UFC Stockholm turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t a very anticipated event as it was largely being lost in the shuffle between UFC 211 and UFC 212. The main event between Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira – highly anticipated a few years ago, not so much in the modern day – was about as entertaining as it could have been. Sure it was one-sided, but that doesn’t mean that Teixeira’s toughness couldn’t be admired. In the process, Gustafsson re-established himself as an elite light heavyweight after a period where there was reasonable doubt to that thought.
Here’s my thoughts on the UFC Stockholm, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
- Expectations/Result: Though I knew this would be a close contest, I was in the vast majority that believed Held would pick up his first UFC victory. Through two rounds, Held dominated Hadzovic on the ground with ease, maintaining top position and getting the back before the end of the first two rounds. The third round started, Held goes for a level change, and BOOM!!! Hadzovic lands a beautifully timed knee to the temple of Held and puts him out to pick up a win out of nowhere.
- Hadzovic: Make no mistake, that knee was a KOTY candidate. The timing and placement were impeccable. The rest of the contest didn’t reveal too much in the positive for Hadzovic. I liked what I saw out of his submission defense, not to mention his ability to regain guard. But when Held wanted to get Hadzovic to the ground, he got him there. Throw in that Hadzovic didn’t have the expected advantage on the feet and it’s easy to see where he could be more disappointed in his performance despite the win.
- Held: I usually don’t feel too bad for fighters when I anticipate they are about to be cut. Either a fighter deserves to be in the UFC or they don’t with their record being a strong indicator of that fact. This is one of those rare exceptions. Held was in firm control for two rounds, threatening with submissions and showing some beautiful ground work. I LOVED the transition from the heel hook to Hadzovic’s back. All it took was one knee to erase all of that hard work. Held is good enough to be in the UFC. But that is now three losses in a row. Unfortunately for the talented Pole, I don’t see him returning.
- Expectations/Result: Despite not having appeared in the Octagon for 19 months, Till was a heavy favorite. He demonstrated why with ease. Till wobbled Ayari at least three times in each of the first two rounds, finding a home for his left hand time after time both on the attack and on the counter. Ayari demonstrated incredible toughness, surviving Till’s assault, threatening with submissions off the back, and chasing after Till in the final round after Till went into cruise control. He couldn’t get the finish and Till was awarded an easy decision.
- Till: Hard to find fault with Till’s performance. He found a home for his left hand time and again, landing with enough power to wobble or drop a durable Ayari time after time the first two rounds. Till was measured too, not overextending himself to go for the finish while demonstrating some good ground and pound. But there is a big asterisk on this contest thanks to him missing weight by a mile. Missing weight by five pounds is a big deal. He didn’t look depleted at all, leading me to believe he simply gave up on his weight cut rather than deplete himself further to make the agreed weight as it would have affected his performance. Missing weight that bad should have the brass telling him to go to middleweight.
- Ayari: Ayari is as game as they come. He got rocked a lot early in the fight and refused to give in. His general reaction was to go on the attack by clinching up or threatening with submissions when he was knocked to the ground. While it really boiled down to Till being the better specimen, there were a few things Ayari could have done better. His footwork could improve and Till seemed to counter all of Ayari’s attacks. Still, Ayari’s toughness and continued efforts boosted his stock in my eyes. Whether he can become a long-term fixture, I still don’t know.
- Expectations/Result: Difficult contest to pick. Velickovic had shown toughness…but not too much else. Then again, Musoke hadn’t been seen in almost 30 months and always held his chin high. Though the first two rounds were close - the general consensus was that Musoke did just enough to stay ahead with his mix of takedowns and counters. The final round was tight too as the final minute rolled around, Musoke again seeming to be in the lead. Velickovic ended up nailing Musoke in the temple, resulting in Musoke doing the stanky leg in hopes of maintaining his balance. He couldn’t, and a few ground punches later that led to the ref stepping in and declaring Velickovic the winner.
- Velickovic: Anybody else get the feeling that Velickovic is going to hang around the UFC for a long time? He isn’t a great athlete, he isn’t a very good wrestler and he doesn’t have an extraordinary amount of power. All of those factors were very much on display here. However, he doesn’t go away and is skilled in every area of the fight that he isn’t going to get blown out except by the elite. That recipe will allow him to be a gatekeeper at the lower levels of the division, a role he is perfectly suited for.
- Musoke: Musoke had been one of the busier fighters when he first came into the UFC, fighting five times in a span of 16 months. Musoke had been one of the busier fighters when he first came into the UFC, fighting five times in a span of 16 months. The layoff appeared to renew his love for the sport as he looked very much refreshed. Then he began to slow down, his gas tank not showing the depths it previously held. He was largely successful in fighting through his exhaustion, but he was unable to complete his takedown attempts in the final round, leading to him getting clipped. I’m of the mind that this is Musoke’s final UFC appearance.
- Expectations/Result: Given that Madadi took the fight on short notice, Silva was a sizeable favorite. Regardless, I still picked Madadi given his major wrestling advantage, something that was on full display throughout the contest. Madadi landed a number of slam takedowns, taking the first round definitively thanks to the strength of those takedowns. However, he began to fade, allowing Silva to execute his flashy offensive attack. Silva almost gave the fight away going for ill-advised submissions attempts in the final round which gave Madadi hope, but Silva held on in the end, much to the dismay of the Swedish crowd.
- Silva: I’ve long held a very low opinion on Silva’s wrestling and grappling. I’m still not impressed with his wrestling, but I need to give him more credit for his ability to get back to his feet. Madadi was unable to keep him down for long which allowed Silva to continually take the fight where he’s at his strongest: the feet. However, he has to know that he escaped with a win thanks to Madadi taking the fight on short notice. Even scarier, Madadi was landing takedowns in the third round despite being exhausted. Silva will be an exciting fighter so long as his opponents are fine to stand and trade. Otherwise, he’s going to struggle to find his footing.
- Madadi: Madadi deserves a lot of credit for his performance. He took the fight on something like two weeks notice and made a strong case that he deserved the win. It isn’t like he was simply using his wrestling to control Silva either. He landed a number of hard shots on the feet himself, including a spinning backfist that hurt Silva. Madadi had talked about retirement a few months ago, leading many – including myself – to speculate this might be his final contest. If it is, he went out in typical Mad Dog fashion.
- Expectations/Result: Camozzi was the favorite on the betting lines despite it being an unfavorable stylistic matchup due to his experience against a higher level of competition. I admit I picked Camozzi due to Smith’s lack of quality wins. Big mistake. Smith wrestled Camozzi to the ground in every round and scored with steady ground and pound. It was boring, but effective and saved Smith from losing his job.
- Smith: Even though Smith has long been known as a wrestler, he had struggled to implement it effectively. Not so this time. It looks as though his move to Arizona is paying off as he scored the biggest win of his career with ease. I still don’t see him beating anyone with decent wrestling or athletic ability, but he does need to be commended for a dominant performance here.
- Camozzi: Camozzi looked flat and I don’t just mean flat on his back. There didn’t seem to be nearly as much fight in him as usual. Granted, Smith didn’t give him an opportunity to get his standup offense rolling, though I would have thought Camozzi would have been able to get back to his feet. Nope. Aside from a few low percentage submission attempts off of his back, Camozzi did nothing. Camozzi has now lost three in a row. He’s survived that before, though I can’t see it happening this time around. Are there odds on Camozzi returning to the UFC for a fourth stint?
- Expectations/Result: Though I had stated in my preview this was the most lopsided contest on the card, the odds had gotten a bit ridiculous. Munhoz was over a 7-to-1 favorite on some odds. That for a guy whose best victory came over Justin Scoggins? Right. Munhoz did go out and methodically pick apart Stasiak, comfortably cruising to a victory. Regardless, Stasiak deserved credit for preventing Munhoz from completely dominating, forcing the Brazilian to stand and trade with the karateka. Nice display from both fighters with Munhoz walking away the victor.
- Munhoz: While Munhoz may not have gotten the expected finish, I thought his performance was pretty impressive. He prevented Stasiak from doing any damage when he did score some takedowns. He won the standup battle against a someone whose specialty is striking. And he scored a number of takedowns of his own, though Stasiak did provide a better fight to keep the fight from going to the ground. I’ll admit I would have liked to see him pull out another submission out of nowhere as he has been wont to do, but a nice all-round performance shouldn’t be overlooked either. He deserves a step up in competition. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t get it.
- Stasiak: While I’ll excuse his ignorance as Stasiak believed he should have won, I like the continued progress we’ve seen out of the Pole. He survived Munhoz’s ground assault and landed some solid shots of his own. He was a bit spin happy, telegraphing many of his strikes. Neither here nor there, as that was the most extended look on the feet we’ve seen out of him as he has been a ground fighter for the most part in his UFC run. Stasiak is unlikely to break into the rankings, but I’m more convinced than ever that he’ll become a mainstay on the roster for quite some time.
- Expectations/Result: Given Nicholson’s reputation as a one-dimensional brawler, Hermansson was a popular pick on the betting lines. Rather than take his chances with Nicholson on the feet, Hermansson took the fight to the ground right away with a blast double-leg. It didn’t take long before Hermansson transitioned to Nicholson’s back. Once he flattened out the American, Hermansson began raining down punches to the side of the head with no intelligent response from Nicholson. It wasn’t long before the fight was called.
- Hermansson: That’s one way to get people excited about your career prospects once again. Hermansson looked horrible in his previous contest against Cezar Ferreira. He turned around the narrative for the positive, attacking Nicholson where he’s weakest and securing a dominant win. Hermansson isn’t known as an explosive wrestler, so that takedown was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps asking for a ranked opponent is too big of a step after a win over Nicholson, but I’m once again excited about Hermansson’s future.
- Nicholson: The loss drops Nicholson to 1-3 in his UFC run. Yes, he can put on an entertaining scrap, but he isn’t winning enough to justify his spot on the roster. Hell, he was losing his lone victory before scoring a KO out of nowhere. Nicholson hasn’t shown the ability to do much more than stop his opponent from securing a submission on the ground as I can’t recall him winning a single exchange on the mat. I have a hard time believing he’ll be able to make it back to the big show.
- Expectations/Result: The youthful Enkamp took the contest on short notice without any experience against notable competition. Translation: Taleb was a heavy favorite. Enkamp started out strong, scoring a sloppy takedown and landing some hard shots against the Canadian veteran. Taleb settled down, found his bearings, and began to bully his smaller opponent in the clinch and with wrestling. Enkamp appeared to have an adrenaline dump as well as he didn’t have the same spring in his step that he had earlier, not scoring on the same strikes he was landing earlier. It ended up being an easy 29-28 scorecard for the judges.
- Taleb: Anyone else get the feeling that Taleb wasn’t paying the young Swede the proper respect early on? Encamp’s takedown was one of the worst that I’ve ever seen that actually got the fight to the ground. Once Taleb started taking Enkamp serious, he resembled the workmanlike welterweight we are all familiar with. Counter jabs and hooks became the weapons of choice which he coupled with a takedown and ground strikes in the final round. The performance didn’t do anything to make me excited for Taleb’s future prospects, but he does maintain the status quo.
- Enkamp: Yes, Enkamp lost decisively. But he also showed enough talent to convince many – including myself – that he has a bright future once he gets some experience under his belt. He has a deep arsenal of strikes and an active guard. Not a bad place to start. There are holes that need to be addressed though. Like Stasiak, Enkamp became a little to spin happy, one of the big keys that allowed Taleb to get back into the fight quickly. Aside from strike selection, Enkamp’s wrestling was atrocious. Though he isn’t a big welterweight, he looked bigger than I remembered from his regional appearances. I’ll be interested to see what he can do with a full camp.
- Expectations/Result: Regardless of who won, we all expected this to have a definitive ending as Alhassan had never had a contest extend past 90 seconds. Of course, the MMA gods chose to mock us all. Alhassan had his moments, swelling up the left side of Akhmedov in the second round most notably. However, the majority of the contest was Akhmedov landing takedowns and keeping Alhassan on his back. Though it was tense as most were expecting an explosion of strikes, the finishing sequence never came and the contest turned out to be a dud.
- Akhmedov: I may not have found the contest to be entertaining, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed with Akhmedov’s performance. He was plagued by a tendency to brawl, finding he didn’t have the chin to regularly find success in that environment. Akhmedov has experienced a rebirth of sorts over his last two contests, relying heavily on his wrestling to control his opponent while picking his spots to throw fists. It’s worked out well the last few contests as not only has he picked up a couple of wins, he saved his UFC job in the process. He’ll likely be hitting his ceiling soon enough though as his gas tank still isn’t great.
- Alhassan: This isn’t a huge surprise that Alhassan was unable to finish his opponent once the fight left the first round considering he had never gone past 90 seconds before. He tired quickly and his trademark aggressiveness was nowhere to be seen after the first. What is horrible was his complete lack of wrestling. Akhmedov took him down whenever he wanted and Alhassan had little to offer on the ground aside from the bare essential survival skills. He’s still worth keeping an eye on, but he’s going to have to make some drastic jumps in a few areas if he hopes to reach his potential.
- Expectations/Result: With a more proven track record, most fans were picking Saunders as well as a fair amount of analysts. However, there were more of the latter who were picking the German to pull off the upset. Sobotta showed within seconds why they were picking him, hurting Saunders with a straight left with the first punch he threw. Saunders recovered somewhat, landing some kicks to all levels and a few jabs to make a fight of things…for a while. Sobotta dropped him before the end of the round and picked up where he left off in the next round. The referee had seen enough about halfway through the second after Saunders was dropped for the third or fourth time in the fight…depending on your definition of being dropped.
- Sobotta: Sobotta’s UFC record now sits at 4-4. That may not sound impressive, but when you realize he started his run 0-3, his current record indicates a vastly improved fighter than the one that first arrived in the promotion. Sobotta was very aggressive, taking advantage of the lack in speed possessed by Saunders which allowed him to piece up Saunders with a jab and slick combinations. Saunders was on wobbly legs for the whole contest – that first punch really messed him up – but Sobotta played it smart, waiting patiently for holes to open up. I never would have thought I’d say it when Sobotta made his UFC return, but he could be in line for a ranked opponent.
- Saunders: Saunders’ lanky frame has always been problematic for his defense as he holds his chin up high. Sobotta obviously studied film on Saunders and attacked right off the bat. Saunders will never be anything more than a mid-level action fighter unless he fixes that. More than 30 fights into his career, it’s unlikely to change. Saunders did demonstrate an inordinate amount of toughness as he never went out completely. He may be too tough for his own good…
- Expectations/Result: Few took much stock in Oezdemir’s upset victory over Ovince Saint Preux as Saint Preux looked like a shell of himself. Throw in Oezdemir’s shaky wrestling and submission defense – Cirkunov’s specialty – and few were giving Oezdemir a chance. The ground never came into play. Cirkunov hurt Oezdemir, sending Oezdemir backwards against the fence. Cirkunov followed recklessly, running into the fence as Oezdemir avoided his assault. A single punch behind the ear later and Cirkunov was out.
- Oezdemir: Who would have guessed when Oezdemir signed as a short notice replacement against Saint Preux that he would be on deck to match himself up with the likes of Jimi Manuwa just two fights later? Oezdemir has had a bit of luck for him to get this far as his short punch was perfectly placed to put Cirkunov out. Now he’s in line for another high-profile contest and Manuwa seems to be the likely candidate. The UFC will want Manuwa in a contest for UFC 214 as insurance for the Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier title fight. Few consider Oezdemir to be a realistic title contender, so I can see them being fine with sacrificing him to Manuwa. However, Oezdemir is likely to look at it as an opportunity…just as he has with all of his other contests.
- Cirkunov: While this is a setback, Cirkunov isn’t going to be too far from where he would have been with a win anyway. The lack of depth in the division ensures that he’ll get another chance to break into the top five sooner rather than later. If anything, he should take this as a valuable lesson as he did not maintain his discipline when he rushed in to attack Oezdemir. Now he’ll get more time to develop to ensure that he’s ready when he finally does get his push into contention. Someone like Lil’ Nog would be perfect for Cirkunov to test his mettle against…if Lil’ Nog can ever stay healthy.
Alexander Gustafsson defeated Glover Teixeira via KO at 1:07 of RD5
- Expectations/Result: Given Teixeira’s flash KO against Anthony Johnson, the thought was that he couldn’t take a punch the way he used to. Knowing Gustafsson wanted to put on a show in front of his countrymen, very few were picking the Brazilian to emerge victorious. While Gustafsson put on a show, no one will continie to question whether Teixeira can take a punch now. Gustafsson put together a number of killer combinations, a few of which floored Teixeira. But Teixeira never went away. He hung in there, even landing a few hard shots of his own to remind Gustafsson and the crowd that he was still a threat. The final combination involved a series of uppercuts that the ref stepped in right away when Teixeira hit the ground as he’d seen enough.
- Gustafsson: I know that Manuwa is going to be the insurance policy should either Jones or Cormier fall out of their scheduled contest, but Gustafsson may have vaulted ahead of his now friend in the pecking order for the next title shot. While his constant resetting – or as many fans would say, running – may have annoyed many, it’s smart to avoid unnecessary damage. It isn’t like he wasn’t willing to sit down and trade shots at all with Teixeira. He’d have to be in the pocket at some point in order to put together the wicked combinations that he did. Regardless of how you feel about it, Gustafsson won’t be able to use that strategy against everyone as Teixeira was too slow to make Gustafsson pay for that strategy. Gustafsson did a solid job using his length to pot shot Teixeira from time to time as well whether it was a kick or a jab. I can’t not mention his takedown defense either. Basically, this was the best Gustafsson that we’ve ever seen. Whenever he gets a title shot and whoever it comes against, I’ll be excited to see it.
- Teixeira: While Teixeira isn’t going to be getting a title shot again with this loss, his stock certainly went up with the fans. His win over Jared Cannonier was considered to be a snoozer, which depleted Teixeira’s stock. This loss, though it establishes that Teixeira isn’t a title contender anymore, did establish him as someone who is capable of putting on an entertaining contest. What I’m getting at: people might be a bit more inclined to watch Teixeira do his thing now. He can continue to be a high-level gatekeeper as there isn’t anyone else in the division ready to take that role. I don’t know who would be an ideal opponent for him moving forward, though I’d think he’s going to be on the sidelines for a while after that beating. Maybe he can get a crack at Cornier if Cormier falls short against Jones nothing else makes sense at this point.
Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time...