SEATTLE - In the UFC on FOX 5 co-main event at Key Arena Saturday night, Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson overcame a bad case of nerves to earn a unanimous decision over one of his idols, former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The win likely earned Gustaffson (15-1) a title shot against the winner of the bout between 205-pound champ Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, who clash in April.
Arguably the division’s hardest puncher, Gustafsson put Rua on the deck early in round one with a big right hand. The legendary Rua, a BJJ black belt, fished for a knee bar and heel hook, but Gustafsson proved well-prepared and defended. While Gustafsson has largely run through opponents and his record is littered with first-round finishes, he held up well in the kind of nip-and-tuck, down-and-dirty scraps that are par for the course for Rua. One of the game’s most exciting fighters, Rua was competitive throughout the fast-paced bout and repeatedly found a home for his overhand right. The Brazilian really seemed to find his rhythm early in the second round, but Gustafsson stole back the momentum midway. The Swede impressed with his takedowns and repeatedly landed his trademark uppercut.
Judges scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 for Gustafsson.
RORY MACDONALD VS. BJ PENN
If there is a walkout better than BJ Penn’s at the moment, I don’t know who owns it. Accordingly, the crowd was on fire for this one, raining down chants of “BJ! BJ!” throughout, with the occasional “Rory! Rory!” for opponent Rory MacDonald making the rounds as well.
And while you’ve got to give it to the Hawaiian legend for time and again only wanting to fight the best, his desire to face the welterweight division’s Now Big Thing was not supported by his ability to beat MacDonald. The Canadian was too big and too multi-faceted for Penn to overcome, and the Firas Zahabi protégé punished Penn over 15 minutes with a vast playbook that made it impossible to know what danger was coming next.
With Penn, no matter how conditioned he is or isn’t, you always know his opponent will have to reckon with at least five minutes of fury. And you always know that BJ Penn and his immense Hawaiian pride will fight until the end, no matter how much heat and suffering comes his way.
How Penn survived the second round against MacDonald is anyone’s guess. It is unconfirmed, but some of the media at cageside speculated that perhaps Penn’s ribs were broken or cracked by MacDonald’s relentless assault of kicks and punches to Penn’s midsection. It was downright ruthless as you could see Penn wincing and favoring those ribs, almost hunched over yet seemingly wanting to continue. Amazingly, under heavy fire, Penn kept fighting through front kicks to the face, hard kicks to the legs, and some wicked elbows to the jaw.
The heavy speculation will now commence about whether Penn will retire following back-to-back losses to Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald.
Penn had his moments in rounds one and two, landing some crisp jabs and an occasional right hand. Fatigue did not seem to be the former lightweight and welterweight world champion’s undoing. Rather, Penn is now 33 years old, and it appears it may just be the 23-year-old MacDonald’s time. Indeed, it was the best MacDonald we’ve ever seen, as he recorded the biggest win of his career by judges’ scores of 30-26, 20-26 and 30-27.
“(He’s) one guy that I really, really looked up to, that was a huge role model to me, so he’s a hero to me,” MacDonald said of Penn. “But any man that I step inside the Octagon with is a human to me and I have to look at him like that.
“I was just calm, cool and collected at all time. BJ is dangerous at all times, so I had to pick my shots. I’m pissed that I didn’t finish him.”
MacDonald also seized the opportunity, on live TV, to call out the only fighter to beat him.
“There’s a guy who humiliated me a couple of years ago, Carlos Condit. I want a rematch, accept my challenge…allow me to get my revenge.”
Watch MacDonald's post-fight interview
MATT BROWN VS. MIKE SWICK
Matt Brown, you might recall, had a wretched 2010 and 2011 inside the Octagon. He lost four of five fights in those years – all by submission.
But with his big-league career on life support, Brown has experienced an incredible resurgence in 2012, capping a perfect 4-0 record for the year with a dynamic second-round knockout of veteran Mike Swick on Saturday.
Brown, who has been training with the Ohio State University wrestling team, Muay Thai coach Mark Beecher and BJJ world champ Robert Drysdale in Las Vegas, landed some heavy leather in round one and took Swick down with a single leg. Brown (18-11) slickly transitioned to a deep D’Arce choke variation. Swick very patiently waited it out for a long time and then popped his head. Then Brown transitioned to a triangle choke, which Swick once again cleverly defended.
In the second round Brown roughed Swick up with right hands and some hard elbows from the clinch. A hard left hook dropped Swick and another blow put him out cold.
In defeat, Swick fell to 15-5.
Watch Brown's post-fight interview