Alexander Gustafsson held the hopes of an entire nation of MMA fans on his back, and he delivered the goods.
Widely regarded as Sweden’s most promising prospect, the lanky light heavyweight cruised to a unanimous decision victory over hard-hitting opponent Thiago Silva in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 2. Though “The Mauler” headlined the UFC’s inaugural trip to Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Gustafsson claimed after the bout that he felt no extra pressure to perform well.
“It just motivated me more. I was super excited for this fight. I don’t feel any pressure. I just go out there and do what I love to do,” Gustafsson told Fox Sports. “The crowd was amazing. I couldn’t even hear my coaches in the corner. I’m proud fighting here at home and in the UFC.”
UFC President Dana White later disagreed with Gustafsson’s internal assessment at the post-fight press conference, giving credit to the 25-year old for handling himself with such poise in the main event.
“I think he’s full of s---,” said White. “I think there was a ton of pressure on him.”
Gustafsson used superior length and footwork to keep Silva on the outside for most of the contest, dropping the American Top Team representative with a slick uppercut early in the first frame and continually popping Silva with straight shots as the bout progressed.
“Silva is a tough guy,” said Gustafsson. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I know he has some good power in his punches. I had my game plan to stay active, like I always do, and tried to pick him apart.”
Silva, who owns technical knockout wins over Keith Jardine, Houston Alexander and Tomasz Drwal, moved the Swede backwards with a hard right hand in the second frame. The blow would serve as Silva’s most meaningful offense of the night, save for a brief spurt of aggressiveness in the bout’s waning seconds.
“[Silva] threw, and I felt it, but it didn’t rock me,” said Gustafsson of Silva’s right cross.
Though the Alliance MMA representative took a well-deserved unanimous decision, Gustafsson believes he still has more work to do, both in the gym and the cage. He declined to call anyone out by name, the Swede was clear about his desire to climb the UFC’s light heavyweight ladder.
“I [executed] my game plan, but I’m a finisher. It was my first decision [in the UFC], so I’m still learning,” he said. “I want to fight the top five guys in the world in my division, but if [the UFC] were to give me a title shot, I would be more than ready if that day comes.”