Though Jon Jones defended his title for the sixth consecutive time last night against Alexander Gustaffson at UFC 165, it wasn’t what he really should be happy about. Sure he broke UFC records, but let’s consider the gorilla in the room for a moment. Jones has been breaking records since his cataclysmic rise in the sport of MMA began a few short years ago, ad nauseam.
He now holds Tito Ortiz’s former record of the most title defenses among all the light heavyweight champions in the history of the sport, but it’s not what’s important now.
His title defense against #1 contender in Alexander Gustaffsson last night may have began without a foreshadowing of events to come, but nevertheless, it put both men in the hospital instead of the post-fight press conference. Fight of the night bonuses for both may have eased their pain a bit as they drove out of the arena towards the hospital, but other sobering thoughts may have been prevailing on that late night ride for both men.
Maybe they felt a certain type of anticipation that usually doesn’t accompany the end of fights, but more so for the beginnings of one. True fight fans know what it is when they see it.
It’s the same feeling we all had after Anderson Silva barely survived a fight with a very unlikely contender in Chael Sonnen in their first match. It’s the moment when the greatest fighter in the world has found his rival. Jones fought to the bitter end and won a close decision against Alexander Gustafsson.
In round one Jones and Gus came out tentatively. Jones entered the Octagon with Nike and Gatorade on his shorts, and Gus with less mainstream bravado. Right away Joe Rogan pointed out how relatively quickly Gus was able to close the distance with Jones during the opening minute of the round. This was something never seen before in a fight with Jones. Many thought he was just going to continue steam rolling over a division of undersized and athletically out classed competition. But without warning, this one turned in to a back and forth striking exchange.
Gus almost won, and was able to do things in the cage against the champ that shocked the world. He took him down for starters, while denying Jones 10 of his 11 take down attempts. That hadn’t happened before. He hit him at will while shrugging off the champ’s take-downs. In the final rounds it was any man’s fight.
Dana White put it perfectly at the post fight presser when he stated that Gus had nothing to feel bad about after his performance. If anything, he increased his stock in the sport, and more than likely put the UFC’s plans on hold to pit Glover Teixeira against Jones next. Glover was sitting cage side at the match and said afterwards that he wouldn’t contest the decision to put his title shot on the back burner for a rematch between Gus and Jones.
Looking at the division objectively, it’s littered with fallen contenders. Sure Glover deserves a shot, but in the way the warrior in a city of fallen heroes deserves to lead the king’s army. Until Gus stepped in and made a fight out of it, the UFC must have been scratching their heads on who they could possibly promote successfully for a shot against Jones.
At some point Dana White will sit down with UFC match maker Joe Silva and have a very simple conversation. No way do they decide to pass up on the biggest rematch in the history of the light-heavyweight division.
The best thing the division had before Gus was Jones vs. Rashad Evans. That one was almost entirely hyped up by both men and ended with little fanfare.
It’s because there words (not their actions) created the rivalry. Now last night just kicked off the real thing. Gus will go back and say he can repeat the first few rounds of the fight over five and Jones will say his foot hampered what would’ve been a flawless performance.
Haters on both sides will flock to their favorite social media soap boxes, and everyone will anticipate the rematch. Boxing is dead, long live the true form of the fight game, embodied by rivalries created by true battles such as this.