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Shots After The Bell: Gustafsson calls dibs on the next light heavyweight title shot

UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson v Teixeira Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images

The UFC’s return to Sweden was a successful one, much more so than the last time they traveled to the Nordic country. A part of that has to do with the event taking place at a reasonable time. Where the UFC’s last event took place at a ridiculous 3AM local time so Americans could watch in the evening, this show happened Sunday night in Sweden, making it pleasant Sunday afternoon viewing in North America. Why that wasn’t the obvious decision the first time we’ll never know.

It also helps that Alexander Gustafsson won his big headlining fight, something that didn’t happen last time when Anthony “Rumble” Johnson sucked all the oxygen out of the building with one flatlining punch. But let’s stop reminiscing about the bad times and get on to what made UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira so special.

Next In Line

Of course, the biggest story to come out of this event is the return of Alexander Gustafsson to the front of everyone's mind when they think of worthy light heavyweight contenders. "The Mauler" has largely been out of the spotlight since he dropped a split decision to champ Daniel Cormier back in October of 2015, taking a solid but unremarkable decision win over Jan Blachowicz nearly a year later in September 2016. But this resounding victory over Glover Teixeira will be hard to ignore, even if it doesn't get the kind of eyes a bigger UFC PPV might get.

It certainly puts him ahead of Jimi Manuwa, who packs the biggest punch at 205 so long as Anthony "Rumble" Johnson stays retired. Unfortunately, the list of fighters he's felled is nowhere near as compelling as Gustafsson's resume (which also happens to have a KO of Manuwa on it). Don't expect the two to duke it out again, though. Following his win over Teixeira, Alex told the post-fight press conference reporters that he had no interest in fighting Manuwa now that they were close friends and regular training partners.

Who ends up getting the next shot probably depends on what goes down at UFC 214 on July 29th. If Jon Jones wins his belt back, you better believe the UFC is going to put Gustafsson against him for his first new era defense. The two have unfinished business that goes back to 2013 when Alex came the closest anyone has ever gotten to legitimately defeating the pound for pound great. But if Cormier wins, it opens the door a little to a fresh opponent like Manuwa. Either way, though, Gustafsson made a very loud statement in Stockholm with his performance against Teixeira. Now there's an extremely good chance he can sit back and wait as a title shot falls into place for him.

Another Contender In The Making

One of the regular complaints I hear about these international Fight Pass events is they're full of low level fighters that don't even have Wikipedia pages yet. But I don't know if we can keep using Wikipedia as a benchmark any more because Oliver Enkamp doesn't have a page and he's freaking awesome. The babyfaced Swede looks and fights like a young Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, and while his flashiness wasn't quite enough to overcome the meat and potatoes performance that Nordine Taleb pulled out, it certainly makes me excited to see him again.

Eye Poke Rules Are A Kick In The Balls

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gustafsson vs Teixeira Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Dumb rules reared their ugly head again during the main event when Alexander Gustafsson pulled a Jon Jones and used his extended fingers to lead the way into an exchange with Glover Teixeira, sticking a digit deep into the Brazilian fighter's eye as a result. Unfortunately for Glover, the rules on the books as they stand right now don't actually afford a fighter any time to recover from an eye poke ... that honor goes only to those kicked in the ballsack. With an eye poke, the ringside physician comes in and examines the fighter and if they can't see the fight is called off.

Lately, we've been seeing refs bend that rule a little, delaying before calling in the physician to give a fighter the time they obviously need to regain their sight. But in this case, referee Marc Goddard didn't give Glover much time at all before telling him he had to resume fighting or forfeit the match. He didn't even let the doctor give Teixeira a bit of time, which is another standard way the rules are fudged to let fighters recover. We're actually lucky the fight didn't get waved off. When asked if he could see, Glover said "No! But I'm gonna fight, yeah!"

"Good, then we fight!" the doctor responded. I imagine the response would have been different in New York.

So the obvious question is why is there still no recovery time baked into the rules when dealing with eye pokes? The Association of Boxing Commissions has gotten together several times to make changes to the Unified Rules, as underscored by the recent scattershot adoption of new grounded fighter parameters. They even tweaked eye poke rules, stating fighters aren’t allowed to paw with their fingers outstretched any more. So why hasn't this other obvious and non-controversial improvement been added as well?


MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gustafsson vs Teixeira Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did Alexander Gustafsson win in the cage on Sunday, he won in love too. The Swedish fighter called his girlfriend Moa Antonia Johansson into the cage and asked her to marry him -- or as one witty /r/MMA user described it, "Main event winner calls out person in crowd, they storm the cage and engage!"

Anyone following Gustafsson's Instagram account knows he just became a father recently, so we'd like to congratulate Alex and his family for that, and now for this in-cage engagement! 2017 is certainly looking like a good year for Alex.

My energy, my refuel, my motivation ❤️

A post shared by Alex The Mauler Gustafsson (@alexthemauler) on

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