The Hit List: The Top 5 Moments from UFC Fight Night
From the supportive Stockholm crowd, to Anthony Johnson’s punching power and humility, to blazing undercard action, there were lots of special moments Saturday night at FOX UFC Fight Night. Below are our five favorites!
The young man rumblin’ as advertised
Still, Gustafsson was the smart pick. He arguably won three out of five rounds against the best light heavyweight of all time, Jon Jones, in 2013, so he seemed to be at least the clear No. 2 in the division.
Surely Johnson wouldn’t be able to simply walk Gustafsson down and batter him into the ground with strikes as he has done most opponents over the past two years. Gustafsson would find a way to make it a little more complicated than that, this writer assumed.
As it turned out, Johnson may be even more dangerous than we all previously thought. "Rumble" came out swinging hard, and as confident as ever, in Stockholm.
When he got the chance – as a counter to a kick from the Swede – Johnson connected flush with Gustafssson’s head, and "The Mauler" was never the same. It has seemed for some time as though Johnson hurts everything he touches inside the Octagon.
Now we know for certain that this maxim holds true for the Georgian no matter how great the quality of opposition he faces. Jon Jones showed that he has serious, fight-changing power, against Gustafsson.
Saturday night, Anthony Johnson showed that he has more.
Real fan support
The Stockholm fans came out at 3 in the morning to watch their hero Alexander Gustafsson fight. That’s some serious commitment right there.
Seeing a huge stadium as filled as it was for a UFC event in a European country warmed this OG MMA fan’s heart. Longtime fans are always rooting for the sport’s popularity to grow and be sustained, and popularity abroad is always a good sign for the health of MMA.
The Swedish fans proved that they were more than fair-weather noobs after their man lost in the first round, however. That was downright emotional.
Often times, sports fans can be callous and brutal when their teams or athletes lose. Their support turns on a dime as jeers and taunts replace the cheers of just moments prior.
The ignorant and typical fans can act as though they are more hurt by a loss than the athletes themselves, which is of course absurd. Our bills aren’t paid by the wins or losses of others — unless we’ve got a serious gambling problem, I suppose – but these athletes’ entire lives can hinge on the outcomes of contests.
We saw that on the pained face of the proud Gustafsson. The last year and a half has been a roller coaster for the Swede.
He got a title shot against Jon Jones, appeared to do enough to earn the nod and the belt, but the judges took it from him. Then, Jones ran from the immediate rematch that the UFC and fans wanted, and that Gustafsson deserved.
After another win, Gus was granted a rematch with Jones until an injury sidelined him and Daniel Cormier took his place. After Jones was injured and that fight postponed, Gustafsson would have been healthy enough to fight Jones, but by that time "Bones" vs. "DC" was too heated a rivalry to not culminate in a fight.
So, Gustafsson had to wait longer, and what’s more, he had to face the division’s most feared man in Anthony Johnson to get the Jones rematch he earned long ago. Fast forward to Saturday night, Gustafsson then had that dream ripped to shreds in minutes by Johnson, after a quick and decisive first round TKO.
Gustafsson tried to hold back tears and grieved in front of his home nation, and the world, as the official decision was about to be announced. When it came time for him to speak, in his post-fight interview, Gustafsson stood like a man and gave an account of himself.
His fans in attendance, clearly disappointed, recognized that he was more disappointed than any of them could ever be by the loss, and roared their support down on him. This is fandom – supporting your favorites through honest efforts, both victorious and failed – and it was beautiful to witness.
Johnson continues to show class
Anthony Johnson simply hasn’t talked much trash for a number of years. He continued that show of class after the biggest win of his career, when he seemed to honestly feel bad for Gustafsson as he cried, and then praised his opponent.
Then, Johnson turned his attention to the man he should face next — embattled champion Jon Jones – and showed similar restraint. Johnson said that he hopes Jones – recently out of drug rehab – gets well soon, so that they can put on a great fight. There is little doubt that when he steps into the cage, Johnson is as audaciously arrogant as any fighter on the planet.
It’s a hell of a thing to walk into a cage to fight a man who has prepared for months to separate you from your consciousness, and feel that you will prove him wrong. That takes guts, and it takes arrogance, plain and simple.
So, Johnson surely has plenty of that. He also has something else in him that allows him to speak humbly, during his highest of moments, and he deserves credit for that.
The fighter’s approach is in stark contrast to Jones’ own constant childish petulance and taunts. From hurling homophobic slurs at fans on social media, to mocking the many opponents he’s eye-poked and the fans who complain about it, Jones has the social media impulse control of a middle school student.
That pattern repeated itself late Saturday night as the champion taunted the wounded Gustafsson on Twitter, saying that he wasn’t impressed, before then deleting the tweet, as he often does. No doubt fight fans will relish seeing a champ like that being challenged by a contender like Johnson, for more reasons than one.
Seery vs. Beal
The first fight on Saturday’s card was one of its best. Flyweights Neil Seery and Chris Beal went at it for three rounds, mixing it up and pushing one another hard. As expected for the division, the technique was sharp and the action fast.
The battle was also close-fought, and both men showed a great deal of composure, and conditioning. In beating an undefeated prospect, Seery continued to prove that he’s much more than an experienced journeyman.
In fighting hard until the end, Beal showed that he’s got grit to go with his talent and skill, at a new weight class.
Musoke vs. Tumenov
There simply were not enough performance bonuses handed out last night in Stockholm. Both Seery, Beal and these two fighters all also deserved to get more than they were paid.
This welterweight clash saw both men have their moments, only to see their opponent make adjustments and fight back effectively. It was hard to score because of how well both men fought.
Tumenov got a well-earned decision, in my opinion, but there were no true losers in this one.