Werdum vs Gustafsson: Last Chance At Championship Capability
By James Lee
As a title opportunity may await the victor in Saturday’s headliner, the event additionally poses a last chance at acquiring championship capability for two veterans of the sport.
For Fabricio Werdum, he has one last chance to reclaim his past title. For Alexander Gustafsson, a divisional move to heavyweight poses his final possibility for a sporting reignition.
In the case of the Swede, many have suggested he is the best fighter in history to have never claimed a UFC title. Three failed attempts have masked an authoritative career, in which he has thrived in a light-heavyweight division that few have.
Without a doubt, the closest he came to acquiring gold was at UFC 165 in 2013. A Canadian clash with Jon Jones in a fight accoladed amongst the sport’s historic highlights saw ‘The Mauler’ credited by many as winning the close call. As Jones is widely recognised as the greatest fighter in history, Gustafsson can explicitly say he pushed the American the furthest inside the octagon.
Needless to say, his second attempt at Jones did not go anywhere near as planned. A demonstrative affair ended well within the time limit as the Swede faltered to ground strikes. Many forget his title affair though with Daniel Cormier that also came drastically close to seeing the gold move permanently to Europe. Again, many felt the decision could have been different and considering how Cormier is observed, it is a further indicator of Gustafsson’s level of skill.
In the opposing case, Fabricio Werdum did indeed seize his championship potential but has fallen dramatically short since. Wins against Mark Hunt and Cain Velasquez ensured his undisputed status, but his fate is significantly different in the modern-day. After Stipe Miocic ended his reign in his home country, the Brazilian has yet to rekindle his former self.
Although mixed success followed after UFC 198, the last two years especially ended his imminent hope for the heavyweight throne. A disheartening knockout loss to Alexander Volkov was followed by a meaningful USADA suspension. His return fight in May similarly lacked authority but showed signs that his career was not entirely over as he contested to a split decision with Alexey Oleinik.
In all honesty, championship capability for either at heavyweight is very unlikely. As it appears Francis N’Gannou will reign over the division for a prolonged time, there is little room for a separate contender. However, both have experience to offer the sport, and the victor may once again prove their worth at the heavyweight mountain after Saturday.