UFC 165: Jon Jones dodges a bullet in controversial decision over Alexander Gustafsson

Esther Lin MMA Fighting

Light Heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound overlord Jon Jones got the biggest test of his MMA career in Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, narrowly escaping with a contentious decision win.

WHO: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
WHAT: UFC 165 pay-per-view results
WHERE: Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson -- UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout

For all the talk and hype about champion Jon Jones' daunting height and reach, the true end result of his gangly proportions has been dominating the pace and range of a fight. And that's exactly what challenger Alexander Gustafsson took away from him with technical movement, replete with endless circling and angles, along with his busy pace and methodical kickboxing. The lanky Swede gave Jones a taste of his own medicine by putting him into constant defense mode right after the glove touch by shuffling to his left and cracking him with a stiff low kick.

Gustafsson used a busy jab and left hook to center up his killer right cross, all the while moving in, stinging in with strikes and getting out of Dodge before Jones could counter. Jones stalked him throughout the first and uncorked a wide array of straight kicks, stomp kicks to the knee and thigh and spinning kicks, but it was Gustafsson who landed the cleaner blows, springing open a cut over the champ's right eye and even scoring a takedown -- becoming the first to accomplish the feat against Jones -- to close the round.

Jones was more businesslike in the second and cut down on the flashy kicks, focusing more on the same lead horizontal elbow he cracked Rashad Evans with, and enjoying the same success. Gustafsson was still fast and feisty, boldly planting his feet in ideal intervals to unload blistering combinations of uppercuts, hooks and body shots. Though Jones was more competitive in the second, it was clear going into the third round that Jones had never looked more mortal and human in the UFC.

Jones relied heavily on his front stomp kick, continually using it to disrupt Gustafsson's combinations by jarring his leg and knee with heavy heel impact. Both fighters, Jones especially, were flirting with eye pokes by extending their arms with loose fingers, one of which caused a brief pause in the first round when Gustafsson's sight was compromised. Despite a warning from referee Big John McCarthy after that incident, several exchanges resulted in near eye pokes.

Gustafsson continued to shake off all of Jones takedown attempts in the fourth round and sliced his jab and straight right through Jones guard often. In the past, opponents have struggled to even get within striking range against Jones, yet Gustafsson used Jones' forward movement against him and made him more hittable than we'd ever seen. There was no question that Gustafsson was starting to take over midway through the frame ... until Jones rattled his teeth with a beautiful spinning back elbow late in the round, which put Gustafsson on roller skates and into survival mode.

This brought the tension to a fever pitch for the final round. Gustafsson continued to answer Jones' somewhat lazy kicking tendencies from outside with explosive flashes of leather in the pocket -- the jab was ever present, the right cross was always cocked, but Gustafsson's left hook was his money punch and found the mark with frightening regularity.

Jones kept spearing in his lead step-in elbow and was finally able to secure a takedown at the 3:00 minute mark but Gustafsson scrambled back to his feet immediately. At this point, it was unclear whether Gustafsson was just worn out or if Jones' steady humdrum of strikes started to take their toll. Jones wheeled out left high kicks throughout the whole fight and, though Gustafsson blocked his fair share, they began to add up. Jones had a left high kick blocked but tacked on a horizontal elbow that smashed Gustafsson's jaw, which is now amongst the most proven in the game.

Then came the shocker. Or at least I was surprised. The scores were announced as a clean sweep for Jones, who took to the mic with Joe Rogan for this post-fight speech with a monstrously fat lip, a bandage over the cut on his eye and a dented up appearance overall, and did so to the tune of boos from the crowd.

  • Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson by unanimous decision (48-47 x 2, 49-46)
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