Going into his headlining fight against Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night 153, top light heavyweight contender, Alexander Gustafsson, was looking to bounce back from his previous loss to Jon Jones at UFC 232.
And he was looking to do it in his own backyard of Stockholm, Sweden. Unfortunately for "The Mauler," he wound up on the wrong side of a submission loss after Smith sunk in a rear-naked choke to put an end to the fight.
It also put an end to Gustafsson’s career, as he announced his retirement from the mixed martial arts (MMA) game shortly thereafter. It was something that many saw coming as he previously stated that if Smith beat him, then it could mean that he "simply doesn't have it anymore."
But some question if this will truly be the end, including the aforementioned Jones. Gustafsson is still pretty young at 32 years of age and despite his back-to-back losses to “Bones” and “Lionheart,” he still can be a major player in the light heavyweight division.
Some may attribute his sudden retirement as nothing more than an emotional reaction after a crucial blow, which is normal, as he is feeling down, and pretty much out of it.
But as we have seen in the past, there have been many fighters who decide to call it a career only to mount a comeback a few months, or even a few years later. Just look at Tito Ortiz, he has retired so many times and keeps coming back that it's hard to keep track. Randy Couture called it quits a few times and also mounted a comeback, as did Chuck Liddell. In their cases, it is easy to argue that their best fighting days were completely behind them.
But in Gustafsson’s situation, I'm not too convinced.
I still believe he has what it takes to compete at the highest level and losing to savages like Jones and Smith is nothing to hang your head over, and definitely not something that should cause you to walk away from the fight game forever. I obviously don't know him personally, and I don't know what he's going through or suggest he was speaking out of pure, raw emotion, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see him back in the Octagon within a year.
If this truly is the end for him, then he was one of the best to ever compete at light heavyweight — who never won a title. Though to be fair, that is hard to do when the championship belt is switching hands between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.
Speaking of Cormier, he paid tribute to his former foe with some very kind and respectful words.
"Alex, you will forever be one of the biggest players in my journey. We’ve agreed, we have argued and bickered, but ultimately you made me better," he wrote on Twitter.
"You made the sport better. You are a warrior and will be truly missed! I understand the motivation changes and for you it is now your family. I say now you’re starting to really live the good life. Congrats on a great career my man! You’re a hammer! see you around."
So I leave it to you: Do you honestly feel we have seen the last of Gustafsson inside an MMA cage?