UFC 165 was highlighted by the light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. As expected, Jones left with the victory, but his exit wasn't without a few bruises, open gashes and a stretcher to help him out.
In defeat, Gustafsson not only turned heads but became a genuine mixed martial arts star with an inspired performance against Bones Jones.
This was unlike anything we'd ever seen in a Jones fight, as he was beaten, bloodied and even taken down to the mat by Gustafsson. The 26-year-old, who many said was out of his element against the champion, was aggressive and precise, pushing Jones to the limit.
The champion retained via unanimous decision, but Brett Okamoto of ESPN reports that Gustafsson tagged Jones so badly that he had to be stretchered to the hospital:
Gustafsson managed to conduct interviews after the fight, battling through the emotion of a controversial defeat.
Jones is still the best in his division, but don't confuse him looking human with a lack of preparation. Gustafsson had a plan, executed it and proved that, big name or not, the Swedish star is a fighter who deserves to be in the title picture.
Some would even argue that he should've won.
Controversy Is Good
As fate would have it, Twitter erupted with a split reaction to the Jones-Gustafsson decision. While many favored the champion, there were masses of people who believed The Mauler should've walked away with a win.
Just ask his peers:
Let's get one thing straight: This isn't about whether or not the decision was right or wrong. It's about respect.
Gustafsson entered last night's fight as a pure afterthought among the media and fans. He was thought of as Jones' next opponent to come up short more than he was a contender who could actually upset the untouchable champion.
In the end, he didn't just touch Jones, he put him in the hospital.
This controversial decision—whether fair or foul—is good for Gustafsson's future as a UFC fighter. Not only did The Mauler prove his status as a force to be reckoned with, but he's earned the respect of fans and fighters across the globe.
In turn, a rematch is the only rational next step.
If Gustafsson had fought Jones well but collapsed toward the end, the hype would likely surround The Mauler's future rise up the ranks of the UFC. Instead, Gustafsson fought Jones tough until the end and matched the superstar at every turn.
Carlos Condit summed up the mixed martial arts community's feelings in one tweet:
I'm still searching for a reason to oppose this.
Gustafsson gave Jones the fight of his life, defending against Bones' takedown attempts and laying into the champion with ferocious fists. He bloodied the untouchable and, when it was all said and done, did enough to warrant a controversial decision.
That all adds up to a rematch.
Gustafsson did nothing to lose ground in the UFC light heavyweight division, nor did he fall out of the title picture. Instead, Gustafsson became a genuine star in mixed martial arts and thus deserves the opportunity to fight for the title again.
Plain and simple: You don't penalize a fighter for taking part in the fight of the year—you reward him.
Anthony Pettis certainly knows something about being in classic fights:
With a rematch earned, it's now on the UFC to present Gustafsson with the opportunity that he clearly deserves. With or without that rematch, victories over Mauricio Rua and Thiago Silva, as well as an outstanding performance against Jones, make one thing clear: Gustafsson is a genuine MMA star.