On Saturday’s return to Sweden, the UFC saw the country’s most popular fighter leave his gloves inside the octagon and call it a career.
Alexander Gustafsson announced his retirement after a submission loss to Anthony Smith while announcing “the show is over” after 24 professional fights of which two were championship fights in the UFC.
Gustafsson sang a different tune throughout fight week, speaking with Ariel Helwani on his radio program and indicating a busier schedule in 2019 after long breaks between his last fights.
Sweden has been the backdrop for some of Gustafsson’s career high points, including a mesmerizing performance against Glover Teixeira in 2017. But it was also home to his toughest loss when he was knocked out by Anthony Johnson in front of 30,000 onlookers at the Tele2 Arena in January 2015.
In this instance, both Gustafsson and Smith were looking to rebound after losses to current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It was a fight that didn’t appear to push the winner closer to a rematch but would be a severe setback for the loser.
In the early rounds, Smith appeared to get the better of the exchanges when he eliminated distance while swinging for the fences with his right hand. Gustafsson was more methodical, reacting to a checked kick early on that registered. Gustafsson’s best moment of the fight occurred in the third round, landing a thunderous body kick and securing a takedown that earned him the round.
The fight would not get out of the fourth round. Gustafsson entered with a knee, Smith thwarted a takedown effort and, in the exchange, got Gustafsson to the mat and moved to the back. It was in this position; Smith flattened the hometown native while landing heavy strikes and ended the fight with a rear-naked choke.
Gustafsson spoke with Dan Hardy and alluded to his disappointment, losing in Sweden again and left his gloves on the canvas as he thanked the audience and walked off, destination unknown for the 32-year old.
Retirements in combat sports are often taken with several grains of salt rather than just one. That is compounded when it’s announced immediately after a loss when the fighter is at his or her most vulnerable and facing a prospect of starting from scratch after dedicating their life for ten weeks in exchange for an ‘L’.
The UFC announced 14,319 in attendance at the Ericsson Globe Arena with a gate of $2 million, numbers that edged past their last stop at the arena in May 2017 when Gustafsson knocked out Glover Teixeira in May 2017.
In lieu of a Fight of the Night bonus, four Performance of the Night bonuses were handed out to Anthony Smith, Aleksandar Rakic, Makwan Amirkhani, and Leonardo Santos.
Rakic put forward one of the most violent knockouts 2019 will see with a blazing head kick that sent Jimi Manuwa backward and to the canvas in 42 seconds. Rakic made an enormous statement as yet another ‘one to watch’ at the light heavyweight ranks as he improved to 12-1 with a 4-0 record since entering the promotion.
Below is the full list of results from the card:
*Joel Alvarez def. Danilo Belluardo by TKO at 2:22 of Round 2
*Devin Clark def. Darko Stosic by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Bea Malecki def. Duda Santana by rear-naked choke at 1:59 of Round 2
*Frank Camacho def. Nick Hein by TKO at 4:56 of Round 2
*Leonardo Santos def. Stevie Ray by KO at 2:17 of Round 1
*Lina Lansberg def. Tonya Evinger by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
*Sergey Khandozhko def. Rostem Akman by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Daniel Teymur def. Sung Bin Jo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Christos Giagos def. Damir Hadzovic by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
*Makwan Amirkhani def. Chris Fishgold by submission at 4:25 of Round 2
*Aleksandar Rakic def. Jimi Manuwa by KO at 0:42 of Round 1
*Anthony Smith def. Alexander Gustafsson by rear-naked choke at 2:38 of Round 4