Jon Jones captured the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight title by completely destroying Mauricio Rua in the main event of UFC 128. "Shogun," a former PRIDE champion and one of the most ruthless strikers in the division, crumbled midway through the third.
"Bones" was just getting started.
Over the course of the next two years, the lanky-but-lethal conqueror would defeat four straight ex-champs, finishing all but one of them. Jones had effectively cleaned out his division, and was gracious enough to allow a bulked up Chael Sonnen the privilege of joining his growing list of victims.
By that point, the only real test was thought to be a "super fight" against then-unbreakable Anderson Silva.
So you can imagine the number of eyes that were rolled when the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion green-lit a light heavyweight title fight pitting Jones against Swedish upstart Alexander Gustafsson, who had the credentials to compete for the strap (kinda), but not the firepower.
Despite lighting up the middle of the division, "The Mauler" failed to live up to his moniker against the upper echelon, settling for hard-fought decision wins over Thiago Silva and "Shogun" Rua.
Unimpressed, the bookies pegged Jones (18-1) as the -800 favorite for the UFC 165 five-round pay-per-view (PPV) main event, slated for the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 21, 2013. Gustafsson (15-1) was the +500 underdog.
Even the promotion was befuddled over how to sell fans on what appeared to be a blatant mismatch.
That led to some entertaining pre-fight videos, but not for the right reasons. UFC's idea of "hype" was to have color commentator Joe Rogan excitedly explain how Gustafsson was really tall. Because as "Giant" Silva taught us, the taller the better.
Greatness within reach!
No one was giving Gustafsson much of a chance against Jones and for good reason, He just didn't have the body of work to convince anyone outside of Sweden that an upset was possible. Even your own beloved Nostradumbass predicted a squash.
Then something happened.
Midway through the opening frame, "The Mauler" landed a hard right hand and the champ was busted open. 60 seconds later, Jones -- who was a perfect 16-16 in stopping takedown attempts -- is dumped on the floor for the first time in his combat sports career.
Gustafsson wins round one and lets the world know we have ourselves a fight.
While he continued to keep the pressure on, the challenger would eventually come up empty on the judges' scorecards. But the best part of the fight was that period between the final horn and the official decision, as not many fans could tell you convincingly -- in either direction -- who was leaving "Hogtown" with the strap.
In the end, it was Jones.
He left alright, and went straight to the hospital (pic), mauled in a way he had never been since starting his MMA journey way back in April 2008. After taking a few months to recuperate, "Bones" accepted a title fight against surging contender Glover Teixeira.
No rematch for you!
Not yet, anyway. But Gustafsson can earn a second crack at the crown with a big win over Jimi Manuwa this weekend (March 8, 2014) in London, England, by turning away the undefeated "Poster Boy" in the main event of UFC Fight Night 37 on Fight Pass.
Upset in the making?
To see how "Poster Boy" made history in MMA click here.