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UFC Sweden: Gustafsson shines against Silva

Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva weigh in. Photo courtesy UFC.com

The UFC in Sweden treated North American viewers to a stoked crowd and deafening soccer-style cheers. The headliner featured  psychopathic-looking, tattooed  Thiago Silva (14-3) against hometown favorite and alabaster-white Alexander 'The Mauler' Gustafsson (14-1).

Among Silva’s 14 wins are 11 via KO or TKO. The 6'1" Brazilian is uber-tough, and has the dead-eyed stare of someone who just doesn’t care what in hell happens to you. The Brazilian  hadn’t fought since New Year’s Day, 2011, due to injury, and was intent  to restore his name in the 205 pound decision.

Gustafsson stands 6’5”, and looks skinny till he stands next to a normal person. He finished Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko in more impressive fashion than did current champ Jon Bones Jones, so looks are decieving.  Among Gustafsson’s nine KO's are eight in the first round.

At the start of the fight, Gustafsson’s height and reach advantage were implemented with speed of movement and great footwork: smart feet, smart fighter.  Silva pushed forward and stalked the Swede, but Gustafson stayed light on his feet and circled left and right, avoiding Silva’s attacks and making sure Silva did not get inside.

Gustafsson’s jab would have been his weapon of the night, except his uppercuts, knees, and powerful front-kicks all had their say, and put Silva into a tizzy. Gustafsson drew blood early, and managed a drop Silva with an uppercut. In the second and third rounds, Silva managed a scare or two, his ever-present right always a fight changer. But Gustafsson kept his cool and intelligently moved out of Silva’s range.

By the end of the third, Silva was still moving forward and stalking---he should have altered his failed fight plan at this stage---but looked battered and beaten. A meatball-sized hematoma formed on his forehead, and blood dribbled down and streaked his face.

The three round fight ended in a one-sided unanimous win for the Swede, who moved one step closer to a title fight with Jon Bones Jones. And it didn’t appear Gustafsson  needs much more tuning: he has tremendous range, speed and power, perhaps more power than the champ.

The question in that potential matchup would be Gustafsson’s ability, or not, to keep the fight standing, to not get taken down and fed elbows to the brain pan. One thing is certain: it’s great for the sport that a fighter of Gustafsson’s caliber hails from Sweden rather than Brazil, the US or Canada.

Extraneous Notes

  • The lighter weight fights in this card were stellar. Brad Pickett is perhaps England’s most complete fighter, and looked polished in his win over Damacio Page.

  • Kenny Florian took Joe Rogan’s commentator seat beside announcer Mike Goldberg for this event. Rogan is a capable mixed martial artist himself, but Florian’s observations on fighters, their plan, and what they need to do in the moment are more fluid and comprehensive than Rogan’s. It would be good to see more Florian in the commentating role.

  • An engineer’s calculator would have been required to judge the Dennis Siver v. Diego Nunes fight---halfway through round three the strikes were dead even---Siver won the close decision.

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