Leading into UFC 165, Jon Jones had dominated every single one of his opponents. He had been so dominant that his only loss was due to a disqualification in a fight that he was clearly dominating and about to finish (Matt Hamill). Jones had been so dominant that even as the light heavyweight champion, it seemed that the UFC actually had a hard time finding him opponents. Alex Gustaffson was one of the few who actually sought out the opportunity to challenge Jones for his title. On September 21, the two squared off in a fight for the ages.
Gustaffson is one of Jones few opponents who could match Jones’s unique blend of size and athleticism. A pro boxer in his own right, Gustaffson has tremendous footwork that allows him to get in, land shots and get out without taking much damage. That ability proved valuable as Gustaffson landed an early shot that cut Jones. The cut proved to be an early indicator that Jones was facing possibly his toughest opponent.
Jones is a smart fighter who studies film of his opponents and likes to beat them at their own game. For example, he fought the legendary striker “Shogun” Rua on the feet and gave him a beating. He took down the noted wrestler Chael Sonnen in seconds. Gustaffson, however, had an answer for everything that Jones threw at him. Realizing that Gustaffson was getting the better of him standing, Jones went for takedowns, which Gustaffson stuffed. No matter what Jones tried, Gustaffson was right there, step-for-step, and often with his fists in Jones’ face.
All three of the early rounds seemed to go in Gustaffson’s favor, as he outstruck Jones and even landed a takedown late in round one. Gustaffson’s pro boxing acumen shined through in those rounds, as he threw combinations that landed to Jones’s body and face. It was the most damage that Jones had suffered in any fight in his career and it forced him to dig deep to keep his belt. Dig deep is exactly what he did.
In the fourth round, Jones landed his most damaging blow, a spinning elbow that he made famous in a fight against Stephan Bonnar early in his career. That shot clearly staggered Gustaffson and Jones seemed in control of the fight from that point on. In the fifth round, Jones landed his only takedown of the fight as well as a few head kicks that seemed to put an exclamation point on his performance. The judges all agreed, as two scored it 48-47 and one scored it an outlandish 49-46 for the reigning champion. This fight was a razor-close battle the whole way.
When this fight was first announced, many fans immediately began looking ahead to Jones’s next opponent. Gustaffson was considered to be a good fighter but not a championship-caliber one, and certainly not a real threat to take Jones’s belt. Gustaffson proved the doubters wrong, as he gave Jones the fight of his life and could very well have taken the judges’ decision. The fight was so good, in fact, that many viewers were calling it the “Fight of the Year” and UFC Dana White is considered an immediate rematch, to possibly be held in Gustaffson’s native Sweden. If and when the rematch happens, it will be must viewing for all UFC fans.