In front of nearly 30,000 partisan fans at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson dismantled Sweden’s finest in Alexander Gustafsson with a knockout at UFC on FOX 14.
After getting poked in the eye, Johnson found a second wind and began throwing and landing some vicious bombs which sent Gustafsson to the canvas quickly. Referee Marc Goddard was forced to stop the 205-pound contest at 2:15 of the first round after Gustafsson couldn’t defend himself from strikes on the floor.
“Alex did everything I thought he was going to do,” Johnson said. “He’s an amazing athlete. I feel bad just because he’s crying right now. I’m an emotional guy, and I feel his pain.”
Johnson (19-4), who once competed in the UFC’s 170-pound division, put the brakes on a potential UFC light heavyweight title rematch between Jon Jones and Gustafasson while booking a date of his own to fight Jones sometime in 2015. After the fight, the new No.1 contender had brief message for the UFC Light Heavyweight champion.
“Jon Jones, get well brother,” Johnson said. “Let’s get this championship on and make the fans excited about this.”
Immediately after the result of the fight, Jones posted via social media: “Wow.”
The finish began with a counter right hand by Johnson, off a Gustafsson (16-3) head kick. The punch dropped the Swede, but he managed to pop up and retreat from one side of the cage to the other. A series of uppercuts, however, dropped Gustafsson again, and he eventually succumbed to hard punches from Johnson on the canvas.
“I felt great coming in here, and I felt great during the couple minutes we fought,” Gustafsson said. “I felt great all the way; he just caught me. I got caught today.”
It is the 13th knockout win of Johnson’s career. The 30-year-old fought in the UFC’s welterweight division from 2007 to ’11, but repeatedly struggled to make weight. The UFC released Johnson in January 2012, after he failed to make weight for a middleweight bout against Vitor Belfort. The fight took place at a catchweight of 197 lbs; Johnson lost in the first round.
In August 2012, Johnson made the decision to move full time to light heavyweight. He has gone 7-0 in the division since. He has earned dominant wins against Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and now Gustafsson since the UFC re-signed him last year.
The look on Johnson’s face during the post-fight press conference was still one of disbelief, but the reality is he’s now the No. 1 contender to the 205-pound crown
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“I never gave up hope on myself, but I never thought I’d be in this situation,” he said. “This is a blessing.”
While it’s true that Johnson has never faced anyone like Jones, and the champion will deservedly be the favorite whenever they fight, this is also very true:
Jones has never in his illustrious career fought a “KO” artist quite like “Rumble” Johnson.
It going to take a bad man to beat the pound-for-pound fighter in the world; the jury is out to see if Johnson is that man.