UFC 165 came to an end on Saturday night with a light heavyweight championship battle between title holder Jon Jones and challenger Alexander Gustafsson. It was an intriguing match up that was hyped up with the height/reach narrative, but lost in the discussion was just how exciting of a bout this was set up to be.
Gustafsson immediately took the center of the cage and began fighting from a distance like he had promised he would do. Jones threatened with an early takedown, but Gustafsson was able to spin out of danger and keep the fight back on the outside.
Jones was using the front leg side kick to Gustafsson’s thigh in an effort to keep Gustafsson on the outside, but the Swede was able to keep coming forward and landed a huge left that forced Jones to alter his stance.
It was unusual to see Jones not controlling the early part of the fight and enforcing his will, but his unusual length was allowing him to present Jones with challenges that he has never faced before.
A big left from Gustafsson tagged Jones and opened up a cut over the champion’s right eye.
Gustafsson was very loose and relaxed and the fight was his for the taking after landing a takedown at the end of Round 1. The crowd was on their feet and the momentum was in Gustafsson’s corner as he was looking to shock the world.
Jones landed an eye poke in the final seconds, but Gustafsson was thankfully okay to continue.
The champ came out with a little extra pep in his step at the beginning of Round 2, but Gustafsson used his aggressiveness against him by catching a kick from Jones and kicking his other leg out from under him. Jones tried to answer with a takedown, but the Swede was repeatedly able to avoid going to the mat.
For the first time in his career, Jones was eating heavy shots and struggling to get an opponent to the ground. It was a very impressive start for Gustafsson.
Jones gained some momentum in the middle of Round 2 with a head kick, but Gustafsson stayed composed and continued to come forward and chase down the champ. A wild flip and roll from Jones threatened to get Gustafsson to the mat, but the takedown defense was something we have never seen before from one of Jones’ challengers.
Jones was successful with the leg kicks to start Round 3, but Gustafsson was getting the better of exchanges with his hands and always coming over the top with a counter.
Gustafsson was eating some big head kicks through out the fight and you had to believe they were beginning to take their toll, however, he was not slowing down and keeping the pressure on Jones. There was no doubt that Jones was in the toughest fight of his career and Gustafsson was gaining confidence the longer he was able to keep picking the champ apart.
Jones did score with some leg kicks at the end of the third and went for the wild spinning back elbow, but Gustafsson was able to escape danger and make it to the championship rounds.
Gustafsson continued to throw combinations with his hands at range to start the fourth round, while Jones was always going back to the leg kicks in an effort to stop the challenger from moving forward.
A counter left from Gustafsson forced Jones to retreat before eventually locking up the Swede and taking him to the cage hoping to get the takedown. Unfortunately for Jones, Gustafsson’s takedown defense was incredible and he circled out of danger.
Jones’ eye began to leak more and more with the blood going directly into Jones’ eye and it seemed to make the champion throw caution to the wind and look to give Gustafsson everything he had. Jones did land a devastating spinning back elbow near the end of the round which clearly hurt Gustafsson. Gustafsson was hanging on for dear life at the end of Round 4 as the bell rang and the fifth round began.
After narrowly escaping the fourth, it looked like Jones could finish the fight at any time as the fifth round began.
However, after a few early exchanges it looked like Gustafsson had his legs back under him as he continued to push forward. It was an incredible war with just a few minutes to go and it looked like anyone’s fight for the taking.
Gustafsson was attempting to stay at range and avoid the nasty elbows from Jones, but both men were landing some huge shots in an epic spring to the finish line.
On his tenth takedown attempt of the night, Jones finally landed the takedown with three minutes to go, but Gustafsson was able to get right back to his feet. Jones delivered another head kick in the closing minutes and Gustafsson just dropped his arms to his side as his gas tank looked to be completely empty.
With Gustafsson looking to be on his last legs, he threw a spinning back elbow of his own that barely missed the champ.
Both fighters were exhausted with just one minute remaining and they tried to finish the fight with some strong shots. However, there was nothing left for either man to give when the final buzzer sounded.
We were heading to the judge’s scorecards with no clear winner and a Fight of the Year candidate.
When the judge’s scorecards were read, it was 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 in favor of Jones.
- UFC 165 results: Renan Barao finishes Eddie Wineland in Round 2
- UFC 165 results: Brendan Schaub chokes out Matt Mitrione in first round
- UFC 165 results: Francis Carmont smothers Constantinos Philippou for decision win
- UFC 165 results: Khabib Nurmagomedov dominates Pat Healy on way to unanimous decision win
- UFC 165 preliminary card results