Turns out Jon Jones is human after all.
The UFC light heavyweight champion and the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter has largely looked untouchable in his romp through the sport. So few thought that his challenger on Saturday night at UFC 165, Alexander Gustafsson, had much of a chance of claiming the throne.
Instead, we got the first back-and-forth classic fight of Jones’ career and the new frontrunner for Fight of the Year. Gustafsson, a minus-700 underdog, gave Jones all he could handle for 25 minutes. In the end, Jones turned it on in the late rounds and retained his title via unanimous decision at Toronto’s Air Canda Centre. The judges’ scores were 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46, all for the champion.
With the victory, Jones won his 10th straight fight and had his sixth successful light heavyweight title defense. That broke Tito Ortiz’s old 205-pound record for the latter category, making Jones the most dominant champion in light heavyweight history.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve been asking for a dogfight for a long time, and I finally got that dogfight I was looking for,” Jones (19-1) said. “I got the victory and I got to prove a lot to myself.”
The UFC was mocked for marketing the fight toward Gustafsson having similar size and reach to Jones, but Gustafsson made a mockery of the mockers in the opening round. The Alliance MMA challenger wasn’t afraid to close the distance on Jones and landed a punch which opened a cut over Jones’ right eye, one that would affect Jones for the rest of the fight.
Significantly, Gustafsson stuffed all three of Jones’ takedown attempts and also landed a takedown on Jones, the first time that has happened in the champion’s UFC career.
“He’s a tough fighter,” Jones said. “I spent a lot of time on my boxing for this camp, maybe that wasn’t the best idea. I should have been like water and used more versatility.”
Rounds 2, 3, and 4 all could have been scored for either fighter, depending on how you wish to interpret them. Gustafsson clearly outboxed Jones, yet Jones was active with his kicks and landed standing elbows. It’s the scoring of these rounds which will be analyzed and dissected for years to come.
Gustafsson continued to stuff Jones’ takedown attempts throughout the fight. The only takedown in 10 attempts by Jones landed in round five.
The challenger appeared to be well on his way to winning round four when Jones erupted late, landing nasty elbows, knees and punches off of a hard spinning elbow that had the Swede badly hurt. Gustafsson had a hideous cut opened in the hairline above his right eye and was essentially saved by the bell.
Jones took control as Gustafsson visibly faded in round five, continuing to land big shots and finally scoring a takedown. But Gustafsson hung tough until the very end.
“Hat’s off to Alexander,” Jones said. “That was by far my toughest fight and like I said, I got to really exercise my warrior spirit tonight, which makes me happier than getting a win.”
Gustafsson (18-2), for his part, was magnanimous in defeat. “It’s just an honor for me to fight the champ, he’s the champ for a reason,” said Gustafsson, who had a five-fight win streak snapped. “I will learn from this and I will come back much stronger.”
Jones became the fourth fighter in history to win 10 straight UFC fights, to go with Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Royce Gracie.
Main Bouts (on Pay-Per-View):
-Jon Jones def. Alexander Gustafsson via unanimous decision 48-47, 48-47, 49-46
-Renan Barão def. Eddie Wineland by TKO at 0:35, R2
-Brendan Schaub def. Matt Mitrione by submission (D’arce choke) at 4:06, R1
-Francis Carmont def. Costa Philippou by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
-Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Pat Healy by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Preliminary Bouts (on Fox Sports 1):
-Myles Jury def. Mike Ricci by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Wilson Reis def. Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Stephen Thompson def. Chris Clements by KO at 1:27, R2
-Mitch Gagnon def. Dustin Kimura by submission (guillotine choke) at 4:05, R1
Preliminary Bouts (on Facebook):
-John Makdessi def. Renee Forte by TKO at 2:01, R1
-Michel Prazeres def. Jesse Ronson by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Alex Caceres def. Roland Delorme by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Daniel Omielanczuk def. Nandor Guelmino by KO at 3:18, R3