Anthony Johnson shocks the world, finishes Alexander Gustafsson in first round

Three years ago, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson was out of the UFC and searching for answers after he was released from the promotion following a third mishap trying to cut weight for a fight inside the Octagon.

Now, he stands as the No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division after finishing Alexander Gustafsson in less than three minutes while earning a shot at champion Jon Jones later this year.

The story on Johnson was clear — he’s one of the most dangerous and deadly fighters in the world, especially in the early going of a fight.  Gustafsson knew the kind of power Johnson possessed, so he tried his best to stay out of range while using his superior reach as soon as the fight started.

Unfortunately for him, Johnson’s aggressiveness countered Gustafsson’s game plan and Johnson was on the attack from the moment the referee said go.

Johnson caught Gustafsson with a short right hook early that dropped the Swedish fighter to a knee, and Johnson never let up until the bout was over. 

Once Gustafsson was stunned, Johnson swarmed, just plowing forward with head kicks and punches until he finally found an opening in his opponent’s defense.  Johnson finally knocked Gustafsson to the mat, where he followed him to the ground with a barrage of strikes.

Gustafsson rolled to all fours trying desperately to get a breath while fighting to regain his senses, but Johnson was relentless with his attacks while picking his shots and not wasting any of his punches.  Finally, Johnson started to unleash a series of punches under Gustafsson’s arm, which started connecting flush to the jaw. 

Gustafsson’s head started crashing forward courtesy of Johnson’s punches, and the referee saw enough and stepped in to stop before things got worse.

Johnson leapt to his feet in celebration as more than 26,000 fans in Sweden were stunned to see their hometown hero go down at just 2:15 into the first round. Following the stoppage, an emotional Gustafsson was heartbroken, knowing that he not only lost in front of his home country fans, but also missed out on a long-awaited rematch against Jon Jones.

"He’s an amazing athlete. I feel bad just ’cause he’s crying. I’m an emotional guy, so I know his pain," Johnson said about Gustafsson after the fight.  "Jon Jones, I’m hoping you get well, brother. Let’s get this championship fight going."

Fighting back the tears, Gustafsson addressed his fans following the defeat — only his third ever inside the Octagon.

"I got caught today," Gustafsson said.  "That’s what happened."

Johnson’s win not only sets up a title fight against Jones later this year, but also brings the veteran fighter’s career full circle.  Johnson was once a welterweight with a massive amount of hype and talent, but repeated weight cuts and off-balance performances finally led to his exit from the UFC.

Now, Johnson has returned better than ever, going 3-0 since coming back to the UFC, and he will compete for the light heavyweight title in what will be one of the biggest fights in all of 2015.