After nine consecutive wins and five straight successful title defenses, Jon "Bones" Jones entered his UFC 165 bout against Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson as a substantial favorite. Although the big Swede gave Jones everything he could handle, the UFC light heavyweight champion escaped with a victory, and he can now look ahead to the next challenge.
Jones was dominant leading up to his fight with Gustafsson, so it was somewhat surprising to see the champ labor the way he did. Gustafsson caught him with stiff shots throughout the night, and he surprised Jones with some impressive takedowns as well. Jones was able to survive thanks largely to his educated feet, but he'll have to be much better moving forward.
Jones wasn't at his best on Saturday night, as he left the Octagon a battered and bloodied mess. He even admitted as much on Twitter following the fight.
Even so, he was able to accomplish something that few ever have in the history of the sport. With his victory over Gustafsson, Jones joined the exclusive club of UFC fighters who have won 10 consecutive fights, according to UFC's official Twitter account.
With an overall record of 19-1, the UFC light heavyweight champion is considered by most to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. After what transpired on Saturday, though, he is on shakier ground. In fact, there is likely now some belief among potential contenders that they can go toe-to-toe with Jones and beat him.
It remains to be seen what Jones will do next, but he appears to have two potential opponents waiting in the wings. One of them is Glover Teixeira, who has been vocal about wanting to be the next challenger. The Brazilian star is on an incredible 20-fight winning streak, and he may prove to be Jones' biggest test yet.
On the other hand, UFC fans would likely love to see a rematch between Jones and Gustafsson, as their fight is already being called one of the best light heavyweight bouts of all time. According to Ron Kruck of AXS TV, Teixeira continued to push for a fight with Jones following Saturday's contest, but Dana White suggested that a Jones vs. Gustafsson rematch may be in the works instead.
Despite the closeness of Saturday's encounter, Jones won by unanimous decision as he seemed to clearly win three out of the five rounds. As champion, all of the power resides with him in terms of determining his next fight. He may want to prove that Gustafsson's strong showing was a fluke, but he may also want to avoid fighting him again at all costs.
Whatever the case, Jones has two appealing options to consider. Jones vs. Gustafsson II would probably do well in terms of pay-per-view buys since fans will be expecting another instant classic. At the same time, Teixeira has more drawing power than Gustafsson and is riding a streak that is even more impressive than Jones' at the moment.
Teixeira hasn't lost a fight since 2005, and that should carry plenty of weight with the fans in addition to Jones' 10-fight UFC winning streak. Jones vs. Teixeira promises to be a lucrative fight for the UFC and the fighters involved, so Jones should do everything in his power to make sure it happens.
If Jones fights Gustafsson again and loses, which now seems like a possibility, it will kill his chances of stepping into the Octagon with Teixeira since the Brazilian wants a title shot. The safest and smartest move for Jones at this point is to fight Teixeira first, which could then lead to a rematch against Gustafsson provided Bones takes care of business.
No matter how you slice it, Jones is in an ideal position as the UFC's biggest star. He has his pick of the competition, and there are a couple of great options at his disposal. Just like Floyd Mayweather in boxing, everyone is lining up for a shot at Jones right now.
After a close call at UFC 165, though, Jones needs to be cautious moving forward.
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