The 6-foot-4, 25-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden stepped up and delivered in his first UFC main event Saturday. In the UFC's debut card in his homeland, Gustafsson put on one of the most impressive performances of his young career, dominating veteran Thiago Silva in front of a sell- out crowd.
"All I can say is I'm proud to fight here in my home country, in my home town," said Gustafsson, who recorded his fifth straight win. "It's a big honor."
With the boisterous Stockholm crowd on his side, Gustafsson, decked out in Swedish blue and gold, came out firing, connecting early on a right uppercut that dropped Silva to the mat and had him in trouble. Silva managed to escape back to his feet, but Gustafsson continued to press the action and opened up a cut between the bridge of Silva's nose and his right eye.
This pattern held up over the rest of the bout. Most of the match was held standing, as Gustafsson combined impressive hand speed and his reach advantage to score points and keep his opponent at bay.
Silva has knockout power and registered several times of the course of the fight with his overhand right, but when he did, he couldn't stay in close and take advantage, as Gustafsson would scamper away and re-set.
According to Compustrike, Gustafsson had an 83-47 total-strikes advantage.
The fight was originally slated to feature Gustafsson against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but Silva had to pull out due to an injury and Silva took his place. On Twitter, UFC president Dana White said that the main event was three rounds instead of five to due the substitution.
"That's one of my things," said Gustafsson. "I tried to keep it basic, keep it standing. I was training for a five-round fight."
The match was just the second in 27 months for Silva, in part because of a neck injury and also because of a steroid-related suspension in Nevada.
"I tried to push as much as I could," said Silva, who is 1-3 with a no-contest in his past five fights. "I couldn't find my consistency. He's a tough guy, he deserved the victory."
Gustafsson improved to 14-1. It was the first three-round decision win of his career. After the bout, Gustafsson was asked if he wants the winner of next weekend's Jones-Rashad Evans title fight, but he wouldn't take the bait.
"I just want to take the fights the UFC gives me," he said. "I do what I love to do, fight."
Earlier on the night