Stann beats Sakara in co-main event in Sweden
With more than a little pressure on him headlining in the UFC for the first time, and in his home country, Alexander Gustafsson came through with flying colors.
Gustafsson stayed busy for three rounds Saturday, outstriking Thiago Silva en route to a unanimous decision victory at UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Silva. The card took place at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Gustafsson's home country.
Gustafsson knocked Silva down in the first round and moved in quickly looking to finish. He was unable to finish the fight, perhaps choosing to remain cautious and not overextend himself. But though Silva was able to land several significant shots that got Gustafsson's attention, the Swede was mostly dominant in picking up scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in the main event.
Gustafsson said he loved fighting in front of his home country for the first time in the UFC, but remained cautious about where analysts are putting him in the light heavyweight division – with plenty of comparisons to Jon Jones.
"All I can say is I'm proud to fight here in my home country for my countrymen. It's a big honor," Gustafsson said. "That's one of my things, staying busy and I always train for a five-round fight. I just want to take the fight the UFC gives me and do what I love to do – fight."
Silva said the shot he took from Gustafsson in the first round was indeed significant.
"It was bad (in the first round). I couldn't' feel my legs," Silva said. "But I did my job and tried to push as much as I could. I couldn't find the distance, and he deserves the victory. What else can I say?"
Gustafsson now has won five straight fights, though this was his first decision win in that stretch. With Jones defending his 205-pound title next week against Rashad Evans, many have been quick to mention his name as a next possible contender should Jones win because their styles and sizes seem to be similar. But not so fast, said UFC president Dana White.
"It's a little early," White said at the post-fight press conference. "He looked great. The kid is absolutely talented. To come in to your home town, there was a lot of pressure on him tonight and I think he shined. I have no clue (how soon he might get a title shot). But I can tell you this: It would not suck doing a fight here with him and Jon Jones, I can tell you that."
Gustafsson said he's happy just to be mentioned in the same breath as the champion.
"We're two different fighters. But just mentioning my name with a top guy like him, it's good feedback," Gustafsson said.
In the night's co-main event, Brian Stann rebounded from a UFC 136 loss in October to Chael Sonnen, and did so in a big way. With two crisp shots to the chin while in Alessio Sakara's guard on the ground, Stann knocked his opponent out. Stann was fighting with a heavy heart after the death of his brother-in-law late last year and dedicated the fight to his memory on behalf of his wife.
Stann said he just needs to get back to work now that he's back in the win column.
"(I'll fight) whoever's next up the ladder," Stann said. "I lost big (against Sonnen), and now I have to climb back up. We fight the best in the world here, and I'm honored to be a part of it. Alessio Sakara is amazing."
The card, the UFC's debut in Sweden, featured eight stoppages in 12 fights – and six submissions. Joining Stann with a knockout on the main card was highly touted UFC newcomer Siyar Bahadurzada, who stopped Paulo Thiago with just three punches in just 42 seconds.
Bonus winners for the card were Bahadurzada for Knockout of the Night, John Maguire for his armbar submission over DaMarques Johnson and Brad Pickett and Damacio Page for Fight of the Night, which Pickett won by submission in the second round. Each received $50,000 for their performances.
White said the sold-out Ericsson Globe Arena crowd rivaled that of even the fans in Brazil the UFC's last two trips to Rio de Janeiro. He said the attendance was in excess of 15,000 and the gate greater than $2.2 million for the show.
"It was awesome. The crowd here was amazing," White said. "Ireland was crazy, the first time in Brazil (was crazy). But they might have took it tonight. It was a very knowledgeable crowd. It was a very educated crowd here."