Despite being dragged into deep waters by Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday night at UFC 165, Jon Jones (pictured) still became the Octagon’s most decorated light heavyweight champion by scoring his sixth straight title defense.
Gustafsson may have been a different opponent posing distinctive challenges, but it was a familiar scenario entering the fight for Jones, who also sits atop the UFC’s pound-for-pound list. Putting all the promotional hoopla about Gustafsson’s height and equal size aside, Jones was once again a heavy odds-on favorite to dispose of his foe and retain his belt.
Although he’s just 26 years of age, “Bones” has long been considered the game’s most unstoppable force by many pundits – even before Chris Weidman served up July’s upset special on former UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva.
However, en route to surpassing UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz for most successful title defenses in the division, it’s hard not to analyze how closely Jones has come to losing his crown in his last three outings.
Vitor Belfort started things off at UFC 152 when he came THIS close to submitting Jones with an armbar. Jones, who was an 8-1 favorite against “The Phenom,” admitted to hearing his elbow pop, though refused to tap and ultimately survived to post a submission win of his own.
Jones was subsequently issued an indefinite medical suspension and didn’t return to action for seven months following the injury. His average layoff between his four prior fights was just three-and-a-half months.
Then Chael Sonnen came calling at UFC 159. Sure the 10-1 favorite Jones steamrolled Uncle Chael for a first round TKO finish, but if Sonnen could have lasted just 27 more seconds, there is no way the cage-side physician would have allowed Jones to continue fighting with a bone piercing through the skin of his mangled big toe.
Therefore, Sonnen would have captured the hardware via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) if he could have pushed the bout into the second stanza. Shocking and easy to overlook, but true.
And then there’s Gustafsson, who still has the MMA world buzzing about his performance against the 9-1 favorite. Ironically, the Nike t-shirt Jones donned to the cage read “Not Quite Human.” However, for the first time under the UFC’s watch, Jones had never looked more mortal.
Nearly every fan inside Air Canada Centre, and many media members sitting in press row, felt Gustafsson did enough to upset the champ, but Jones managed to escape by the skin of his teeth with a controversial unanimous decision win.
Afterwards, Jones admitted Gustafsson “was by far my toughest fight.”
Breaking Ortiz’s 10-year record didn’t happen by pure luck, and as they like to say in the sporting world, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but is Jones’ luck starting to run out?
Gustafsson just laid the blueprint for fighting Jones, which future opponents are sure to copy. One thing’s for certain, Jones’ discussed transition to the heavyweight division won’t be in play for quite some time as he may have finally met his 205-pound match.