The epic title bout between UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson at last night's (Sept. 21, 2013) UFC 165 main event from Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada delivered one of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts fans have ever seen.
Beyond that, however, the firsts were not as rewarding.
Gustafsson, a fighter usually known for his talent standing up, brought some new skills to the Octagon and became the first man to ever take down "Bones." He was also the first to bring the fight to Jones and badly damage him. Gustafsson's vaunted hands found their target in a display of precise striking, cutting Jones open early in the fight. That trend continued on throughout the championship rounds, and the result was a slugfest that may never be topped.
Jones was an extremely resilient champion in the face of adversity, and Dana White even admitted that Jones looked human. The champion, although beaten and bloodied, begged the ringside doctors to let him fight on in the fifth round.
And he persevered to somehow win this battle for the ages.
Let's review how "Bones" etched his name in the record books in more ways than one last night in Toronto.
Early on, the champ used his arsenal of kicks to keep Gustafsson at bay, and his low kicks were effective. Later in the bout, this opened up the opportunity for Jones to land several high kicks that did damage. Unfazed, Gustafsson plodded forward through this onslaught, and was incredibly able to fend off all but one of Jones' takedown attempts.
There weren't many out there who predicted Gustafsson would actually be able to wrestle with Jones. His takedown offense and defense have progressed to an new level thanks to his time spent training at Alliance MMA with former NCAA champion Phil Davis, the only previous man to defeat Gustafsson in the cage.
So, there had to be a deciding factor in this all-time great, right? Although many thought Gustafsson won the fight, it may have been the damage of Jones' lethal elbows that sealed the deal for him. He landed them squarely in the opening rounds, but they became much more significant late in the fourth round. After Gustafsson nailed Jones with some pinpoint left hooks, the champion responded with a vicious spinning elbow that rocked "Mauler," leading to some brutal knees.
Gustafsson was nearly finished, but he survived to continue peppering Jones with his boxing in the fifth round. Jones kept throwing head kicks that struck home, and his Muay Thai skills looked to have triumphed in rounds four and five.
Did he win another round out of the previous three? That's up for debate.
After the fight, White declared that this was a bout where the both fighters felt they were going to die, and that's probably an accurate assessment. Both Jones and Gustafsson immediately went to the hospital after this war as White discussed the possibility of a rematch around the traditional Super Bowl Weekend show.
That's really the only fight that makes sense for both of these warriors, because Gustafsson deserves to retain his number one contender status after a performance like this. He showed that Jones can be beat--that he's not invincible. No one gave Gustafsson much of a chance, yet he nearly shocked the world last night. The Swede showed the heart of a champion at UFC 165 and should have his title reign one day.
Either way, a rematch between Jones and Gustafsson is going to join Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva as one of the most anticipated fights of all time.
Let us know your thoughts on this classic bout. Did Gustafsson do enough to take the belt home to Sweden? And can he win a rematch with Jones?