UFC Stockholm Aftermath: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Alexander Gustafsson UFC
Alexander Gustafsson Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC Stockholm, an event that could have helped sort out the light heavyweight division, ended up only posing more questions.

I’m not sure if I’ve reached the point of lapsed fan yet, but I’m on my way there and the UFC’s latest offering, UFC Stockholm, didn’t help matters.

Sure, there were some bright spots on the main card. And if we were to really nit-pick, we could find enough positives to talk about to cover up the negatives — but there was a feeling of hopelessness in the air after Anthony Smith submitted Alexander Gustafsson, and it had nothing to do with the hometown hero getting beaten into retirement and the crowd going dead silent. That feeling of hopelessness was a glimpse at the future of the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

Before I point out the negatives of the light heavyweight division and the current UFC product, it is important to note the positives of tonight’s show:

  • FW: Makwan Amirkhani submitted Chris Fishgold via Anaconda Choke.
  • LHW: Aleksandar Rakic defeated Jimi Manuwa via KO in just 42 seconds.
  • LHW: Anthony Smith defeated Alexander Gustafsson via RNC.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have some fun.

Alexander Gustafsson Retires Inside the Octagon

The man who once gave Jon Jones his toughest test inside the cage just ended his career after an uninspiring performance against a comparatively inexperienced 205 newcomer with a broken hand. Gustafsson seemed to lack the killer instinct he had earlier on in his career and even when he found himself on top of a critically injured Anthony Smith after landing a powerful body kick and a swift takedown, he failed to capitalize.

Alex kind of looked like his old self at points in this fight when he would land quick combinations and push the pace; cutting off Anthony Smith and finding the mark a few times before circling out — but those glimpses of signature Gus footwork and stiff punches were just that, glimpses. It never truly came together and at points in the fight. It looked as though Alexander Gustafsson just wanted to get on his bike and collect his paycheck.

Even with a broken hand, Anthony Smith grappled his way to an advantageous position and slowly worked his way towards a rear-naked choke after flattening out the Swede with a body triangle that left Alex belly-down on the canvas.

At the post-fight presser, Gustafsson told the media, “I don’t have it in me anymore.”

That’s a very honest assessment from Gustafsson and many may chalk it up to post-fight emotions and being depressed in the moments after the Smith loss, but make no mistake about it — he definitely doesn’t have what it takes to compete at the top level anymore and make it out with a future.

The retirement talks actually started in 2015 after Gustafsson got knocked silly by a series of shots by Anthony Rumble Johnson and spoiled the party early for the Swedish fans.

I was completely serious about quitting MMA. I don’t care really about the title, it was that it happened in front of my home crowd. My cousins were in place. It just took it too hard. I didn’t have the will to continue. I was really close to quitting.

-Alexander Gustafsson to Expressin in 2015

Gustafsson has since shown the ability to beat fighters the caliber of Jan Blachowicz and an over-the-hump Glover Texeira, but lost to Daniel Cormier after he was gifted a title fight for no reason, looked leagues worse than Jon Jones in their second encounter, and was close to losing a striking battle with Anthony Smith before Smith broke his hand.

The road back to the title is longer and harder than ever after back-to-back losses to fighters who don’t have built-in excuses of already being legendary status. That is, it was okay that Gus lost to Jones, Rumble, and DC, because they’re perceived to be elite and the public is forgiving of those losses. Anthony Smith, though, is a tough loss to bounce back from.

Just How Good is Jon Jones?

Perhaps the meme of Just How Good Is Jon Jones!? holds some serious merit, because things feel helpless right now at 205lbs. The most interesting match-ups are rematches of fights that weren’t interesting in the first place, with the notable exception being Daniel Cormier, and there were already two of those, they were just interesting!

Even with Aleksander Rakic’s quick TKO victory, doesn’t it just seem like it’s a matter of time before he hits the wall that is either Jon Jones or poor booking on the UFC’s part?

Either Rakic, Johnny Walker, and the like thrive long enough to get the little name recognition needed to challenge Jon Jones before they have the rug ripped out from under them or they Yoel/Jacare each other and things end before they even get the chance to be interesting.

It doesn’t even appear like anyone outside of Daniel Cormier or a lucky punch from Johnny Walker can even threaten Jon Jones reign — Jones’ biggest opponent is still himself.

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