UFC on Fuel TV 2: Gustafsson vs. Silva goes down tomorrow from the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, marking the promotion’s first trip to the country.
In the main event, surging Swedish fighter Alexander Gustafsson will look to keep his momentum going when he takes on the returning Thiago Silva. Middleweights Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara will square off in the co-main event.
FightLine writers Dana Becker, Jack Pollock and myself take a brief look at the two top fights and offer our predictions.
Don’t miss FightLine’s live, ongoing coverage of the event tomorrow, which begins at 12:30 p.m. ET/ 9:30 a.m. PT.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva
In this light heavyweight battle, Thiago Silva will be looking to stall Gustafsson’s momentum and generate his own after a yearlong layoff.
The 25-year-old Gustafsson is one of the division’s tallest fighters at 6’5” and uses his size well to his advantage. Most impressive on his feet, Gustafsson also claims very competent and ever-improving ground skills. Having gone on a four-fight streak since taking up residence with Alliance MMA, Gustafsson seems poised to make a run to the top.
Silva is a seasoned competitor with an edge in experience over Gustafsson, but enters into this fight having been dormant for one year while riding out a suspension. The hard-charging Brazilian owns a BJJ black belt and employs a brawling style of stand up.
Mark: Silva has the ability to hurt Gustafsson and give him trouble on the ground, but I believe the young Swede’s improving ground game and precision striking will win the night. Gustafsson via second round TKO (strikes)
Dana: The height of Alexander Gustafsson, coupled with the year-long suspension, will be too much for Thiago Silva to handle. Just for good measure, add in Gustafsson fighting in his home country, and I feel like the odds are stacked heavily against “The Pitbull.” However, Silva does have the power to rock Gustafsson if he can get close enough without taking too much damage himself. Conditioning could also be a factor, as Gustafsson seems like the new-age kind of fighter who could go 10 rounds if you wanted him to. Gustafsson defeated Silva via second round submission (rear-naked choke)
Jack: Alexander Gustafsson is starting to get the attention he deserves after ripping through his last four opponents. The Swede has got a build similar to Jon Jones and knows how to use his reach effectively. His first round TKO over a gamer like Vladimir Matyushenko speaks volumes about this up-and-coming light heavyweight. On the other hand, Thiago Silva has a lot to prove since his no contest against Brandon Vera over a year ago. Silva’s biggest weapon is his heavy hands which have been the deciding factor for him. He has got to strike early if he wants a chance against the hometown favorite. But it’s hard to bet against Gustafsson who has only one decision on his record. Look for an all out war with the lankier opponent coming on top. Gustafsson via second round TKO (strikes)
Brian Stann vs. Alessio Sakara
Both Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara will be looking to rebound from losses that ended three-fight streaks when they face each other this weekend.
Stann most recently appeared in action this past October against Chael Sonnen, who managed to nullify Stann’s heavy hands and win the bout with powerhouse grappling. Though not a slouch on the mat, Stann’s bread and butter are his heavy hands and aggressive striking assault.
A former pro boxer, Sakara sports similar credentials to Stann. Though longer in the game, Sakara has had a more inconsistent career than the All-American. The Italian fighter was beaten via unanimous decision by rising star Chris Weidman last March in his latest outing.
Mark: Unless someone gets cute, look for Sakara and Stann to slug it out. I think that Stann has a slight edge in stand up technique – or at least effectiveness – and a stronger beard, which should be enough to carry him to victory. Stann via first round KO (punch)
Dana: Dana: Brian Stann didn’t have a great showing against Chael Sonnen, but he is a much better fighter than that. Look for Stann to show off his complete fighting skills against an over-matched Alessio Sakara. Stann is going to be a contender in the middleweight division, and while he may never defeat the elite, he is still several rings above Sakara. Some ground-and-pound by Stann late in the fight will be enough to earn him a decision. Stann via unanimous decision
Jack: Stann is a tough competitor and will be looking to rebound after Sonnen manhandled him in October of last year. He is a disciplined fighter and shows more composure than Sakara who is coming off a layoff and has shown inconsistencies in the past. Sakara’s BJJ blackbelt often goes unnoticed, so it would be interesting if he decides to put his ground game to the test, an area where Stann has been most vulnerable. That said, I see Stann going in there and dissecting the Italian with solid striking and well-timed agression. It’s a must-win for the U.S. Marine and I just see him gutting this one out. Stann via second round TKO (strikes)