At UFC 165, Alexander Gustafsson demonstrated that sometimes it pays to get the crap kicked out of you.
Although he lost, the Swedish star must be feeling good right now—at least in terms of where he is as a fighter, rather than how he physically feels.
This is the rare case that even the loser won a little.
Everyone expected Jon Jones to put on a show, but fewer fans thought Gustafsson would put on such a great fight.
In the end, the decision was fair. Junior dos Santos put it best.
Gustafsson didn't do enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's better than the champ. At the very least, though, he was a game challenger and has earned a rematch and another nice payday.
Guys just remembering that in a close decision the champion keeps the belt because the challenger must have a clear victory to win the fight— Junior Dos Santos (@junior_cigano) September 22, 2013
That's not a bad result, even in a loss.
Here is the stock market watch on three other fighters from UFC 165.
That kick by Renan Barao to maintain strap should be shown to anyone who wants to get into MMA. Yikes, that would discourage most. #UFC165— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) September 22, 2013
The UFC named it Knockout of the Night.
As the interim champion, Barao is in a weird place. As good as the champ was, Dominick Cruz is still waiting in the wings whenever he gets healthy. All the Brazilian can do is win his fights as cleanly as possible, and that's exactly what he did on Saturday night.
Fight of the Night is Jones/Gustafsson, Knockout of the Night is Barao, and Submission is Mitch Gagnon #UFC165 $50,000 each— UFC (@ufc) September 22, 2013
Stock in the Middle
He was already the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. No matter how easily he won, he wasn't going to be any more highly regarded.
It was good for the champion to look strong following his gruesome toe injury during the Chael Sonnen fight, so in that regard, it was a positive showing.
Otherwise, he had arguably the toughest test of his career. He was pummeled badly and looked in a bad way after the fight (h/t ESPN's Todd Grisham).
Although he earned the win, it was far from a comfortable result.
Just saw Jon Jones being wheeled out on a stretcher to an ambulance. He is in bad shape. Eyes were closed, heavy breathing— Todd Grisham (@GrishamESPN) September 22, 2013
Given his age and record, he wasn't fighting to become a contender for the heavyweight title. There was a fair amount of hype surrounding the bout, so it was an opportunity for him to showcase his talent. He could have solidified himself as an above-average fighter.
Instead, he was choked out in the first round by Brendan Schaub.