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BE Analytics: RoboJudge on Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson’s 2013 Fight of the Year

MMA’s quantitative official takes us back in time to revisit the 2013 Fight of the Year between Jonny “Bones” Jones and Alex “The Mauler” Gustafsson at UFC 165.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

After the introductory article last week, RoboJudge is up and running and will soon analyze every UFC fight from 2014. Since Jonny Bones takes on Daniel Cormier this weekend in one of the most eagerly anticipated title fights in a while, it seemed a good time to revisit that September night long 2013...when the MMA world stood up and took notice as an extreme underdog put a hell of a show against the dominant champ.

Coming into UFC 165, Jon Jones hadn't really had a close fight (see my Beatdown Stats piece tomorrow for more on this). Alexander Gustafsson had just run through his last five opponents - maybe he didn't run through Te Huna, but you get the idea - and was the guy who could at least match height with Jones. But at +660/-840, the market thought it would be a slightly cool day in hell before Gus won.

Right off the bat, we knew we could throw the odds out the window. Gus showed he had the skills and gameplan to spoil the night, but would it last? Did one spinning elbow change the course of history? We'll never know for sure.

What we do know is that all three judges and most media members had it either 49-46 or 48-47 for Jones. There wasn't much debate about who won the 4th and 5th rounds after a Jones spinning elbow in the second half of the 4th turned the tides, and may well have changed the course of history. But who took rounds 1-3? All were reasonably close and many 48-47 scores gave rounds 1 and 3 to Gus.

Here's the actual decision. All three judges scored the 1st for Gus and at least one gave the 2nd and 3rd to him as well. What does RoboJudge say? Here's the data.

Gift - UFC 165 - Jones-Gustafsson, Round 1

Gift - UFC 165 - Jones-Gustafsson, Round 2

Gift - UFC 165 - Jones-Gustafsson, Round 3

The theme of every round was essentially this: Jones landed more power shots, Gus missed more power shots, Gus landed more jabs (except in the 2nd) and Gus missed more jabs. Gus was more active but also inefficient, especially with power.

Gus focused his activity to the head. Judges, of course, like it when your strikes connect but they also tend to value all misses to the head and power misses to the body. In round 1, Gus missed 11 head jabs to Jones' 4, 11 head power shots to Jones' 3 and 5 power shots to the body to Jones' zero. Mostly similar numbers held in rounds 2 and 3.

So did Gus' activity mess with our heads? RoboJudge thinks maybe so in round 1. Here's the report for a typical MMA judge.

Gift - UFC 165 - Jones-Gustafsson - RoboJudge

At 58.5 percent, Gus had the advantage in the 1st round while Jones had a small edge in the 2nd and 3rd and large advantages in the 4th and 5th. With two rounds virtually in the bag, he had an overall 95 percent chance to take the decision. The first three rounds were pretty close but you've got a huge edge when your opponent has to take every single one of them to win the fight.

If we make RoboJudge immune to a fighter's missed head shots and power body shots, the results get even stronger.

Gift - UFC 165 - Jones-Gustafsson - RoboJudge (No Misses)

Now Jones has a 60.1 percent edge in the 1st and a 98.9 percent edge overall.

RoboJudge doesn't have the fight as close as it may have seemed but Gus sure opened our eyes and put on quite a performance for the first 19 minutes. When your opponent's got two rounds in the bag, it's a statistical unlikelihood to get the judging nod if you don't dominate the other three.

Why such the uproar after the decision? Was it Gus' good start? Jones' battered face? Perhaps it was the feeling that Gus would've taken the fight if not for a single strike that changed everything? Or maybe people get pissed off thinking they're on pace to win 6.6:1 on their money and it's snatched away at the end? Who knows? At least we know is it was a joy to watch and they should get to run it back if Jones does his part this weekend.

What do you think? Did Gus take the fight, or at least the first three rounds? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Paul is Bloody Elbow's analytics writer. All mistakes are his own and they've been known to happen sometimes. Follow him @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric.

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