Teixeira is clearly ready for a major fight moving forward after his back-to-back triumphs against Ovince Saint Preux and Cummins. He’s solidified his no. 4-ranking within the division.

It’s an intriguing 205-pound landscape at the moment. With Jon Jones reinstated we’re all awaiting the announcement of an expected title rematch against current champion Daniel Cormier for early 2016. The other half of a seeming Final Four for the division is the UFC on FOX 18 headliner between No. 1-ranked Anthony Johnson and No. 3-contender Ryan Bader. They’re booked to collide on Jan. 30 in Newark, New Jersey. That leaves an impressive next tier that includes Teixeira along with former titlist Rashad Evans and two-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

While Evans and Gustafsson are seemingly agreeable to a future matchup after their recent losses at UFC 192, a Teixeira vs. Gustafsson matchup would actually be more attractive. “The Mauler” may have lost three of his last four, but his stock actually rose after giving DC all he could handle in their title clash in Houston. On the other hand, “Suga” looked lethargic in his return after a nearly two-year absence due to knee issues in losing a unanimous decision to Bader.

Evans continues to hold down a top-five ranking but it’s actually been quite some time since he’s been involved in what would be deemed as an “exciting” fight. The 36-year-old veteran has had trouble pulling the trigger in some of his recent outings, with the one exception being his one-round blitzing of Chael Sonnen at UFC 167. While Evans is confident he can get back to the top, it would appear as though his best days are behind him.

The 28-year-old Gustafsson has been involved in two title thrillers and would appear to be the better stylistic matchup for Teixeira. The towering Swede is noted for his striking prowess and owns notable victories over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Jimi Manuwa. Gustafsson became an overnight star at UFC 165 when he gave Jones the toughest fight of his lengthy title reign. “Bones” retained his title by unanimous decision in one of the best light heavyweight title affairs in UFC history.

Alexander Gustafsson inside the Octagon

Gregory Payan/AP

There’s no doubt that the No. 2-ranked Gustafsson would likely welcome the opportunity for a matchup against the heavy-handed Teixeira. It’s a fight that would serve both contenders well in their bid to vault back into the title conversation. With a combined 34 finishes between them in 40 career triumphs, the matchup would certainly have explosive potential.

The two men had actually been slated to originally headline UFC Fight Night 69 in Germany but Gustafsson was forced out because of an injury. The fight could definitely work as a Fight Night headliner in either Brazil or Europe, and hopefully it’ll be rebooked. Outside of the two major contests that will determine the future of the 205-pound division early next year, Teixeira vs. Gustafsson would appear to be the next best thing.


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