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UFC 165 Review: Jon Jones & Gustafsson deliver instant classic

Jon Jones overcame Alexander Gustafsson to reclaim his light heavyweight championship in an instant classic at UFC 165.

Gustafsson entered the cage as a 7-1 underdog, largely written off, considered little more than fodder for the pound for pound king in Toronto. He left to a hero’s ovation with some fans and fighters believing he should be the new light heavyweight champion.

Pre-fight Gustafsson’s height and reach in comparison to many of the former champion’s Jones has bested was promoted to a nauseating level by the UFC. However regardless of how big a factor Gustafsson’s length played in the fight it was clear this was something different to any other challenge Jones has faced. The Swede showed a disregard Jones’s previously lauded wrestling, showed impressive boxing combinations in the pocket in a way lauded strikers Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson never came close to against the champion. Even in defeat this was a star making performance from one of Europe’s leading fighters.

The engrossing contest taught us as much about Jones as Gustafsson, cut, bruised and battered he still took over the fight in the championship rounds. Whilst still a divisive figure Jones has shown huge heart in recent performances overcoming a nasty arm injury to dominate Vitor Belfort and he gutted out a tough fight in deep waters for the first time tonight showing outstanding resistance. The pivotal moment came late in the fourth, a round Jones was losing. He landed a spinning elbow clean on the 26-year-old reminiscent of his highlight reel effort against Stephan Bonnar. “Bones” rocked Gustafsson before pouring it on in a round stealing effort landing knees and a violent punching combination. Worn out and worn down perhaps due to his own output as much as Jones’s kicks and elbows Gustafsson conceded the final round. It was the only round in which the New Yorker was able to take the Team Alliance fighter down who showcased remarkable defensive wrestling. Gustafsson took the first round, Jones clearly won the last two, with the scoring of rounds two and three set to be debated for months and months to come. The other major talking point is just how good this fight was and where it stands among the all time great UFC fights.

Renan Barao completed a second defence of his UFC bantamweight interim title against Eddie Wineland. The 26-year-old won with a unique spinning back kick to the head in the second round against the first 135 pound world champion in the WEC. The Nova Uniao fighter started slowly arguably dropping the first round before using his speed and athleticism advantage in startling fashion. Whether Dominic Cruz is stripped of the bantamweight championship or does return to fight Barao in early 2014, the Brazilian is likely to be favoured against anybody in the 135 pound division.

Brendan Schaub was the better man against Matt Mitrione, the two athletic heavyweights career’s had mirrored each other in numerous ways. Both entered the UFC via the Ultimate Fighter, via the NFL both have matured into credible fighters, after previously getting by on athleticism alone. But Schaub the younger yet more experienced fighter proved himself to be better. He locked in a first round D’arce choke, showing a dimension to his game Mitrione simply doesn’t have.

Carmont dominated Constantinos Philippou breaking the Cypriot’s will with takedowns and top control. While doing little damage in a fight that is unlikely to shift a perception of him as a boring fighter this was easily Carmont’s best performance and biggest victory in a near decade in the sport. Likely to vault into the top ten rankings the TriStar fighter’s ability to expose Philippou’s previously lauded takedown defence was highly impressive.

If Philippou’s wrestling was overrated Khabib Nurmagomedov’s was perhaps underestimated. Facing the best opponent he’s met in the UFC since his unconvincing win over Gleison Tibau the Russian proved he was ready for a top ten 155 pound talent. Against a relentless wrestle-grappler like Healy the Russian was clearly superior. He managed to get takedowns at will and stuffed Healy’s shots with ridiculous ease. The main question is if Nurmagomedov can impose his will against somebody as strong and durable as Healy who at 155 pounds can stop his stifling wrestling game?

Recent Ultimate Fighter graduates Myles Jury and Mike Ricci produced a miserable fight in the featured preliminary bout. Jury deservedly got the nod via split decision in a fight that did little to raise the stock of either fighter.

Wilson Reis controlled the second half of his fight against Ivan Menjivar beating the UFC’s number ten ranked bantamweight contender via unanimous decision. Ground control and takedowns won the day for the ex Bellator fighter.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson continues to improve and evolve as a mixed martial artist. The decorated kick boxer showed improved wrestling and jiu-jitsu before beating Chris Clements with some of his patented striking. Now 3-1 in the octagon Thompson remains a prospect worth keeping an eye on in the UFC’s loaded welterweight division.

Mitch Gagnon won a frenetic one round scrap with Dustin Kimura. A four-minute fight full of momentum swings saw the Canadian recover after being hurt to the body to finish the Hawaiian with a guillotine choke.

One of the most under-appreciated lightweights on roster John Makdessi won his third straight fight against Renee Forte. Stopping the TUF Brasil product in round one with a punch behind the ear. With a flurry of unorthodox strikes in his arsenal as well as an underrated boxing game the Canadian deserves a step up in competition.

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UFC 165 Full results:

Jon Jones defeated Alexander Gustafsson via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)

Renan Barao defeated Eddie Wineland via technical knockout (spinning back kick and punches) round two, 0:26

Brendan Schaub defeated Matt Mitrione via technical submission (D’arce choke) round one, 4:06

Francis Carmont defeated Constantinos Philippou via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)

Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Pat Healy via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Preliminary card:

Myles Jury defeated Mike Ricci via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Wilson Reis defeated Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Stephen Thompson defeated Chris Clements via knockout (punches) round two, 1:27

Mitch Gagnon defeated Dustin Kimura via technical submission (guillotine choke) round one, 4:05

John Makdessi defeated Renee Forte via knockout (punches) round one, 2:01

Michel Prazeres defeated Jesse Ronson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Alex Caceres defeated Roland Delrome via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Daniel Omielanczuk defeated Nandor Guelmino via knockout (punch) round three, 3:18

 

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.