The second bout of the evening features two light heavyweights looking to climb back into the title discussions. Gustafsson will be having his sixth UFC fight, while Matyushenko is on his sixth fight in his current UFC run, and with both fighters holding impressive 4-1 records in that time, the winner is likely to find himself paired with a top contender in his next bout.
As seems to be a common occurrence of late, this bout pits a seasoned veteran against an up-and-coming prospect, with Matyushenko handling the first role in the pairing. The Belarusian's resume includes a prior run in the UFC, a bout with Affliction, and a reign as IFL Light Heavyweight Champion prior to the organization folding.
Matyushenko began his return to the UFC with a pair of decision wins which were far from scintillating, leaving many to claim the UFC was feeding him to Jon Jones when they were paired to headline a UFC Live card. The accusations proved to be well-founded, as the current champ blew through Matyushenko. "The Janitor" has bounced back strong, however, with a pair of quick TKO victories over Alexandre Ferreira and Jason Brilz to put himself back in position to challenge for a crack at the division's elite again.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Although Matyushenko won his last bout with a quick KO on the feet, he is an old-school wrestling fighter, meaning his specialty is in putting his opponents on their back and softening them up with ground and pound from on top. On a good night, that ground and pound earns a stoppage or opens the door for a submission. On a slower night, Matyushenko comes with 15 minutes of pain for his opponent, as he locks them on their back and hits from on top.
Matyushenko is a sizable betting underdog, however the fantasy books are giving shy of 2:1 payoffs. Stay away with your fantasy bankroll, as the odds don't mesh with Matyushenko's chances of winning, and even those in search of a 'dog to parlay with some surer picks can find bigger payoffs for smaller underdogs elsewhere on the card. On the straight betting, if your gut is screaming Matyushenko to pull off the upset, your safest play is with a grinding unanimous decision.
Alexander Gustafsson analysis after the jump.
The 24-year-old Swede is a talented prospect at 205-pounds, a division already with no shortage of intriguing young prospects to square off with its equally young champion over the coming years. If one thing has been certain when Gustafsson entered the cage, it's that the third round ring card girl won't be needed, as Gustafsson has never been to the round in his 13 career fights.
Gustafsson entered the UFC as an undefeated small-show fighter, and needed just 41 seconds to add to his resume with a knock out of Jared Hamman. The win saw him paired with American wrestler Phil Davis, and Gustafsson was unable to handle the grappling chops of Davis, suffering a first round submission loss. The two formed a bond, however, and Gustafsson soon joined Davis in training and has rebounded with three straight stoppage wins, submitting Cyrille Diabate and James Te Huna before stopping Matt Hamill with elbow strikes.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Like many of the rising stars of the sport, Gustafsson's best attribute may not be a specific facet of the game, but rather how soundly it always appears the Gustafsson stepping into the cage on a given night could handle the last Gustafsson to enter the cage. Already a well-rounded fighter, the Swede has looked improved every time he's graced the Octagon, and that's a dangerous prospect for an opponent preparing to fight him. Gustafsson's lone loss did come as a result of falling to a better wrestler in Davis, which must be a concern for Gustafsson, who likely spent much of camp working on fending off "The Janitor's" takedowns.
Any time you can get the oddsmakers second-biggest favorite on a card for only -210 in the fantasy game you have a strong candidate as a safe bet to add some accumulation to your parlay. For the straight-up picking, Gustafsson brings that troubling element where you have a good idea of how a fighter will plan to seek out his win, but uncertainty as to how the final action will come about. Gustafsson could well slap on a submission after hurting Matyushenko, but since there's no hedging of bets in fight picking, take Gustafsson in the second via TKO.