Jon Jones is the prototype for a new generation of mixed martial artists. He's evolving into a mainstream and cultural celebrity and has truly come into his own over the past two years.
For the entirety of his MMA career leading into UFC 165 and his title defense against Alexander Gustafsson, Jones had rarely been touched, much less tested. But now, after one of the greatest fights in UFC history, we know that Jones is, despite what his new Nike walkout shirt said, human after all.
Jones took a unanimous decision win over the Swede, but it was a close fight.
Close enough, in fact, that a win for Gustafsson would not have surprised me whatsoever. The judges awarded Jones the decision with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. I had Jones winning 49-46 on my own scorecard, but each round (after the first one, which was a clear round for Gustafsson) was razor thin.
The story of the fight was that Jones, who excelled so greatly at both takedowns in every previous bout, was completely unable to take the Swedish fighter to the mat until the final frame. Not only that, but Gustafsson was able to take Jones down; that's a remarkable feat when you consider Jones had defended all 16 takedowns attempted on him during his UFC career.
Unable to take the fight to the ground, Jones was forced to rely on his kickboxing game, where Gustafsson proved to be the better striker. Still, it was Jones who landed the more powerful shots, including an elbow in the fourth round that sent Gustafsson reeling. Jones was unable to muster the energy to finish him, however, and the fight moved to the final frame.
The end result was not a one-sided affair, as so many (myself included) predicted. It was a close, tense 25 minutes that showcased the absolute best the UFC has to offer. Jones proved that he has the resiliency to power through tough moments, and in doing so may have elevated his reputation even more than he would have with an easy fight.
It was certainly one of the best light heavyweight fights in history. It was one of the best title fights in history. And when we look back on this night, five years in the future, we may very well consider Jones vs. Gustafsson 1 to be one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport.
Bring on Jones vs. Gustafsson 2.