Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The UFC light-heavyweight division may have its next contender, and its Alexander Gustafsson.
Performing in front of his hometown fans in Stockholm, the rangy Swede handled the pressure and dominated Thiago Silva for the duration of their UFC on FUEL 2 main event fight, earning a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Using his vast reach advantage, Gustafsson kept Silva on the outside for most of the fight, and made him pay when he waded into striking range. His first round was his best round, as Gustafsson came out storming early, flooring Silva with an uppercut. He later hurt him with a flurry against the fence, and though he wasn't able to finish, the momentum carried him through the fight.
"It was bad," Silva said afterward. "I couldn't feel my legs but I did my job. I tried to push as much as I could. Alexander is a tough guy. I couldn't find the distance. He deserved the victory. What else can I say?"
That pretty much says it all. Gustafsson showed he isn't just height and movement, but power by knocking down the fearsome Silva. The Brazilian, who was fighting for the first time since returning from a suspension for submitting a fake urine sample during a drug test, showed his mettle by continually marching forward and trying to cut off angles, but he simply couldn't find his target with any regularity.
The low-key Gustafsson said that he would take the fight as a learning experience, bemoaning his inability to finish.
"All I can say is, I'm proud to fight here in my home country for my home fans, my countrymen," Gustafsson said. "It's a big honor."
The win made it five straight octagon victories for Gustafsson, who is now 14-1 and a legit threat to the top of the division. Silva fell to 14-3 with 1 no contest. He hasn't won a fight since knocking out Keith Jardine in August 2009.
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