One of the UFC’s more talented young light-heavyweights will step into the cage on Saturday night, when 11-1 Alexander Gustafsson will look to stake his place as a contender against Matt Hamill. Hamill had an inauspicious outing in the main event of UFC 130 in his last fight, as the wrestler was completely unable to take down Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Hamill did his best, but his game just wasn’t up to par, and he lost a lopsided unanimous decision while doing very little damage. Now, he’s taking this fight against Gustafsson on short notice, and he’ll certainly be looking to impose his will in a way he was unable to against Jackson.
There’s a chance he’ll be able to pull it off. His opponent, Gustafsson, is a fighter who has proven himself against strikers like Cyrille Diabate, but the one time he faced an overpowering wrestler, he was submitted in the first round by Phil Davis. One problem: Phil Davis is on a far different level than Matt Hamill right now. Just because Davis was able to overpower Gustafsson doesn’t mean that Hamill will be able to.
And the onus will be on Hamill to find a way to take Gustafsson down. Gustafsson has shown terrific striking skills, most notably in defeating accomplished Muay Thai fighter Diabate, and has also displayed a very intelligent fighting game. Against James Te Huna at UFC 127, Gustafsson was on the defensive early, as Te Huna attacked with a blitzkrieg of strikes and takedowns. Instead of panicking or getting sucked into a firefight, Gustafsson calmly waited for Te Huna to become fatigued, and proceeded to take Te Huna to the ground and choke him out. I fully expect that Gustafsson will have a good game plan for this fight, as Hamill’s skill set is very well-known at this point.
The other problem for Matt Hamill is that, while Gustafsson’s list of career victories isn’t something to be in awe of, Hamill doesn’t exactly have the best fight history either, at least not for somebody who’s been fighting in the UFC for five years. If you throw out the DQ win over Jon Jones, Hamill’s best wins are Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz, and Tito Ortiz. Munoz entered his fight with Hamill possessing just 20 months of professional fighting experience. Ortiz, despite beating Ryan Bader at UFC 132, was still a badly faded opponent when Hamill fought him. The win against Boetsch was nice enough, but not any better than Gustafsson’s win against Jared Hamman in my opinion.
SILVA PREDICTION: ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON (33.76) OVER MATT HAMILL (32.45)
Hamill’s SILVA score with the Jon Jones fight discounted would be 30.83. There’s absolutely a chance that he’ll be able to take down Gustafsson and eventually win by either TKO or decision, as we really don’t know how good Gustafsson’s takedown defense is yet. As far as the overall MMA game is concerned, Gustafsson is the better fighter at this point, and if Hamill struggles to take him down like he struggled to take down Jackson, he’s in for a very long night.