STOCKHOLM - Light-heavyweight Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson befuddled Brazilian Thiago Silva to win a decision and delight his hometown crowd Saturday in the UFC's debut show in Sweden.
The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 for the six-foot-five Stockholm native, who has now won five straight and six of seven in the UFC.
"I'm proud to fight here in my home country, in my home town, (before) my countrymen. It was a big honour," the 25-year-old Gustafsson said in the cage after the win.
Silva was aggressive from the get-go at the Ericsson Globe Arena but was put down by an uppercut. The Brazilian got back up, feeling his forehead for a cut, and took punishment at the fence.
Gustafsson (14-1) was faster, using movement and a 2.5-inch reach advantage to hit Silva from the outside. The Brazilian struggled to find his range but scored with some leg kicks.
Silva struggled again in the second round to solve the Swede, but backed him up midway though the round when he caught him with a couple of blows.
In the third, Gustafsson kept moving and throwing and soon Silva was bleeding again. The Brazilian, swelling showing on his forehead, stalked the Swede but could never really catch him.
The two shook hands at the final horn.
"Alexander is a tough guy," said Silva. "I couldn't find the distance. He deserves the victory."
It was the first fight for Silva (14-3 with one no contest) since Jan. 1, 2011, after being suspended for trying to tamper with a urine test.
The 29-year-old Brazilian, known for his throat-slitting gesture after wins, later admitted to taking steroids to help get over a back injury and trying to cover it up.
The six-foot-one Silva was suspended a year, fined US$33,750 and his UFC 125 win over Brandon (The Truth) Vera was overturned.
Gustafsson joins former champions Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida and Rashad Evans as the only men to beat Silva.
Originally slated to meet Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in Sweden, Gustafsson found himself facing Silva after a knee injury sidelined Nogueira.
Gustafsson is a finisher, ending eight of his 14 fights in the first round. Only two of his bouts has gone to decision.
The only blemish on his record is a submission loss to Phil (Mr. Wonderful) Davis, a former NCAA champion wrestler, at UFC 112 in April 2010.
In the co-main event, middleweight (All-American) Brian Stann stopped Italy's Alessio (Legionarius) Sakara at 2:26 of the first round.
Stann (12-4) hurt Sakara (19-9 with on no contest) with knees in the first round but the Italian somehow survived and the fight went to the ground. Stann was in top position on the ground, punishing the Italian with blows from inside the guard when the fight was called.
Seeing Sakara's head roll back, Stann stopped punching and let referee Marc Goddard step in.
Stann, a former WEC light-heavyweight champion, has now won four of five at middleweight. The lone blemish on his 185-records was a loss to Chael Sonnen.
Stann trained for the Sakara fight in Atlanta to be close to his family in the wake of the death of his brother-in-law. The former U.S. marine normally prepares with trainer Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.
Earlier, welterweight Siyar (The Great) Bahadurzada won his UFC debut in spectacular fashion, knocking out Brazilian Paulo Thiago in just 42 seconds.
Thiago rushed at Bahadurzada, missing with an overhand right. Bahadurzada caught him with a short right to the jaw and the Brazilian fell face first, out cold and catching another shot to the head as he went down.
Bahadurzada admitted after the fight he might have broken his right hand in training just prior to the bout.
Bahadurzada (21-4) is a native of Afghanistan who moved to the Netherlands in his teens. Thiago (14-4) is a special forces officer with Brazilian police when not fighting
Germany's Dennis Siver won his debut as featherweight with a 29-28 unanimous decision over Brazilian Diego (The Gun) Nunes. Siver (20-8) was cut in the third round but did just enough to beat Nunes (17-3) in a close fight contested on the feet.
English bantamweight Brad (One Punch) Pickett choked out Damacio (The Angel of Death) Pace at 4:05 of the second round.
Pickett (22-6) traded takedowns to open a frenetic first round but gradually the English fighter took control, damaging Pace on the ground and punishing him on his feet. Floored by a left and hurt by an uppercut, Pace (12-7) ran out of answers and energy and had to tap out to a rear naked choke.
England's John (The One) Maguire submitted American welterweight DaMarques (Darkness) Johnson via armbar at 4:40 of the second round.
It was the second win in as many UFC fights for Maguire (18-3), who earned a decision over Justin Edwards at UFC 138 in November.
The six-foot-one Johnson had a four-inch edge in height and six-inch reach advantage but the fight was contested mainly on the ground. Johnson showed good offensive skills from the bottom but Maguire used his grappling to control the American and eventually countered Johnson's kimura attempt by moving into an armbar.
Johnson (18-10) was runner-up to James Wilks in Season 9 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
James Head (8-2) choked out Swedish welterweight Papy Abedi (8-2) at 4:33 of the first round after softening him up on the feet.
Sweden is the latest European country to host a UFC event, joining England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Germany.