Alexander Gustafsson is back.
The UFC's light heavyweight division has a No. 1 contender after Gustafsson finished Glover Teixeira with a fifth-round knockout following three consecutive uppercuts, topped off with a perfectly placed right hook to Teixeira's jaw which sent him crashing to the canvas.
The UFC's return to Sweden for UFC Fight Night 109 was a resounding success after Gustafsson secured the victory inside the Octagon and celebrated the win in the best way possible by proposing to his girlfriend in the center of the cage.
There was a lot of concern whether Gustafsson would ever return his old self after some grueling wars with Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and a brutal loss to Anthony Johnson, but Gustafsson showed off his movement and footwork that made him a title contender a few years ago.
Teixeira, coming off a win over Jared Cannonier in February, ate a lot of shots, particularly Gustafsson's trademark uppercut which landed nearly every time he threw it. After losing two of his last three fights, Teixeira will have to reevaluate his status as a top contender in the division. It wouldn't be a surprise if Teixeira decided to step away from the Octagon after this fight with the damage he took, and at 37, the window for a title shot is closing quickly.
With the victory, Gustafsson will surely be in line for a title shot against the winner of Jones vs. Cormier at UFC 214 on July 29. And after today's performance, he certainly deserves it.
Here's the rest of Sunday's main card results:
Jack Hermansson def. Alex Nicholson via first-round TKO (2:00)
Nordine Taleb def. Oliver Enkamp via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Omari Akhmedov def. Adbul Razak Alhassan via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)
Peter Sobotta def. Ben Saunders via second-round TKO (2:29)
Volkan Oezdemir def. Misha Cirkunov via first-round KO (0:28)
Alexander Gustafsson def. Glover Teixeira via fifth-round KO (1:07)
Hermansson dominates Nicholson
Jack Hermansson made quick work of Alex Nicholson, finishing the fight with time to spare in the first round due to a referee stoppage, much to the dismay of Alex Nicholson. But even though Nicholson disagreed with the stoppage, the referee's intervention was warranted.
Hermansson didn’t waste any time taking the fight to the ground as he quickly gained side control with some solid ground-and-pound from the top which left Nicholson defending against strikes, forgetting to protect his back.
Hermansson was able to get both hooks in and appeared to go for the rear-naked choke until Nicholson began protecting his neck, allowing Hermansson to tee off.
Nicholson absorbed a multitude of elbows and punches until the referee stepped in to separate the fighters. It can be argued that Nicholson was doing a fairly solid job of protecting himself from hard strikes, but the finish was inevitable. Nicholson wasn’t going to improve his position for the rest of the first round, and he’ll look back on this fight and realize that he lost fair and square.
With the win, Hermansson improves to 2-1 inside the Octagon, while Nicholson falls to 1-3.
Taleb grinds out victory
Nordine Taleb was able to grind out the decision in a very entertaining and tightly contested fight against Oliver Enkamp. While Taleb came away with the victory after three rounds, the stock of both fighters went up as Enkamp and Taleb displayed high-level striking, ground game and heart.
Taleb marched forward in the first round as he landed a few leg kicks and got his jab going. Enkamp wasn’t disheartened, however, as he was looking to counter with regularity.
Taleb took the first round fairly comfortably, 10-9, and continued his striking showcase into the second round. Enkamp landed a nice high kick which Taleb absorbed without much distress, and he quickly went back to kicking Enkamp’s legs, taking some of the juice out of Enkamp’s offense.
Enkamp shot for the takedown, but Taleb sprawled and took control from the top, sliding into side control. From there, Taleb took over the rest of the second en route to another 10-9 score heading into the third.
With his back against the wall, Enkamp came out swinging in the third round with a barrage of high kicks and hooks, but Taleb weathered the early storm and held off an aggressive Enkamp for the victory. It was a solid debut for Enkamp, who deserves another chance to prove himself in the cage, while Taleb now stands at 5-2 in the UFC and will surely be looking for some higher-level competition from here on out.
Akhmedov hands Alhassan first career loss
This was a tough matchup for Abdul Razak Alhassan heading into Sunday’s main card, and he couldn't handle Omari Akhmedov until it was too late.
Akhmedov was able to change levels with relative ease in the opening round and countered with great success as Alhassan struggled to connect with his strikes. With the first round under his belt, Akhmedov did more of the same in the second as Alhassan, knowingly behind on the scorecards, came out with something to prove.
Despite missing early with a high kick, Alhassan looked far more comfortable with his timing as he continued to show why he was undefeated coming into the fight. Alhassan took the fight to the ground and landed strikes from top position en route to another decisive 10-9 round.
Alhassan was the better fighter in the third round, but he was too far behind on the scorecards. Only a finish would’ve given Alhassan the upper hand, and Akhmedov did his best to avoid the big shots, particularly when he forced Alhassan on his back and moved over to mount position.
Alhassan got back to his feet and fired off some nice elbows, but his energy was sapped and he didn't put Akhmedov in any real danger.
This marks Alhassan's first career loss in mixed martial arts after he began his career 7-0. Akhemdov improved to 5-3 and will look to take on some higher-caliber fighters the next time he steps inside the Octagon.
Sobotta ends Saunders' night
A broken hand wasn’t going to stop Peter Sobotta from finishing Ben Saunders.
After dominating the first round, Sobotta continued to pick apart Saunders in the second round and avoid Saunders’ rubber guard when Sobotta was in top position. But at some point in the second round, Sobotta claimed to have broken his hand, although you would have never noticed watching the fight.
Sobotta continue to land punch after punch heading into the third, where he put together some beautiful combinations that stunned Saunders and made him back up against the cage to support himself.
A left hook in the third made Saunders think twice about trading strikes with Sobotta, but a brutal left knee from Sobotta landed squarely on Saunders’ chin, sending him to the canvas. Sobotta quickly followed Saunders to the ground and laid down some ground-and-pound until the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
The referee stoppage was necessary, regardless of what Saunders thought. With the win, Sobotta improves to 4-4 in the UFC while Saunders falls to 8-5.
Oezdemir knocks out Cirkunov early
Well, that didn’t last very long now did it?
The co-main event of the evening featuring Volkan Oezdemir and Misha Cirkunov was billed as a tough, gritty fight that would show off the heart of two up-and-coming fighters in the light heavyweight division.
Unfortunately for the UFC, that did not happen.
Cirkunov marched forward and backed Oezdemir up against the cage but left himself vulnerable to a counter, which Oezdemir took advantage of with a short right hook that landed on Cirkunov’s ear within 30 seconds of the fight.
It wasn’t a very hard punch by any means, but the punch to the ear threw off Cirkunov’s balance and he crashed to the canvas in a heap, allowing Oezdemir to land a couple more strikes to secure the win.
With wins over Ovince Saint Preux and Cirkunov, it’s hard to ignore Oezdemir in the 205-pound division, as he will look for a top-five fight next. As for Cirkunov, it’s back to the drawing board after a disappointing showing.