The UFC light heavyweight champ looked human for the first time in his MMA career, teetering towards dropping his first-ever legitimate loss inside the Octagon.
On Saturday night, fans saw a bloodied Jones forced to dig deep to overcome a mountain of adversity.
“I’ve been asking for a dogfight for a long time, and I finally got that dogfight I was looking for,” Jones told UFC commentator Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview, after earning a close unanimous decision. “Tonight was a blessing in so many ways. I got the victory, and I got to prove a lot to myself. I’m not satisfied. I’ve got to do a lot of work in the gym to improve my game.”
Jones was frustrated early by Gustafsson’s speed and footwork. The Swede was able to shuffle his way in and out of range and land at will on the champ.
Perhaps the most surprising element of the fight was Gustafsson’s much-improved wrestling.
Along with stifling nearly every takedown attempt that came his way, Gustafsson also became the first man in the UFC to ever put Jones on his back.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the decision, but most seemed to be more enamored by the fact that Jones finally found a legitimate rival at light heavyweight, a division most considered to be left in the dust.
As expected, UFC President Dana White is already being bombarded by hordes of fans insisting on an immediate rematch. White remained non-committal at the post-fight press conference and hinted that a rematch could depend on Jones and Gustafsson’s health.
Neither fighter was able to attend the press conference, as both were hospitalized immediately after the fight.
Once again, White finds himself torn between giving the fans what they want to see and honoring his word to Glover Teixeira, who was promised the next UFC title shot.
Given his performance on Saturday night, Gustafsson still remains the top contender and Jones’ biggest threat at light heavyweight. While Teixeira is certainly on the rise, it would be great to see him defeat a top-10 opponent to cement himself at the next No. 1 contender.
“Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis seems like a perfect opponent to keep Teixeira busy while Jones and Gustafsson handle unfinished business.
What MMA fans witnessed on Saturday night was something special. The UFC’s mantra has always been about giving the fans the fights they want to see. Well, the fans have spoken.
The ball is in now in the UFC’s court.