Gustafsson outstrikes way past Silva

With each fight, fast-rising light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson shows improved striking skills.

Highly regarded Thiago Silva became the latest 205-pound fighter to learn just how much Gustafsson has improved since coming up short to Phil Davis in August 2010.

Gustafsson used his superior height, reach and footwork to stay away from the hard-hitting Silva, who returned to action for the first time in more than a year, en route to a unanimous decision in Stockholm, Sweden.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. ESPN.com had it 30-27 for Gustafsson.

By staying on the outside, Gustafsson was able to drop Silva in the first round with a right uppercut. Silva survived the assault, but he would suffer a cut above his right eye before the opening round came to an end.

It would not be the last time Silva felt Gustafsson's punching power. By the third round, the damage Gustafsson had done to Silva's face was noticeable.

In addition to the cut Silva suffered in the first round, the perennial light heavyweight contender had a slightly swollen right eye and a contusion on his forehead.

"I was trying to stay busy," said Gustafsson, who improved to 14-1. "I'm always training for five-round fights."

Though he was being thoroughly outclassed in the standup, Silva continued to press forward. He would acknowledge Gustafsson's skills after the fight.

"I couldn't feel my legs. I did my job. I tried to push as much as I could," said Silva, who made his return from a yearlong suspension due to a failed test that revealed the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"Alexander is a tough guy. I couldn't close the distance. He deserved it."

Silva's record now stands at 14-3 with 1 no contest.

Power-hitting Stann finishes Sakara in first

Former WEC titleholder Brian Stann knows what it feels like to be a mixed martial arts champion. And his move from 205 pounds to 185 was made with the sole purpose of returning to champion status.

He took a huge step toward attaining that goal with a first-round knockout over hard puncher Alessio Sakara.

As the fighters were exchanging strikes, Stann connected with a hard knee that sent Sakara to the canvas. While on the ground, Stann landed an elbow followed by two right hands that put Sakara to sleep.

Stann (12-4) refused to throw any more punches upon noticing that Sakara's eyes had rolled backward. That's when referee Marc Goddard jumped in at the 2:26 mark to officially stop the bout.

"I've really been working a lot to shore up some holes," Stann said after rebounding from a second-round submission loss to top middleweight contender Chael Sonnen at UFC 136. "[Give me] whoever is next up the ladder; I lost big in my last fight."

Sakara falls to 19-9 with 1 no contest.

Bahadurzada knocks out Thiago in first round

If only jiu-jitsu black belt Paulo Thiago could have gotten UFC newcomer Siyar Bahadurzada to the ground, he might have walked away victorious.

But Thiago never got the chance to show off his ground skills. Bahadurzada landed a right hand on the jaw that knocked Thiago unconscious before he even hit the canvas.

The finish came just 42 seconds into the first round.

Making the knockout more impressive was the revelation that Bahadurzada's right hand might have been less than 100 percent entering the fight.

"I respect this guy a lot; Paulo Thiago always comes to fight," Bahadurzada said after improving to 24-4-1 (1-0 in UFC). "I did feel [the KO] because I think my right hand is broken.

"Thought it was broken before the fight, but I didn't go to the doctor because I didn't want to know if it was broken."

Thiago (14-4) has now lost three of his four most recent fights.

Siver edges Nunes in featherweight debut

Dennis Siver found moderate success at lightweight, but he eventually grew tired of fighting guys several inches taller.

But in his featherweight debut, Siver struggled to find his rhythm during the first round and he nearly paid the price for that strategic decision.

He would pick up his pace midway through the second and persuade all three judges to give him the edge 29-28.

Siver (20-8) has not said if he will permanently remain at 145 pounds, but after facing a foe closer to his height and coming away victorious, he might have a hard decision ahead.

Nunes, listed at 5-foot-6, appeared slightly taller than the 5-7 Siver inside the Octagon. But height never was an issue in the fight.

The more muscular Siver landed several hard punches, while Nunes (17-3) countered with kicks. Siver suffered a cut above his left eye in the third round but held on to earn the win.

Maguire escapes Kimura, submits Johnson

Fighting for just the second time in UFC, John Maguire wasn't known by too many fans. They know him now.

Maguire was able to get DaMarques Johnson to the ground repeatedly and eventually submit in the second round with an armbar.

The victory improved Maguire's record to 18-3 (2-0 in UFC). He also extended his win streak to seven after avoiding a Kimura attempt by Johnson en route to his submission win.

"That is gypsy jiu-jitsu," Maguire said. "Kimura is usually my favorite move so I know how to counter it. He overcommitted and I capitalized on it.

"I will fight whoever. I don't care; whoever they throw at me."

Johnson falls to 16-10.

Hard-striking Pickett submits Page

You'd be hard-pressed to find two fridge bantamweight contenders more in need of a win than Brad Pickett and Damacio Page.

Each fighter entered their showdown knowing a victory would likely get him back in the top-10 contender conversation. And these hard strikers came out swinging.

Their early aggression served as evidence that this 135-pound bout wasn't going the distance, and it didn't. And when it was over, Pickett's hand was raised.

Using superior cardio and a hard left hook, Pickett dropped Page in the second round. While on the ground, Pickett applied a rear-naked choke to submit Page at 4:05.

"I come from a standing background, but I always seem to get submissions," said Pickett, who improved to 21-6. "I'm happy to go wherever [the fight] goes."

Page slips to 12-6. He has lost two fights in a row.

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.