Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 4/30/13
  Only the mysterious workings of the Gods of MMA can explain how Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida have ended up as the rival contenders for the light heavyweight championship. Lyoto Machida beats two very reputable fighters, which would immediately secure him a shot at Jon Jones had he not been defeated by Jones in December of 2011. Because he’s already faced Jones fairly recently, it’s only right that Machida should have to wait in line so another light heavyweight with a similar recent streak of accomplishments can have his chance first. Unless of course, Machida picks up a third win and/or there isn’t another fighter who can boast two victories over top-tier fighters. Countering Machida’s second shot at Jones was supposed to be Alexander Gustafsson, who should have also beaten two reputable fighters by now had it not been for his withdrawal from his bout with Gegard Mousasi. Gustafsson needs a second big wins to earn his first title shot and Lyoto needs a third to earn his second. There also aren’t any other highly ranked light heavyweights with the records to grant a title opportunity. The UFC tried ignoring this factor at UFC 159 and we all saw what happened. Don’t you love those rare moments in the UFC when things actually work out the way they should? The bonus is the undeniable assumption that a match between Gustafsson and Machida would be one of the most entertaining and interesting striking battles in recent memory. If this match gets made, it will decide who should truly be crowned the best pure stand-up fighter in the division. They’re might be more well-rounded fighters at light heavyweight (such as champion Jon Jones), but when it comes to pure striking, Lyoto Machida and Alexander Gustafsson are without a doubt the two most dangerous and talented fighters of this weight class and possibly the entire UFC. Between their punching and kicking combinations and their brilliant use of all eight limbs, watching these knockout artists strategically impose their will upon their opponents is a spectacle few other competitors can display. This fight, however, wouldn’t just be the usual firework-filled brawl. It would be a technical contest of accuracy and timing, a class of rival styles that have been honed to an unbelievable efficiency. Gustafsson versus Machida would pit a ruthlessly aggressive kickboxer against a calculating karate master to see who can inflict the most damage until the final round ends. These guys have the skills to knock out anybody who comes their way. That’s why it’s safe to say that the only fighters who could potentially beat these two at their own area of expertise are each other. If anyone is going to have an answer to Alexander Gustafsson’s rushing Muay-Thai assaults, it’s the laser-like counter-striking of Lyoto Machida. And if anyone can summon the relentless pressure to penetrate the elusiveness of “The Dragon,” it’s the flying fists of the greatest fighter to come out of Europe since Michael Bisping. Gustafsson and Machida offer arguably the toughest tests of stand-up technique available for each other in the division. Just like we needed to see if Carlos Condit could handle Johny Hendricks and vice versa, we need to find out if it will be Machida or Gustafsson who can successfully neutralize the attacks that would otherwise overcome just about anybody else in the division.   We’ve never seen “The Mauler” fight anybody with a knack for unexpected counter-strikes and we’ve never seen Machida dodge and return the furious punching barrages that have carried Gustafsson to victory so many times. The curiosity is killing us. The mystery just has to be solved. No one is going to out-grapple Jon Jones so the new champion will have to earn the win through the use of strikes. The winner of Gustafsson versus Machida will have either out-pointed or knocked out the man who is currently under the impression that he can knock out or out-point anyone at 205 lbs. In other words, the winner of this prospective fight will have the striking capabilities that could finally end the historic reign of Jon Jones. The best part is the result will be uncovered in the form of an exciting duel that, like every past match-up with similar-styled combatants, has fight of the year written all over it.

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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