In the eternal hunt for the "next" big thing, many have anointed the title on Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson, the 6-foot-5 striker who earned his biggest career victory by beating Thiago Silva at UFC on FUEL 2, just a week before UFC light-heayvweight divisional champ Jon Jones successfully defended his title.
Jones has been one of the many impressed by the 25-year-old, though he doesn't feel he's quite ready for a title shot just yet.
"Alexander Gustfasson I think is pretty close to a title shot," he said last week. "I think if maybe he wins two more fights against some top guys like maybe Lyoto [Machida] or Rashad [Evans] or somebody who can push him in different categories. I would like to see him against a wrestler, and I would like to see him against a worthy striker, then a title shot would be very appropriate."
Gustafsson was never truly in the running to fight Jones next anyway, since Dan Henderson had been queued up as the next challenger for quite some time.
As Gustafsson's risen up the ladder though, there have been increased comparisons between him and Jones. But while the 24-year-old champ is impressed by Gustafsson, he doesn't quite see a reflection of himself.
"I think the only similarity is that we’re both tall, and that’s it," he said. "We are completely different athletes. I have a wrestler-base where I shoot and throw from the clinch. I kick fast and accurate. He has really great boxing. I like his demeanor, though. He has some swagger. That kid has swagger. He exudes winning the second he steps in the cage. I realize that about him. But I think the kid has the potential to be a star. Sweden just loves him. And I saw that he just has 'it,' and I’m excited for him."
Gustafsson's won five straight matches, including four via stoppage, leading to speculation that he and Jones could meet somewhere down the line, something that UFC president Dana White indirectly acknowledged when asked about it.
"There's a lot of things we could do in that weight division," he said. "It's always and always will be a fun division."