Jon "Bones" Jones left UFC 165 with a victory, but Alexander Gustafsson took the champion to his absolute limit in a match that proved the Swedish striker's merit.
Jones was supposed to win by a landslide, cruising to 19-1 while solidifying his stronghold over the light heavyweight class. Nobody other than Gustafsson thought that Gustafsson stood a chance at pulling off a monumental upset.
And they were all technically right, as Jones won by a unanimous decision after five thrilling rounds to maintain his title. That, however, does not give due diligence to his opponent's gutsy effort in an evenly contested bout that will go down as an instant classic.
The mauler fought Jones strike for strike, landing just four hits less than his opponent during the final three rounds. Although Jones connected his strikes with more accuracy, producing a 62 percent success rate to Gustafsson's 38, Gustafsson generated the first takedown of Jones' career.
Jones fell to the mat while struggling to take down his foe, succeeding in one of his 11 tries. Used to bullying his opposition, Jones was evenly matched all night.
The 6'5" fighter was promoted as a threat over UFC's top dog due to his large stature, but Gustafsson showed strength, agility and tenacity to match his lofty height. Jones boasts the longest reach of any UFC fighter, and his freakish athleticism was enough to score him the slightest of victories against a worthy adversary.
Looking at the carnage Gustafsson inflicted, it's hard to remember that Jones won. According to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Bones celebrated his big win by going to the hospital.
Jones was loaded into a stretcher and is presumably being taken to the hospital. Far worse shape than Alex, who conducted a few interviews.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) September 22, 2013
The underdog, on the other hand, exited Toronto's Air Canada Centre with several more supporters in his corner. He gained respect from many of his peers, including fellow UFC fighter T.J. Grant.
Champions! Wow. Both of them are champions. Best fight I've seen live— TJ Grant (@TJ_Grant) September 22, 2013
Only 26, Gustafsson has a bright future ahead of him, one that will include a rematch if everyone gets their wish. He wasted no time calling for another go-around. According to Sherdog's Mike Whitman, after the fight Gustafsson told Fox Sports that he's ready to take another shot at Jones.
“I’m down whenever. I want a rematch right away if I can,” Gustafsson said. “It’s up to the UFC. It’s an honor to fight Jones, and I will be ready whenever they call me.”
He demonstrated that same refusal to back down before the fight, remaining confident in his chances while showing no fear of his favored opponent.
That unabashed mentality serves him well in the Octagon. Shortly after going to hell and back against Jones, he's yearning to take another spin.