Gustafsson rocked Manuwa with a series of strikes in the second of their five-round main event at UFC Fight Night in Greenwich, as the referee waved the contest off when the former #1 contender got the English-Nigerian upstart into a compromising position on the canvas.
The result deflated many local fans hoping Manuwa would launch himself onto the next level with such a high-profile scalp but delighted the tons of Swedish fans who showed up in support of Gustafsson and other Swedes on the card.
“I was so glad to get a decision because my last couple of fights have gone the distance,” Gustafsson said after the fight.
“The support of the fans here tonight was awesome, especially the ones that travelled from Sweden.
“Jimi Manuwa is a tough, powerful fighter so my strategy was to try and wear him down a bit and drain that power.
“I got grazed a couple of times and you could definitely feel how hard he can throw.
“I want Jon Jones next, I can’t wait to have another chance at him.”
It was not a hugely successful night for British combatants all round, though another Londoner enjoyed a victory on the main card in the form of Brad Pickett.
Pickett – whose Chas ‘n’ Dave entrance made him an obvious local favourite – took a hard-earned unanimous decision over Irish UFC debutant Neil Seery.
“I’m a little disappointed to not get a stoppage there especially in front of my hometown fans,” a frank Pickett explained afterward.
“Neil just kind of hung on and never allowed to me do anything.”
Michael Johnson’s decision win over Melvin Guillard in the semi-main event fell flat with a restless O2 crowd, but Gunnar Nelson’s emphatic ground-and-pound of Omari Akhmedov followed by a tap-out finish did not.
“I took a few minutes to feel out his movements and then when I got him on the ground I tried to soften him up,” the impressive Icelander said.
“Eventually I was able to get a good choke on him and end things. “
The star of the preliminary card was Luke Barnatt, who remained unbeaten when he wiped out Mats Nilsson in Sweden’s only bad result of the show with a fantastic flurry which began with a flush kick to the face and ended with a knee to the head which had the official diving in.
“I felt a bit cold in the start but when he hit me with a right I woke up,” said Barnatt, who got the attention of UFC owner Dana White with another strong performance.
“It feels very good to be the first one to ever finish him”
Ilir Latifi was the other Swede to pick up a win, ending the fight career of Cyrille Diabate with a chokehold submission.
English fighters Bradley Scott, Danny Mitchell and Phil Harris, however, will be disappointed with their defeats to Claudio Silva, Igor Araujo and Louis Guadinot respectively.
Guadinot’s card-opening guillotine tap-out of Harris in round one was nonetheless particularly impressive.
“I left my neck open and paid the price obviously,” said a dejected Harris in the media room post-match.
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