Alexander Gustafsson showed fantastic takedown defense last Saturday in his UFC light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones.
In an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show, Gustafsson’s trainer and Alliance MMA head coach Eric Del Fierro discussed the Swede’s ability to stay on his feet, his boxing and much more.
On Gustafsson’s takedown defense: “I think it’s the whole evolution of his game that helped him not allow Jones to set his takedowns up. His boxing is bar none probably the best in the sport right now. You hit these little short angles that people aren’t noticing, it’s a lot harder to take these guys down. Wrestling in MMA, sometimes it’s predictable. We can see certain things that we can counter and build Alex’s defense on, but he’s such a phenomenal athlete and just a hard worker that even if he doesn’t have the perfect technique, he’ll work his way out of it. And more than anything, it’s just the confidence in knowing, ‘OK, I know how to stuff the takedown. I just need to go in there and do it.’”
On Gustafsson’s confidence: “The confidence came to us from stopping the takedowns. The main thing we had to get in Alex’s head is once you stop the takedowns, you can do whatever you want and let’s pressure forward. That’s what we were looking to get in Alex’s mind. Trust me, Alex has evolved as a mixed martial artist and his wrestling has came up leaps and bounds. … We established our range. We established our rhythm. We know where we have our advantages. Now once we stop the takedowns, let’s go forward and grind this guy. I knew we had a definite advantage in the boxing. The cut, it’s not an end-all to the fight. We just knew we’ve got to keep the pressure on and go forward now.”
On being aggressive: “One thing we had to take away right away was [Jones’] ability to maintain the range with push kicks and just let him know that, hey, no matter what, you’re in a fight. Whether you’re winning or losing, you’re going to be in a fight. That’s what we were trying to do. I think fighting is the ability to take the other person off their game a little bit, even if it’s for a couple of seconds out of each round. We were just trying to establish a rhythm, establish a pace and keep Jones from being offensive. We were trying to be first on everything.”
On whether Jones might have been surprised by Gustafsson: “He comes from a great camp. Those guys do great work over there. I’m sure they did their homework. I actually rode in the same limo to the hotel with Greg [Jackson], and we were talking about the fight, kind of messing with each other’s minds on the way to the hotel. I’m sure they were 100-percent prepared obviously. It was a tough fight. I know Greg wasn’t looking past Alex at all.”
On what can be taken from the fight, despite losing the decision: “Alex has been super dominating prior to this fight. He hasn’t been in a dogfight like this in a long time. I think both guys are just going to grow, and their skill level is going to go through the roof.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 57:30).