UFC Fight Night 93: Alexander Gustafsson proves Sweden's saviour on otherwise uneventful night

Swedish MMA these days largely focuses around just two men with Ilir Latifi, and to a greater extent, Alexander Gustafsson relied upon to represent the nation

Jim Edwards
Sunday 04 September 2016 20:26
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Alexander Gustafsson sizes up ahead of Fight Night
Alexander Gustafsson sizes up ahead of Fight Night

UFC Fight Night 93 last evening wasn’t the most eventful UFC show this year, but thirty seconds into the co-main event, Swedish MMA fans would’ve had their hearts in their mouth.

Swedish MMA these days largely focuses around just two men with Ilir Latifi, and to a greater extent, Alexander Gustafsson relied upon to represent the nation on this biggest stage of all. Last evening, both Latifi and Gustafsson fought in back-to-back bouts on the UFC Fight Night 93 card and for a small amount of time at least, it looked like things were going to go terribly wrong for both of them.

Ilir Latifi fought Ryan Bader in the second fight on the main card and started well in the first round by pushing forward and putting the pressure on the American. Things looked to be going to plan towards the end of the first round after Latifi caught Bader with a glancing right hand that buckled his knees and caused him to defend until the end of the round.

It looked at this point like the fight would be academic, but at the start of the second, Bader came out of his corner with a renewed sense of purpose and started using his own quick hands and frontwards pressuring to put Latifi’s back against the cage. Latifi seemed to be caught guard by this and looked to duck and incoming strike and duck his head for a takedown.

Unfortunately for the Swede, Bader had feinted his punch and instead read the takedown attempt and answered it with a sickening knee to the skull as Latifi ducked in. The sound on impact was stomach churning—as was the reaction of Latifi who’s head visibly bounced away like striker striking a football on the volley.

Latifi had been beaten for the first time in two years and all of a sudden the pressure was heaped on the King of Swedish MMA Gustafsson to carry the nation’s pride once again.

As a teammate and training partner of Latifi, it would’ve been understandable had Gustafsson been a little rattled to see his former teammate left so brutally unconscious. Not Gustafsson though, not last night. Gustafsson looked the definition of coolness as he made the way to the Octagon with the crowd on their feet and despite being a year out of action it felt almost as if he’d never left.

Alexander Gustafsson is Sweden's Saviour And Back In Business

Despite his coolness, Gustafsson didn’t start the fight well and lost the open exchanges with Blachowicz landed a superb straight left on the first exchange. At this point, some lesser experienced fighters may have panicked, but Gustafsson class showed as he quickly found the antidote to the Pole’s slick stand up skills.

The Swede took the fight to mat almost at will and from there he worked some slick ground and pound with some short, slick elbows to the face of Blachowicz. This was a tactic that Gustafsson then repeated for the entire rest of the fight and when the fight finished it was obvious to all in the arena who’d won.

Gustafsson had weathered the early storm and for at least the minute preserved Sweden’s reputation of still having world class fighters who deserve to challenge for titles.

The look on Gustafsson’s face in the post-fight press conference was telling. He was tired, weary and mostly relieved to be back and back to winnings ways in the UFC. All questions about what was next for him were brushed off one by one as the media tried to speculate who would be his next opponent.

Last night wasn’t about what was next, it was about Gustafsson returning to the fore of Swedish MMA and once again inserting himself in the mix of the UFC light heavyweight title picture.

Sweden’s proudest son is back in business and looking to make another run at the title

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