Thiago Silva smiled at Alexander Gustafsson as they met in the center of the cage for pre-fight instructions. Fifteen minutes later, the smile was gone, replaced by a look of stone-cold reality.
Gustafsson (14-1, 6-1 UFC) utilized his four-inch height and two-and-a-half-inch reach advantage in capturing a unanimous decision over Silva in the UFC on Fuel TV 2 headliner on Saturday at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. All three cageside judges ruled in Gustafsson’s favor: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. The 25-year-old Swede has won five consecutive fights, cementing himself as one of the world’s best at 205 pounds.
“All I can say is I’m proud to fight here in my home country,” Gustafsson said. “It’s a big honor. [Good footwork] is one of my [strengths]. I tried to keep it standing. I’m always training for a five-round fight, but I’m learning, too.”
From the start, it became clear Silva (14-3, 5-3 UFC) had serious issues getting inside Gustafsson’s 76.5-inch wingspan. The Swede floored him with a right uppercut in the first round, pounced with punches and appeared close to ending it. The crowd erupted with approval. Silva, to his credit, survived the onslaught but emerged from round one with a cut between his eyes and a discouraged expression on his face.
Gustafsson picked his spots throughout the 15-minute encounter, circling away from the American Top Team standout’s power. Silva wobbled him with a clubbing right hand with a little more than two minutes left in the second round, but Gustafsson recovered and resumed his attack. Jabs, right uppercuts, right crosses and knees came in bulk, and Silva had no answer for them.
“I did my job, and I tried to push as much as I could,” he said. “Alexander is a tough guy, and I couldn’t find the distance. He deserved the victory.”
Stann Mauls, Stops Sakara in First
Former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Brian Stann stopped American Top Team’s Alessio Sakara on brutal first-round ground strikes in the co-main event. Stann (12-4, 6-3 UFC) brought the bought to a definitive conclusion 2:26 into round one.
The two middleweights swarmed on one another with reckless abandon, and Stann emerged in better shape. The Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative racked Sakara with a pair of knees from the clinch, the second of which sent him to the canvas. Stann trailed his wounded adversary to the mat and followed up with a volley of punches before settling into his guard. Moments later, he cracked Sakara with two short left hands, briefly knocking him unconscious and forcing the referee to intervene.
“I’ve really been working a lot to shore up my holes,” said Stann, who bounced back nicely from his one-sided submission defeat to Chael Sonnen at UFC 136 in October. “[I want to fight] whoever is next up the ladder. I lost big. Now, I have to climb back up, and that’s fine. I’m learning my lessons and bringing in the best people in the world to help me train.”
Bahadurzada KOs Thiago in 42 Seconds
Siyar Bahadurzada made quite an entrance in the UFC’s welterweight division, as he knocked out Constrictor Team representative Paulo Thiago in less than a minute. It was over in 42 seconds.
After a brief period of inactivity, Bahadurzada (21-4, 1-0 UFC) met the Brazilian with a short, counter right hand in the center of the cage. An unconscious Thiago (14-4, 4-4 UFC) collapsed face first to the canvas, finished for the first time in his professional career. Bahadurzada has won his last seven fights, six of them by knockout or technical knockout.
“I respect this guy a lot. He comes every time to fight, and I love those kind of fighters, because that is how I fight,” Bahadurzada said. “The fans want to see a fight, and I want to give them a fight.”
Adding to the wow factor, the Afghanistan native may have entered his promotional debut injured.
“I did feel it, because I think my right hand is broken,” Bahadurzada said. “Ten days before the fight, I think I broke my right hand. I didn’t even go to the doctor, because I didn’t want to know if it was broken. I wanted this so bad. Even if I was missing my right hand, I wanted to fight.”
Siver Outpoints Nunes in Featherweight Debut
Thudding kicks and multi-punch combinations carried Russian-born German kickboxer Dennis Siver to a unanimous verdict over the world-ranked Diego Nunes in a hotly contested scrap at 145 pounds. All three judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Siver (20-8, 9-5 UFC).
In his featherweight debut, the stocky Siver attacked the Brazilian with bruising kicks to the head, body and legs. Nunes (17-3, 2-2 UFC), who never seemed to find a rhythm, picked up his pace in the second round but had trouble wading through his opponent’s heavy artillery. Still, Siver did not escape unscathed. He went to a knee after an overhand right from Nunes in the third round and walked away with a gnarly cut below his left eyebrow, courtesy of a knee strike from the Thai plum. However, Siver’s power, aggression and consistent output proved enough to carry him to his fifth victory in six bouts.
Maguire Armbar Stops Johnson
John Maguire submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 finalist DaMarques Johnson with a second-round armbar in a welterweight showcase. Johnson (15-10, 4-4 UFC) met his end 4:40 into round two.
Johnson did his damage on the feet with a series of brutal inside low kicks, but the Jeremy Horn protégé did not remain upright long enough for it to make a difference. Maguire grounded him repeatedly, taking his back in the first round and keeping him pinned to the mat for much of the second. As Johnson fished for a kimura from half guard, Maguire (18-3, 2-0 UFC) countered the maneuver beautifully and secured the armbar for the quick finish.
“That’s gypsy jiu-jitsu. Check out my pink belt. That’s how I roll,” said Maguire, who has put together a string of seven consecutive victories. “The kimura is normally my favorite move, so I knew the counter. I was waiting until he overcommitted, and he did. He made a mistake, and I capitalized on it.”
Pickett Choke Finishes Page
American Top Team’s Brad Pickett submitted Damacio Page with a second-round rear-naked choke in a featured bantamweight matchup. Pickett (21-6, 1-1 UFC), who has won 11 times in his last 13 appearances, closed the deal 4:05 into round two.
Page (15-7, 0-2 UFC) followed the kind of aggressive game plan that has become his calling card but ultimately played right into his opponent’s hands. Pickett struck for three takedowns in the first five minutes and peppered the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative with heavy punches on the ground.
In the second round, the Brit let his fists fly. A left hook to Page’s chin sent him to the canvas inside the first minute. Pickett followed him there, trapped the New Mexican’s arm behind his back and tore into him with right hands. Page briefly returned to his feet, only to be met with a brutal right uppercut and searing left hook. Pickett backed up the punches and transitioned to his grounded foe’s back. He secured his hooks and, soon after, locked in the fight-ending choke.
“I come from a standing background, obviously, with a name like ‘One Punch,’” Pickett said. “I’m only as good as my opponent. Page was awesome. It was competitive, and he made it a good fight. It’s MMA. If you’re not well-versed in the sport at this level, you shouldn’t be in here. I’m happy to go wherever it goes.”