When the UFC booked the biggest European venue to hold the Octagon, this probably wasn’t what they had in mind. Swedes went 0-3 on home soil at UFC on FOX 14 — after pitching a shutout on the UFC Fight Night 53 main card back in October — and another blue and yellow crowd went home unhappy from Stockholm. Had Alexander Gustafsson managed to pull off the victory in the main event, the crowd likely would have forgotten the losses by Akira Corassani and Nico Musoke earlier in the evening, but the former light heavyweight title challenger losing on home soil would be akin to a Canadian crowd watching Georges St-Pierre drop a bout in Montreal’s Bell Centre. Swedes are now a pedestrian 7-11 when fighting at home against visiting opponents, and that doesn’t include adopted son Gunnar Nelson losing in the main event to Rick Story back at UFC Fight Night 53. It has been a downhill slide for Swedish MMA of late, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the UFC to return. Much of the talk heading into the Gustafsson-Anthony Johnson main event was centred around Gustafsson’s UFC 165 bout against Jon Jones, and inevitable rematch. The one problem with that is ‘Rumble’ didn’t get the script. Following some close early exchanges, Johnson suffered a poke to the eye. Spoiler alert: It is a bad idea to poke Anthony Johnson in the eye. Kevin Burns did it once and nearly got decapitate when he got back in the cage with ‘Rumble’. DJ Linderman did it and immediately got knocked out. The Gustafsson knockout didn’t happen quite as quickly, but Johnson rocked the Swede in the first combination following the eye poke. After that, ‘Rumble’ stalked his foe, eventually dropping him with a series of punches and landing huge punches under the armpit to force a stoppage. Given Jon Jones’ affinity for getting his hands in opponents’ faces, the eye poke/knockout sequence could be on tap once again.
Nobody is going to argue that ‘Rumble’ is Jon Jones’ most well-rounded challenge, but he is certainly the most dangerous, and it’s a fight that fans should be excited to see. As for Gustafsson, he’ll now be forced to stop living off the glory of his “almost” against Jones, and work his way up the ladder by facing quality opposition. Perhaps Ryan Bader? The co-main event saw Gegard Mousasi dispatch Dan Henderson in just 70 seconds. A more aggressive Mousasi made life extremely difficult for Henderson, and landed a sharp right hand to Henderson’s “temple” (which would be an accurate statement if only your temple was located behind your ear). It appeared that referee Leon Roberts jumped in rather quickly to halt the bout, especially given Henderson’s resume, but there didn’t seem to be too much of an uproar here. Henderson’s advanced age could have something to do with that, as could the fact that Mousasi seemed several steps ahead of him early in the bout.
Mousasi is an interesting case, because he’s so clearly better than anyone ranked outside of the top 10 at middleweight. The problem for him is that we’ve already seen him look utterly hopeless against top 5 competition on multiple occasions. I suppose Mousasi could face Yoel Romero next, since the Cuban was scheduled to take on ‘Jacare’ before an injury scrapped that bout. As for Henderson, it seems like he’s going to continue fighting, but I’m not sure anybody truly wants to see that. Phil Davis had another opportunity to cement himself as a top five challenger in the light heavyweight division, but just life previous bouts in the same position against Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson, he put on a rather poor performance. Scorecards were split on this one from both judges and media, but in the end two judges scored the bout for Ryan Bader. Although the quality of the striking wasn’t nearly the same, this bout reminded me of last weekend’s Cerrone/Henderson bout. Like Cerrone, Bader focused his attack upstairs but was never able to hurt his opponent. Davis used his kicking attack to go after the legs and body of Bader, and landed a higher volume of strikes, but the judges preferred the head shots. For Bader, it’s hard to figure out what to do next, but given his four-fight win streak — which includes three victories over top 15 ranked opponents — he has to take a step up. Perhaps the returning Rashad Evans would be suitable. As for Davis, I don’t think he has any chance of being built as a contender now, so see if a lower top 15 guy like his fellow Nittany Lion Patrick Cummins can continue to build his name. The opening bout of the main card was another sour one for Swedish fans, as Sam Sicilia knocked Akira Corassani out with a massive right hand inside the first round. Given each fighter’s defenseive woes, this bout was never likely to go the distance, but the end was still sudden and violent. Corassani predictably used his movement early on, but as soon as Sicilia caught up to him, the Swede’s chin simply couldn’t withstand the power of the overhand right. I could do with a bout between Sicilia and fellow heavy hitter Bryan Barberena next, but there are so many options to make entertaining fights at lightweight that it’s hard to go wrong. On the undercard:
- Kenny Robertson used his strikes rather than submissions to pick up the win over Sultan Aliev. Robertson continues to impress as a perennially underrated welterweight, as he now sits on a three-fight win streak.
- Makwan Amirkhani hasn’t fought in the UFC for long, but he made quite the impact. It took just eight seconds for him to land a flying knee, an uppercut, and have the ref step in to save Andy Ogle. After the bout, Amirkhani showed off one of the better personalities in the UFC with both his post-fight interview and theatrics in the cage.
- Nikita Krylov picked up his second straight UFC win with a standing guillotine choke over Stanislav Nedkov, the young Ukrainian stung Nedkov with an uppercut coming in, and then searched for a front headlock submission that would work before settling on the guillotine.
- Mairbek Taisumov did exactly what any solid UFC fighter should to Anthony Christodoulou; He dominated the striking in the first round before dispatching the Greek violently in the second.
- While those were the only finishes, Albert Tumenov and Nico Musoke put on a solid fight that Tumenov earned a decision in. Neil Seery and Chris Beal had a fun scrap as well with the Irishman getting the nod. Mirsad Bektic dominated Paul Redmond for 15 minutes and remains an excellent featherweight prospect. Finally, the Konstantin Erokhin hype train got derailed in massive fashion, as he gassed out early and then was outgrappled by Viktor Pesta en route to Pesta’s first UFC win.
The next stop for the Octagon is Las Vegas for UFC 183, where Anderson Silva takes on Nick Diaz in a very intriguing main event. The card is also one of the deepest that the organization has put on in quite some time. Full odds were released for the event yesterday, and MMAOddsBreaker.com will have in-depth betting coverage of the event over the course of the week. Stay tuned.
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