Anthony Johnson KOs Alexander Gustafsson; table set for Jon Jones bout

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It was short, direct and to the point, but Jon Jones' response on social media after watching Anthony Johnson earn a shot at his UFC light heavyweight title by stopping Alexander Gustafsson in the first round Saturday was probably also the best take:

Anthony Johnson's win over Alexander Gustafsson will earn him a shot at Jon Jones. (Getty)
Anthony Johnson's win over Alexander Gustafsson will earn him a shot at Jon Jones. (Getty)


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Johnson moved to within one punch of one of the most incredible journeys to the top in UFC history, bludgeoning Gustafsson in front of nearly 30,000 partisan fans at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, to earn the next crack at the light heavyweight belt.

Jones has run roughshod over the best the UFC has to over, but he was not able to run over Gustafsson when they met in 2013. Gustafsson gave Jones the battle of his professional life and, to this day, there are those who are adamant that it was Gustafsson, not Jones, who earned the decision that night in Toronto.

Nobody has ever done to Gustafsson what Johnson did on Saturday. Johnson hit Gustafsson with a right hand by the ear that badly wobbled the Swede. Gustafsson began to stagger around the cage and it was essentially the beginning of the end.

Johnson is a raw, powerful puncher who has the ability to end any fight with one shot.

Gustafsson desperately tried to get away from him, but Johnson landed a kick to the head and several hard right hands that finally sent an off-balance Gustafsson to the canvas. Johnson finished it there, forcing referee Marc Goddard to step in and stop it.

It was a powerful, dominating experience and was Johnson's seventh first-round knockout in the UFC. But this wasn't against an aging, slow veteran like Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, whom he pulverized in the summer in San Jose, Calif.

Rather, this was a statement fight. The guy who once couldn't make weight and seemingly was destined to become an underachiever has finally moved to within one powerful punch of the UFC's greatest prize.

"Jon Jones, I hope you get well, brother," an exuberant Johnson said after the fight had concluded. "Let's get this championship fight on and make them proud and get the fans excited about this.

Fighting in front of a massive and adoring hometown crowd, Gustafsson wept openly after the bout. He showed class after he recovered by walking over to Johnson and raising his conqueror's arm in tribute, but it was clear he was devastated by the result.

He seemed so close to getting the chance to avenge the most bitter defeat of his career, only to have Johnson physically overwhelm him.

Alexander Gustafsson falls out of the light heavyweight picture with the loss to Anthony Johnson. (Getty)
Alexander Gustafsson falls out of the light heavyweight picture with the loss to Anthony Johnson. (Getty)

"I felt great all the way," Gustafsson said. "I got caught today. That's what happened."

It happens in combat sports, particularly when 200-plus-pound men are hitting each other with four-ounce gloves.

But it happens more often than not when Johnson is in the cage. He's recorded seven of his 10 UFC wins by first-round knockout. He's needed less than a minute to defeat Chad Reiner, Tom Speer, Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Nogueira.

He needed 2:15 to take care of Gustafsson, though it could have been and probably should have been stopped sooner. Perhaps worried about the large pro-Gustafsson crowd, Goddard was slow to step in and Johnson landed a series of hard shots on the ground.

Fortunately, Gustafsson appeared to be fine, and now, the UFC has a budding star on its hands in Johnson.

Fans love knockouts and few can deliver them in MMA like the man they call Rumble.

While it's true that Johnson has never faced anyone like Jones, and Jones will deservedly be the favorite, this is also very true:

Jon Jones has never in his illustrious career fought anyone quite like Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.

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