Fox’s latest UFC event came on Saturday night and ran into the early morning hours of Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden. The event was full of fights as Fox Sports One aired the undercards.
It was Ryan Bader taking on Phil Davis in one of the biggest fights on the card leading up to Gustafsson v. Johnson. Both Bader and Davis were in need of a win to keep their careers headed in the right direction. The pressure on both men led to a cautious fight that still had steady action. Even though the crowd had a few moments of booing, this was not a boring fight.
The first round was a feeling out process with the big men circling and testing each other out. The two standout college wrestlers both had improved their striking game over the past year or so. Bader caught Davis with a solid right hand near the end of the first round. Davis seemed to have a bit more success with his kicks. The first round was Bader’s in a close one from my view.
The second round saw a bit more aggression. Bader was able to block another takedown attempt early on in the round. Davis’ mouth was bloodied by the middle of the round apparently from the jabs he was eating. Phil Davis finally got a takedown with a minute and a half left to go. He didn’t do much damage with Bader down, but it allowed him to take round two in my opinion. Neither man was hurt after two in a close fight.
The third round was still a cautious battle, the kind of fight the loser regrets not having done more and the winner being applauded by his camp for staying with the game plan. Davis may have gotten poked in the eye or either the Bader jabs caused the eye to swell. Davis tried another takedown only to be stuffed once again. Leg kicks were the only thing working for Davis after the eye problem, but he used them steadily. Ryan Bader got a big takedown with two minutes to go in the match and may have sealed the win with it. Bader then slammed Davis near the end of the fight. That move was hard to ignore and was the edge he needed in scoring. The judges gave Bader the win on a split decision.
The legendary Dan Henderson took on Gegard Mousasi in front of the Swedish crowd where Henderson was just as much a fan favorite as in the USA. Mousasi is no slouch, as he is a former Strikeforce champion and has major MMA experience.
Henderson got tagged with a strong jab early on in round one and his vision was affected. Mousasi even pointed it out to the ref as he thought Henderson may have needed checking out by a ring doc. The action continued however and it only took a few more seconds for Mousasi to clip Henderson. He caught him in the temple area and the legend went down. Henderson fell awkwardly backward into the cage and I felt like the fall stunned him as much as the punch. Mousasi landed a couple more shots as his opponent lay against the cage, then was stopped by the ref before any more damage could be done.
Henderson recovered quickly and seemed like he had his head about him as he grabbed the leg of Mousasi just as the ref made the stoppage. It is hard to say if Henderson could have made that effort without the ref getting in the way of Mousasi’s striking. Joe Rogan felt like the stoppage was justified, but said Henderson did deserve the benefit of the doubt since he had came back before in fights that he was in deep trouble. You hate to see a fight end that way with some controversy, but you sure don’t want to see it go too long either.
The main even everyone had been waiting for got started in the early morning hours of Stockholm. Fighting after 3:00 A.M. has to be a hard thing to get ready for. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson entered the ring first as the number three ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. The crowd went wild when their hero Alexander Gustafsson made his way to the Octagon. Gustafsson grew up just a few miles from Stockholm.
On his way into the cage I compared Johnson’s build to that of Mike Tyson. The guy certainly has the power punching style of the former boxing great. Gustafsson appeared to me as a bad ass Swedish lumberjack lumbering in from the forest. The “Mauler” moniker suits this fighter as well as any nickname in MMA today.
The action started with both men ready to get at it immediately. There was no feeling out process, but Gustafsson did more circling as Rumble tried to cut off the ring. Johnson got poked in the eye early, but only needed a short recovery time.
The ref started the action back and both men touched gloves then got back to work quickly, maybe too quickly for Gustafsson. He tried a big kick that missed then appeared to be the victim of an inadvertent head butt. The replay showed it was actually a huge punch that wobbled the big Swede. And wobbled he was, breathing deeply as he tried to gather himself and avoid Rumble Johnson at all costs. Johnson saw the blood in the water and went to work, landing a major uppercut. Once Johnson had Gustafsson down it was just a matter of time. The punches on the ground were just as effective as if both men were standing. The ref was slow to stop this one, but finally showed mercy at 2:15 of the first round. TKO with Rumble winning a shot at Jon Jones next.
After the fight Gustafsson was clearly distraught, knowing his rematch with Jones would not be happening. Anthony Johnson told Joe Rogan that he felt bad that Gustafsson was crying and he knew the feeling himself. That seemed to win the crowd over a bit and Gustafsson raised the hand of his conqueror. We saw tears of joy from Russell Wilson last week in the NFL. The tears following a defeat by a fighter named the “Mauler” was quite different….not a fun thing to watch.
Anthony Jonson is the type of fighter that could beat anyone in UFC history on the right night. He is a near unstoppable force when he is right. Rogan calls him the most dangerous man in his division. Quite a compliment when Jon Jones is the champion. I hope to see just who is the more dangerous man when Jones and Johnson get it on. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later. We already missed out on a rematch between Gustafsson and Jones that should have happened months ago, but that is the nature of the fight game.