Alexander Gustafsson came as close as any fighter ever has to dethroning UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 165 on Saturday night, and he wants another chance against Jones as soon as possible.
The Swedish fighter opened up a slew of cuts on the champion's face while battering him with punches throughout the five-round affair. To his credit, however, Jones battled back and caught Gustafsson with an array of kicks, nearly finishing the fight in the fourth round after a brutal elbow landed flush on the side of his opponent's head.
When it was all over, Jones won a unanimous decision, and while there are a bevy of potential adjectives that can describe his performance, dominant isn't one of them.
Gustafsson did to Jones what no fighter has ever done before—he figured out the puzzle to put the pound-for-pound best in deep trouble, and he forced a tough decision out of the judges.
For his part, the 6'5" Swede knows it was a razor-close decision, and he believes the only way to truly snatch the gold away from the champion is to finish him. He was unable to do that on Saturday night.
“I learned a lot from this fight. He’s the champ. To take the belt from the champ you have to finish him," Gustafsson said during the UFC 165 post-fight show on Fox Sports 2. "The biggest lesson is I have to push the pace harder. I just did what I thought I could do, and it wasn’t enough. I will come back stronger and better. I’m disappointed, but I’m very proud of what I did and my team.”
Immediately after the fight was over, the general consensus was that an automatic rematch should be granted to Gustafsson. UFC president Dana White acknowledged the appeal of a rematch at the UFC 165 post-fight press conference, as noted by UFC Tonight on Twitter.
At the same time, there is a top contender named Glover Teixeira currently waiting in the wings for his shot at Jones.
While he may be able to live with the decision on Saturday night, Gustafsson has no doubts that he wants a rematch with the champion as soon as the UFC could put it together—and above all else, he believes he deserves it.
“Absolutely. I want a rematch right away," Gustafsson said. "But it’s up to the UFC. It’s an honor to fight Jon.”
Right now, Gustafsson is the popular pick to receive the fight against Jones, but it's rare that a challenger will have a close decision against the champion and earn an automatic rematch. On the heels of such an amazing performance, however, Gustafsson could be the one the UFC deems worthy of such a rematch.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.