Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson: What Went Right and Wrong for the Champ

Dale De SouzaAnalyst ISeptember 23, 2013

Jon Jones (left) and Alexander Gustafsson (right)
Jon Jones (left) and Alexander Gustafsson (right)Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Whether or not Jon Jones truly did enough to retain his UFC light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson Saturday night, everybody in the MMA world agrees on two key facts.

Firstly, they agree that a rematch will happen down the line between "Bones" and "The Mauler" because Gustafsson pushed Jones harder than any of Jones' past challengers. Secondly, they agree that this bout not only ranks among the all-time greatest light heavyweight contests in UFC history, but also delivers a potential front-runner for "Fight of The Year."

Now then, to address that pesky judging debate, let us recall that two judges scored the ultra-close title bout 48-47, scoring three rounds for Jones and two rounds for Gustafsson. In contrast, just one of last night's cageside judging trio submitted a 49-46 score, with all but one round going the way of the champion.

It stands to reason that most would see the champion getting the better end of three close rounds, but how? What did Jones do to earn himself the better end of those rounds, outside of carrying a marketable name and not getting finished by a worthy opponent? 

Saturday night's action told us what we already know about what went wrong for Jones, but some deeper insight will reveal what went right for the main event's winner and still the UFC light heavyweight champion.


What Went Wrong for Jones?

Once the fight started, both men looked for an edge in a technical striking battle, but then Jones got tagged and suffered a cut near his right eye.

As Gustafsson pressed on, the cut worsened, and cageside doctors almost stopped the fight before the start of the championship rounds. It also did not help Jones that Gustafsson found his mark with shots to the body in the later rounds.

Even when Jones attacked with his vaunted spinning back elbow, it missed the mark in the early going, and "The Mauler" did his part to deflect a number of head-kick attempts from Jones.

In the skinny of it all, Jones found himself looking for a way to keep up with the frantic pace that Gustafsson established, because Jones knew if he couldn't keep up with Gustafsson, he would lose his title.


What Went Right for Jones?

In line with the norm for Jones' fights,  few expected Jones to do what he did to Gustafsson, but it paid dividends. Many asked themselves what Jones would do when someone came out looking to dominate him as he dominated others in previous bouts. When push came to shove, however, Jones found a way to shove back.

Jones' resiliency kept him in the fight, even though Gustafsson's damaging blows slowed him down. As the fight started reaching the later rounds, Jones' head kicks, spinning back elbows and flying knees began to land more flush.

In fairness, Jones never rocked Gustafsson prior to his late fourth-round rally, nor did he rock Gustafsson after, but he capitalized on the negative effects of the frantic pace Gustafsson set early in the bout.

Ultimately, Jones still looked worse for the wear, but to say that the judges robbed Gustafsson all but declares that close fights never did and never will exist in MMA. Jones persevered in order to end up outstriking his hungry foe.

The unanimous-decision win did not emerge as a popular or a justifiable decision, but Jones' fight with Gustafsson answered questions about Jones when someone has fought him with hellfire and razor wire.

FightMetric statistics revealed after the fight that, while the two combined for only two total takedowns between them, Jones landed the higher overall percentage of significant strikes and also connected with a higher total of strikes.

Gustafsson, to his credit, stayed busy early on, but while Gustafsson's early frenetic fury earned him a case toward taking the decision, so did Jones' activity when many believed Jones attacked "too little, too late" in the fight.

Gustafsson came up short, but fans can expect a rematch, and both men can expect the other to improve in areas where they looked less than stellar, but everyone learned that when one forces Jones into a fight, he will not hesitate to fight back, even if he does not get a pretty victory out of it.