It’s very nice to see someone like Vladimir still in the UFC and being featured on the main card of another huge UFC event. He’s a guy that started out as a pure wrestler-type more than a decade ago, but now loves to use his heavy hands. Like a gatekeeper version of Dan Henderson, with a Russian charm as opposed to Henderson’s American charm. Matyushenko’s knock out of Jason Brilz at UFC 129 was one of the highlights of one of the greatest UFC events of all time.
These two were originally set to face off at UFC 133, but various issues forced that bout not to happen. First off, co-headliner Phil Davis was injured and Matyushenko was seriously considered to be moved up to the main event to fight Rashad Evans (it would have been his first UFC PPV main event since the UFC 33 debacle, exactly 100 numbered events later). Eventually, what ended up happening was Ortiz stepped up to fight Evans and Matyushenko ended up suffering an injury so he had to back out of the original Gustafsson fight.
So Gustafsson had to fight a new opponent on short notice, and Matt Hamill stepped up to fight “The Mauler”. The first round was pretty competitive, Gustafsson was landing the cleaner and better strikes but Hamill was still being able to land his hard shots on Gustafsson. Eventually in the second round, Gustafsson put an awful beating on Hamill and stopped him via strikes. Hamill announced his retirement from Mixed Martial Arts a few days later.
Matyushenko, while he is as fun as he’s ever been in his career, will probably play right into Gustafsson’s strength. I see Gustafsson getting the upper hand in a similar way to how Antonio Rogerio Nogueira took advantage of Matyushenko wanting to strike at Affliction: Day of Reckoning. I think The Mauler’s superior striking, good takedown defense, and youth will overmatch the beloved Russian.