The Alexander Gustafsson brand continues to grow after another star-making performance in an Ultimate Fighting Championship main event.
Gustafsson was booked against unbeaten Brit Jimi Manuwa in the UFC Fight Night 38 headliner on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. Coming off a razor-thin decision loss to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Gustafsson was one impressive performance away from a title rematch. Meanwhile, at 3-0 in the UFC, Manuwa was one upset away from vaulting into the top 5 at 205 pounds.
Gustafsson came out of the Jones defeat not only a better fighter but a more popular one, as well. The 27-year-old Swede was recently voted to be on the cover of the upcoming EA Sports UFC video game and a new aura confidence has hovered around him over the last several months. A bold walkout song choice was needed for Gustafsson as he came back from just the second loss of his MMA career.
“Du Gamla Du Fria” is a spoken word track by Swedish national team soccer captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Originally recorded for the new “Made in Sweden” Volvo car ad campaign, the two-minute song features Sweden’s most famous athlete backed by the female vocals of singer Day.
The only way Gustafsson’s song selection could have been bolder is if he had driven a 2014 Volvo XC70 to the cage while blasting the Swedish national anthem out of the speakers. “Du Gamla Du Fria” is full of Scandinavian pride and confidence. If Gustafsson eventually captures the UFC light heavyweight championship, he will join Zlatan as Swedish athletic royalty.
A heavy underdog and fighting in front of his countrymen, Manuwa needed laser focus to knock Gustafsson from his 205-pound pedestal. Rick Ross’ jam “No Games” is all about hard work and the monetary payoff that is sure to follow. The difference between a win and loss in his first UFC main event would represent a significant amount of coinage for Manuwa.
After an opening frame that saw Gustafsson dominate Manuwa on the ground, round two began with the No. 1 contender looking to put a stamp on his victory. In the clinch, Gustafsson fired a knee right past Manuwa’s defenses and onto to the Brit’s chin. Right hooks and uppercuts from Gustafsson dropped Manuwa to the mat before referee Marc Goddard stepped in to wave off the fight.
The subtly brash Gustafsson, with blue and yellow blood running through his veins, should walk his way to another UFC light heavyweight title shot before the end of the year.
In a battle of former Blackzilians teammates, late replacement Michael Johnson got his hand raised. Six months ago, Johnson’s name was written in pencil on the UFC’s cut list. With no margin for error, he has thrived with his back against the wall. B.o.B’s “Play for Keeps” hypes up Johnson to the appropriate levels and tells his opponent that the upcoming bout is not another sparring session at the gym; it is for keeps.
“Knights of Cydonia,” by Muse, is a song about destiny. Unfortunately for Guillard and his walkout tune, Johnson punched destiny in the face with improved boxing skills honed at the Blackzilians gym. Following a close round one, Johnson used his striking to outpoint Guillard over the final 10 minutes en route to a unanimous decision victory.
The UFC Fight Night 38 undercard walkout selections featured mostly a mix of rock ‘n’ roll from the past and present. Paying homage to his father, middleweight Luke Barnatt remained undefeated and earned the home country crowd pop with The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Despite arguably being the most famous band ever, The Beatles rarely get dialed up by cage fighters looking to knock out or submit their opponents.
Welterweight Igor Araujo won his sixth fight in a row after a decision win over Danny Mitchell. Araujo went the rap rock route with his choice of “O Preco,” by Charlie Brown Jr. Compared favorably to works by American bands 311, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers, “O Preco,” or “The Price” in English, is perfect for a Brazilian fighter who loves to rap and rock as he bounces his way to the battlefield.
UFC Fight Night 38 Walkout SongsAlexander Gustafsson: Zlatan feat. Day “Du Gamla Du Fria” (2014)
Jimi Manuwa: Rick Ross feat. Future “No Games” No Games (2013)
Melvin Guillard: Muse “Knights of Cydonia” Black Holes and Revelations (2006)
Michael Johnson: B.o.B “Play for Keeps” Strange Clouds (2012)
Brad Pickett: Chas & Dave “Gertcha” Don’t Give a Monkeys (1979)
Neil Seery: Coldplay “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” Mylo Xyloto (2011)
Cyrille Diabate: Kavinsky “First Blood” OutRun (2013)
Ilir Latifi: DeEtta Little “Gonna Fly Now” Rocky Soundtrack (1977)
Luke Barnatt: The Beatles “Come Together” Abbey Road (1969)
Mats Nilsson: Timbuktu “Spring” Spring (2014)
Brad Scott: The Wurzels “Blackbird” Top of the Crops (2006)
Igor Araujo: Charlie Brown Jr. “O Preco” Preco Curto ... Prazo Longo (1999)
Danny Mitchell: AC/DC “It’s a Long Way to the Top” T.N.T. (1975)
Phil Harris: Thirty Seconds to Mars “Closer to the Edge” This is War (2009)
Omari Akhmedov: Randy Edelman & Trevor Jones “Promentory” The Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack (1992)
Tommy Messano is the editor-in-chief of ULTMMA.com. You can contact him on Twitter at @ULTMMA.