Last night, the UFC made its return to Stockholm, Sweden for the ambitiously timed UFC on Fox 14. It paid off big. The event reportedly sold over 19,000 tickets, and though we don’t have the final viewing numbers for television audiences, they look promising. The event was the promotion’s largest European outing to date and the crowd stayed energetic throughout despite the late start of the card. The main card began at 8pm EST for viewers in the states, however, the main event didn’t begin until almost 4am local time.
There were numerous contrasts between the UFC’s latest endeavor and previous efforts. UFC brought out the full Fox production crew for this one and made wise booking decisions, whereas previous efforts involved Ilir Latifi and Fuel TV. Local hero Alexander Gustafsson headlined against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in a short, heartbreaking main event contest for the next crack at Jon “Bones” Jones. They brought out Dan Henderson to face Gegard Moussasi in the co-main and despite an unnecessarily cruel for three in the morning match between Ryan Bader and Phil Davis, the undercard was mostly filled with entertaining contests. Here’s a look at the big story lines coming from last night’s event.
Nikita Krylov Wins Another
Nikita Krylov emerged from the war-torn Ukraine to crush the morale of lesser nations and added Bulgarian fighter Stanislav Nedkov’s head to the spikes above his cold, dead throne. Krylov finished three of his last four fights with one loss coming from fellow rising contender Ovince St. Preux. Those four fights have lasted a combined total of eight minutes and fifteen seconds. This time he delivered a standing guillotine choke, a rare submission, and he slapped it on in under a minute and a half. Somehow, this was still only the third fastest finish of the night.
Krylov is a fighter to watch and a welcome addition to a thin light heavyweight division. There is some potential slowly maturing in the bottom of the top ten and Krylov has plenty of fresh competition to face. His next fight should be someone in the bottom five of the top fifteen. Krylov will not have much difficulty finding competition between the likes of Patrick Cummins, Fabio Maldonado, and Jimi Manuwa. Any of these match ups could be fun and help form the division for future fights.
Ryan Bader Wins Again, Still No Closer to Title Shot
Much has been said about Bader’s role as the gatekeeper of the light heavyweight division. It’s been more or less that way since Jon Jones defeated him back in 2011. Since that loss, Bader has gone 7-3 with wins over Quinton Jackson, Ovince St. Preux, and now Phil Davis. He has defeated some of the best of the best, yet despite these impressive wins, he still struggles against strong strikers and remains caught in title contention limbo. He has the Bisping factor. He has spent almost all of his career in the UFC yet he will likely never taste the shot at gold. It’s not due to lack of talent and grit. Bader can compete with some of the best, but with his last four going to tedious decisions, it’s becoming more apparent that his days in the top ten are numbered.
Finding an opponent for each of these men is difficult. For Davis, Rafael Cavalcante offers a similar enough record. Both men need to get back on track and a match between the two could be good to see who’s likely to stick around and who is likely to be on the way out. Bader is a bit trickier. A Bader Jones rematch is impossible to sell. There’s always Gus if he wants step up in competition, otherwise he’ll be left to try to stuff the rise of yet another potential up and comer.
Anthony Johnson, Viking Slayer
Anthony Johnson silenced 19,000 Swedes with a quick, dominant performance over the hometown favorite and former number one contender Alexander Gustafsson. Gus had the range, but Johnson was unfazed as he walked through yet another foe. Gus was only able to attempt 20 strikes with 10 connecting during a 2:15 contest in which Johnson dropped Gus quickly and early. Gustafsson was tearful in his defeat and Johnson gracious in his victory. The two exchanged respect one of the most touching moments in the Octagon.
Johnson is next in line to face Jones, probably sometime over the summer. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of seeing this one on the Memorial Day or Fourth of July weekend card. Gus will hopefully return to action soon as well. Gus vs. Daniel Cormier seems to be the logical choice here, but Rashad Evans and Glover Teixeira could also make interesting opponents.