Gustafsson KO’s Manuwa, calls out Jon Jones

Your move, Bones.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Coming off the letdown of a championship bid that failed by the closest of margins, Alexander Gustafsson’s return was filled with questions.

How would he look? Could he summon the intensity necessary to face a dangerous non-top 10 opponent? Was the Jon Jones’ fight some kind of strange aberration? 

Questions answered. 

Gustafsson did his best to ensure that the UFC honors the promise to him that he’ll again challenge for the belt with a win, after he became the first man to beat Jimi Manuwa, knocking him out at 1:18 of the second round.

The sensational victory earned Gustafsson Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night bonuses, earning him an extra $100,000 on top of his regular purse. More importantly for the UFC, it knocked down the first domino in a potentially huge rematch.

"Jon Jones, I want my title shot again," Gustafsson told the sold-out O2 Arena crowd moments after winning. "I’m right here. Whenever you want, man. Whenever you want."

The UFC Fight Night London main-event finish materialized off a barrage against the fence when the rangy Swede earned a clinch and landed a crushing knee to the face. Manuwa wobbled and Gustafsson caught him with uppercuts that sent his opponent to the ground, and he finished with a flattening ground strike.

Afterward, Manuwa was mildly critical of the stoppage, saying he felt he could carry on, but that he respected the referee’s decision. Replays seemed to indicate a just stoppage by referee Marc Goddard.

"If you watch the replay, if you’re a referee and the guy’s in position where he goes down and his hands are open like this and he took two punches with his hands wide open, that’s a good stoppage," UFC president Dana White said.

Gustafsson, a nearly 6-to-1 favorite, started out the first round with a conservative game plan, taking Manuwa down early and hunting a kimura, but when that failed, he went to his bread and butter in the second, choosing to engage Manuwa in his own strength. 

Manuwa had come into the fight with 13 knockouts in 14 career wins, but with the exception of a stinging left hook to the body in the first, he never landed anything of significance.

"This guy was so dangerous," Gustafsson said. "All I knew was maybe I should take him down, but I felt good standing too, and there we go."

Gustafsson (16-2) wants Jones, but he’ll settle for whoever is standing after Jones squares off with Glover Teixeira at UFC 173 next month, and that’s exactly what White promised him.

"Obviously if Jones wins we have a nasty rematch, and if he doesn’t, it’s [Gustafsson] and Glover Teixeira," he said.