A heavyweight tie between three-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger, Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson, and former division titleholder, Fabrício ‘Vai Cavalo’ Werdum, is currently in the works to feature at a UFC ‘Fight Island’ event on July 25th. Swedish striker, Gustafsson, recently called time on his career last June but is now expected to make his comeback, this time in a heavyweight division debut.
Arboga native, Gustafsson – dropped a submission loss to Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith in Stockholm last June, before announcing his intentions to retire from mixed martial arts during his post-fight interview. Former UFC heavyweight best, Werdum, recently returned from a USADA suspension at UFC 249 – losing a hard-fought unanimous decision to Aleksei Oleinik in Jacksonville, Florida. News of the targeted matching was first reported by Combate reporter, Raphael Marinho.
If a pairing with Werdum fails to come to fruition, it’s reported one-time interim light heavyweight title challenger, Ovince Saint Preux will be earmarked for a pairing with Gustafsson – following his recent heavyweight bow against Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Night Jacksonville on May 13th.
Gustafsson, 33, is widely considered as one of the sport’s greatest to never achieve champion status under the UFC banner. Against Jon Jones back at UFC 165, the two competed to a very close unanimous decision. Facing Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier at UFC 192 in 2015, a split decision was all that could separate the two, in Cormier’s favour.
Since the beginning of his career back in November of 2007, the Allstars Training Center mainstay has notched notable wins over former PRIDE FC Grand Prix winner, and former light heavyweight best, ‘Shogun’ Rua. Later in his career, Gustafsson would defeat then perennial contenders, Jimi Manuwa, Jan Błachowicz, and one-time title chaser, Glover Teixeira, the latter via a stunning highlight-reel uppercut combination.
Following a knockout defeat to former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion, Alexander ‘Drago’ Volkov at UFC Fight Night London in March of 2018 – Rio Grande do Sul native, Werdum, was pulled from an initial pairing with the above noted, Oleinik – after a test-sample provided to USADA was flagged. After he tested positive for trenbolone, Werdum seen his two-year suspension reduced to ten months after he provided, substantial assistance.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout rose to prominence following his release from the UFC back in 2008, becoming the first to legitimately stop the iconic Fedor Emelianenko during a Strikeforce clash back in 2010. The 42-year-old would go on to resign with the promotion in 2012, defeating the likes of Roy Nelson, ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira, and Mark Hunt in an interim heavyweight title meeting, to earn a unification bout with Cain Velasquez.
At UFC 188 in June of 2015, Werdum shockingly submitted Velasquez in the third round via guillotine to unify the titles in Mexico City. The Kings MMA trainee would lose the championship to current titleholder, Stipe Miocic at UFC 198 in his native Brazil in his first attempted title defence.