UFC returns to Europe, this time Sweden, to put on a number-one contender's bout between Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson. The winner is guaranteed a title shot against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Will Gustafsson get his revenge opportunity against Jones or is 'Rumble' finally ready for the big step in his career? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC on FOX 14: Gustafsson vs. Johnson
Where: Tele2 Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
When: Saturday, the two-fight Fight Pass card starts at 4 p.m. ET, the six-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 5 p.m. and the four-fight FOX card kicks off 8 p.m.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Johnson
This should be an excellent, competitive fight, but the Swede deserves to be the favorite. Johnson's mobility and speed at light heavyweight are better and that matters, but Gustafsson has more skills between the two. On the feet, Gustafsson's jab is going to be a problem as is his ability to stick and move constantly for five rounds at a range where Johnson is playing catch up. Johnson's attacks are lethal and quick, but not exotic. That means they're manageable for someone with high output and strong defenses like Gustafsson.
Moreover, Gustafsson can't take Johnson down shooting a double from the outside. He's too tall for the level change and Johnson's hips are too quick. But Johnson has shown an inability to handle takedowns from the clinch (after establishing double underhooks), something where a rangy fighter punching his way inside like Gustafsson can exploit. Perhaps he's improved here, too, but Johnson hasn't historically been great at moving appropriately and with a sense of urgency when his back is given up. The back, coincidentally, is a place where Gustafsson excels in attacks.
We always have to leave open the possibility of a Rumble head kick or massive punch changing the equation, but short of that, there are too many reasons to like Gustafsson's chances.
I thought both of these fighters looked languid in their last performances. Henderson is getting older and Mousasi is feeling the cumulative effects of injuries, surgeries and rehabilitative time off. That said, I like Mousasi here. Henderson is lethargic in later rounds at middleweight, Mousasi's takedown defense is massively improved and at range, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion in Mousasi still has the ability to pot shot on the outside or corner Henderson with his footwork. He simply has more tools than Henderson where it matters in terms of the phase of the fighting. Short of landing a major right hand, Henderson doesn't have many real options against Mousasi.
People might hate the fact that Davis can manage a round and, therefore, a fight, but it works. He stays out of trouble with arcing defensive footwork, engages in striking when he's comfortable and finds a way to time it all to maximum judging effect. If he feels he has a distinct advantage in an area, he'll exploit it. That's especially true as it relates to ground work, which is why latter parts of this bout might end up there. Bader's going to be aggressive, but I have a hard time seeing him connect on anything meaningful or being disciplined enough to keep his ground offensive properly set up or pressured appropriately.
I hate to go all chalk, but it's hard not to here. We know what Sicilia is going to do. He's going to push forward, swing heavy hooks, even if it means his own demise. If his UFC run to date, it's gone poorly for him more times than it's gone well. Corassani isn't exactly opposed to brawling himself or defensively a shell, but there is more finesse to his game. He can cover up when he needs to, counterstrike or push forward. He doesn't have many gears, but more than Sicilia and that's enough.
From the preliminary card:
Nico Musoke def. Albert Tumenov
Kenny Robertson def. Sultan Aliev
Makwan Amirkhani def. Andy Ogle
Stanislav Nedkov def. Nikita Krylov
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Anthony Christodoulou
Mirsad Bektic def. Paul Redmond
Konstantin Erokhin def. Viktor Pešta
Chris Beal def. Neil Seery