Johnson impressive in Sweden (UFC on FOX 14 Review)

ufc_fox14The Light Heavyweight division is in a bit of a flex area right now as champion Jon Jones continues to recover from his reported drug issues. After his title fight against Daniel Cormier a drug test taken earlier in the week came to light with trace amounts of cocaine. That drug test had Jones admit himself to a drug treatment facility. That didn’t reportedly last too long though as he checked himself out of rehab after one day. This week an interview saw Jones deny that he has a problem with cocaine and that the test was due to his use at a party before his test. The failed drug test and thought of many that he might have a bigger problem than he is admitting leads many to wonder what exactly will happen in the light heavyweight division in the near future. That made the UFC on FOX 14 main event a bit of a question. To many it was a title contender fight, that is, as long as Jones is ready to fight when it comes time. That was absolutely true for one fighter on the card as Alexander Gustafsson was fighting for his chance to fight for the title once again. If Jones is ready to fight on a regular rotation than a win by Gustafsson would put him at the very top of the list of light heavyweight contenders. Sitting at the top right now Gustafsson was ready to take another shot at the title after fighting in the closest fight that Jones has ever been a part of. Gustafsson pushed Jones as far as he had ever been pushed before and many want to see that rematch in what could be the fight of the year. The only issue was that Gustafsson had another fighter standing in front of him waiting to get his own shot. An eight fight win streak had pushed him to the #3 spot in the division but only two of those fights have been in the UFC. Much of that was Johnson’s fault as he had been one of the young up and comers early in his career in the UFC. He could not keep momentum as he continued to take losses while winning every now and then. That inconsistency cost Johnson his spot in the UFC roster and the young fighter as forced to move on to other promotions. In 2014 he made his return to the big show after dominating at WSOF and Titan. In his first two fights he looked like a completely different fighter in beating Phil Davis and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Those fights moved him up the rankings and set him up for the opportunity that he had at UFC on FOX 14. Taking out one of the best light heavyweights in the world was a tall task though although the strategy seemed to be the same. Johnson would continue to use his power to put fighters in trouble as one of the most powerful light heavyweights in the world. Gustafsson is a great fighter but more often than not it has been his reach that he uses perfectly to keep opponents out of range in the stand up. That reach advantage was gone against Johnson and with his reach that almost matches Gustafsson and the power to end the night quickly. There was no question that Gustafsson wanted to keep things standing and use his great technical boxing to earn the win against a wilder fighter in Johnson. Both contenders came out looking to end the night fast as they were swinging to end it early. After exchanging some shots neither looked to be gaining the advantage until an eye poke reset things. As Johnson recovered from the poke in the eye both fighters got back to it as Johnson caught a kick from Gustafsson and landed a big shot. That shot changed everything as Gustafsson was rocked and began trying to find his feet again. Johnson came after him and tried to be aggressive enough to end the fight but not too aggressive to give Gustafsson an opening. Once again Johnson landed a big shot and dropped the #1 contender. Johnson jumped on the chance and began unloaded big punches from the back until the referee was forced to stop the fight. The loss for Gustafsson was devastating for the mind of Gustafsson in front of the biggest crowd to ever come out for a European fight card. It is not the end for Gustafsson though as he is sure to fight again and will likely be seen in a title fight once again. For Johnson it was the biggest win of his career and a large step in the comeback for a fighter once cut from the roster. He will fight Jones for the title when Jones is set to return in what should be a great fight.

After the light heavyweight division seemed to find their new challenger two veteran fighters looked to gain some traction on their own title hopes. One of these veterans marked a seemingly ageless fighter that was close to falling into one of the dangers of aging legends. Years ago Chuck Liddell was the biggest name in MMA and in the UFC. He was the fighter that helped the UFC enter the mainstream with plenty of fans and a lot of hype in every fight. Near the end of his career Liddell began to slow down and the legend that did so much for the UFC began harming his reputation. He lost the light heavyweight belt to Quinton Jackson, the only man Liddell could never seem to beat, and from that point on his great career took a turn. He began to lose more fights as he did not have the power or speed to win fights anymore. Overall the sport had eclipsed him and new fighters were coming in far more prepared than ever before. With the losses the UFC began to take serious notice and Dana White sat Liddell down to tell him that he should retire and save the reputation that he had gained as one of the fiercest MMA fighters ever. Liddell eventually did retire but only after losing four of his last five fights in the UFC. His legend remains intact but there is still that period where it was clear that he should no longer be fighting. That same story seems to be unfolding for Dan Henderson as the former Pride Champion and UFC contender is the oldest fighter on the UFC roster and is beginning to show signs of his age. Despite remaining one of the biggest names in MMA he has lost four of his last five fights and continues to fall short of a title. He dropped to middleweight for UFC on FOX 14 in another attempt to climb the ladder but another loss may have put the writing on the wall and forced the UFC to have that talk with the legend. His opponent Gegard Mousasi was trying to take advantage of the name recognition to give him some momentum after 10 years in MMA. Mousasi is still a younger fighter and has some miles left in him as he took on Henderson but could not get the traction he needed to truly climb the ladder in the middleweight division. The fight would feature the wrestling and wild striking of Henderson against the calculated striking style of Mousasi in what could change both of these careers for the better or for the worse. The fight did not go too well for Henderson and it was another poor showing from the former Pride champion. After an initial feeling out period Mousasi came forward with a big left hand that sent Henderson down. Mousasi followed up the big punch and began putting Henderson in a bad spot. It wasn’t long before the referee ended the fight and despite Henderson’s protests it did not seem like he was going to get out of that while still awake. The loss was the latest for Henderson in a long list that continue to show that his career should be winding down. Meanwhile Mousasi took the win and added a major name on his record in his goal to move up the rankings. He will continue to try to move his way through the division and earn a title shot but it will take some time for him to get there.

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