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Fortunes changed for five at UFC on FOX 14

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
If something was going to spoil a fight people have been waiting 16 months to see, the best they can do it make sure it's in devastating fashion.

Jon Jones vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is the new "big fight" on the UFC horizon after Johnson destroyed Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday night's FOX show from the Tele 2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

The positive is that even though Johnson is a lesser known fighter than Gustafsson, without the history of coming so close that many believed he beat Jones the first time, and ruined a rematch of one of the greatest UFC fights of all-time, he did so on a big stage. And he left no questions in his wake about the outcome.

While we all know MMA math is a dangerous subject to use for projections, the fact is that Johnson finished a fighter in the first round that Jones never came close to finishing in five. He destroyed a fighter that nobody had ever stopped before in a fight. He wasn't too slow for Gustafsson, and he was able to connect with power, and finish quickly when he had the chance.

While not an unknown, as Johnson has had 14 UFC fights dating back to 2007, he's never been a big drawing headliner in the past. He was a guy who clearly had potential in his first UFC go-around but never quite put it together. But he looked scary when he upset Phil Davis, and even scarier when he destroyed Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in 44 seconds.

Jones has been almost untouchable throughout his career. But Johnson 2.0, the one who arrived in the UFC a year ago after destroying Mike Kyle in the World Series of Fighting, is a guy who appears to have a chance at finishing anyone that he touches.

Johnson's performance left a hush in the crowd that was announced after the show as 30,000 strong, the second largest in UFC history, who came to the Tele 2 Arena in Stockholm to see hometown hero Gustafsson earn his long-awaited title rematch.

The question now becomes if the public that saw the fight was convinced enough to pay in big numbers to see that man go after Jones. A lot of that depends on whether they were convinced by Johnson's performance that Jones could be the next victim.

There wasn't much in the way of controversy coming out of the show, at least compared to recent weeks. Ryan Bader's decision win over Phil Davis was debatable, and there was certainly a great deal of inconsistency between the stoppage of Dan Henderson and the one that followed with Gustafsson, one being questionably early and the other feeling late. But inconsistency on split second decisions is always going to be part of this sport.

But let's look at how Fortunes Changes for Five on Saturday.

ANTHONY JOHNSON - It's quite the mind-boggling story that a fighter who once lost to Rich Clementi is now challenging Jon Jones, considering the size and athletic differences of the two. In a sport where fighters are constantly dropping weight to garner a size advantage in a nuclear arms race that leads to fight week becoming hell week for most before stepping into the cage, Johnson has done the opposite. Formerly one of the craziest weight cutters of all, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder trying to starve himself into the welterweight division, Johnson (19-4) has had far more success at light heavyweight.

With the idea of the UFC trying to put on one of its biggest shows of the year in conjunction with International Fight Week in Las Vegas, on July 11, at this point the timing would fit for a fight with Jones. It seems to be the biggest match possible at that time of the year.

ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON - Coming off the loss, Gustafsson (16-3), looks to have an obvious next opponent in Daniel Cormier (15-1). Both are coming off losses in recent weeks. Whoever would win that fight would be right back in title contention. The only other opponents that make any sense right now for Gustafsson would be Ryan Bader (20-4) or Rashad Evans (21-3-1).

A win over Bader wouldn't mean as much. For Evans, Gustafsson would be a tough first one back after 14 months and counting out of action due to knee surgery. For all those reasons, Cormier would seem to make more sense. And those reasons are the same for Cormier.

GEGARD MOUSASI - With the quick win here, Mousasi (36-5-2) came through big. But there is a question about his level, given that he really didn't seem to ever threaten the top tier contenders, Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, in his losses to them.

For Mousasi, an issue is that almost everyone above him, and most right underneath him, already have matches lined up. His best bet is with Luke Rockhold vs. Lyoto Machida coming on April 18 on FOX, and if Souza vs. Yoel Romero ends up being made as it was before, and Anderson Silva beats Nick Diaz, that perhaps one of those winners will need a next opponent. About the only other name that makes sense would be Tim Kennedy (18-5), and Kennedy hasn't made it clear whether he wants to fight again or not.

DAN HENDERSON - Henderson (30-13) is an all-time great, who is 44 years old and has lost five of his last six fights. His lone win, over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, was a fight where he didn't look impressive most of the way, but managed to get a come-from-behind knockout. You have to go back to 2011 and his first Rua fight, for his last truly great performance.

There are always rationalizations. He was competitive with Machida and Evans, in 2013 in losses. Vitor Belfort knocked him out quickly but Belfort was destroying everyone in 2013. Daniel Cormier was a fellow wrestler who was really too big for him, and you could argue that this stoppage was early. Henderson has made it clear he wants to continue, and do so as a middleweight.

But it comes with more than one problem. With Henderson's pay and name, he has to be in something of a marquee fight. There's almost nobody that it makes sense for him to face right now. He could face the loser of Rockhold vs. Machida, Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway or Souza vs. Romero. With the UFC running so many shows, a name fighter like Henderson still has value, but it's diminishing. Perhaps there is still some mileage in a return with Bisping, since their fight at UFC 100 was memorable and Bisping is a master at building up fights.

The risk vs. reward of fighting for Henderson, particularly when taking beatings when a fighter is older is never a good thing, has to be a question when the top level guys seem out of reach.

RYAN BADER - Bader's split-decision win over Phil Davis was lucky in the sense it was a fight that very easily could have gone the other way.

With Bader, he seems to have settled in at a level where he can beat the mid-level light heavyweights, but has not fared well with the top guys. His losses came against champion Jones and Glover Teixeira, as well as Tito Ortiz, but he's also got wins over most of the guys right below him, like Davis, Rampage Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ovince St. Preux.

If Evans needs an opponent, he's viable at that level. If either Cormier or Gustafsson are injured, and the other needs an opponent, he can fit in there as well. But those are also fights he wouldn't be expected to win.