Alexander Gustafsson was a well-respected contender when he challenged Jon Jones for the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title at UFC 165 on Sept. 21, 2013 in Toronto. Although he lost a unanimous decision to “Bones,” Gustafsson entered a new competitive tax bracket by giving Jones all he could handle across five rounds.
“The Mauler” remains one of the sport’s premier fighters at 205 pounds despite being shelved by a shoulder injury that required surgery. When he returns, Gustafsson figures to position himself for a rematch with reigning light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who defeated him by split decision two-plus years ago. Until then, here are five things you might not know about the Swede:
1. He took up boxing at an early age.
Gustafsson was a boxer before he turned to mixed martial arts, starting at the age of 10. He won the Swedish national youth light heavyweight championship in 2003 and three amateur tournaments over a two-year period (2008-09). Gustafsson also partook in shoot-fighting -- a martial art that mixes muay Thai and catch wrestling -- and compiled a 5-1 record with four knockouts.
2. Time behind bars was part of his upbringing.
Gustafsson was arrested as an 18-year-old in 2005 and sentenced to 15 months in a prison in Sweden for “grievous bodily harm.” It was not his first brush with the law. In an interview with a Swedish website, Gustafsson admitted that his first arrest came when he was just 15. He owed his erratic behavior to misguided energy, conceded to having “no real goal” at the time and said he walked in “negative paths, and it became a destructive behavior” despite “great parents [and a] great family.”
3. Only once in his career has he suffered back-to-back defeats.
Since turning professional in 2007, Gustafsson has endured only one losing streak. He was knocked out by Anthony Johnson at UFC on Fox 14 in January 2015 and eight months later lost a unanimous decision to the aforementioned Cormier.
4. He has a knack for fast finishes, owing mostly to his standup prowess.
Gustafsson sports an 18-4 record that includes 14 finishes, eight of them in the first round. According to FightMetric data, he ranks fourth on the UFC’s all-time list for light heavyweights in knockdowns with nine, fifth in significant strikes landed with 641 and 10th in total strikes landed with 885.
5. His five-round clash with Jones resulted in numerous awards.
Gustafsson’s unforgettable encounter with Jones in 2013 spoke to his class and potential to become a champion, even though the decision did not go his way. It was named “Fight of the Year” by the UFC, the World MMA Awards, ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo! Sports and various other MMA websites. Jones called it “the hardest fight” of his career before being taken to the hospital.