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You couldn’t have found a more high pressure situation for 25-year old light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson, headlining the first UFC show in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden, and doing it against a hungry knockout artist in the returning Thiago Silva. But Saturday night at the Ericsson Globe Arena, “The Mauler” continued to impress, decisioning Silva over three rounds to up his current winning streak to five.
Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Gustafsson, who improves to 14-1; Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Silva, fighting for the first time since January of 2011 due to a Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension, falls to 14-3 with 1 NC. His record in his last five fights is 1-3 with 1 NC.
The always intense Silva wasted no time getting acclimated to the Octagon in his return to active duty, swinging a hard combination at Gustafsson’s head to begin the bout. Gustafsson got out of the way easily, establishing a stick and move strategy that would pay dividends throughout the 15 minute bout. Around 30 seconds in, Gustafsson made his first statement, dropping Silva with a quick right uppercut. As the crowd erupted, Gustafsson looked to finish, but Silva survived and made it to his feet, albeit with a cut on his forehead.
After clearing his head, Silva resumed his forward march as Gustafsson potshotted effectively while easily eluding any return fire. The partisan crowd chanted throughout, adding a soccer-like atmosphere to the proceedings as their favorite son calmly put the first round in the bank.
The fast pace continued in the second, with Gustafsson mixing things up with a slick trip to the mat in the opening minute. Gustafsson opted to keep things standing, allowing Silva to get back up. Front kicks to the head and body were added to the Swede’s arsenal as the round progressed, but he refused to get overconfident, knowing that one swing from Silva could change the course of the bout. Just past the midway point of the round, that one swing almost arrived in the form of a right hand that rocked Gustafsson. “The Mauler” backed up and tried to clear his head, and Silva was right on him, looking to land the finisher. But as the long-limbed Gustafsson got some room, he got his legs back as well, foiling Silva’s big chance.
That would be the Brazilian’s last stand, as while he continued to stalk his foe in search of a fight-changing exchange, Gustafsson wouldn’t play along in the final round, and his superior speed, movement, and striking variety sealed the biggest victory of his young career.