Throughout MMA’s brief history, every great champion has found his foil; the opponent that brought out his best. Some fighters create theirs through unforeseen happenstance, and some have to battle through years of challengers to find theirs.
Endicott, New York’s favorite son burst onto the MMA scene at UFC 87 in August 2008 with a unanimous decision win over Andre Gusmao. Since that time, Jones has gone on to win 12 fights in a row (sans a dominating performance over Matt Hamill that was ruled a loss due to illegal elbows), becoming the company’s youngest champion in history and, in the process, decimating a litany of former champions along the way.
Even with all the hoopla and jaw-dropping in-ring prowess, Jones has never mustered the type of adoration or interest of those legendary fighters that came before him.
Maybe it was the fact that Jones made it all look so easy. His destruction of Lyoto Machida: easy. His obliteration of Shogun Rua: easy. His complete domination of Rampage Jackson: easy.
As each champion fell at the feet of “Bones,” people wondered if there would ever be a fighter dynamic and fearless enough to challenge him.
Enter the “Swedish Mauler” at UFC 165 on Saturday night.
In front of 15,504 fans inside the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Jon Jones squared off with number one contender Alexander Gustafsson.
After 25 minutes, Jones walked away with a unanimous decision victory in what will go down as one of the greatest fights in UFC history.
It was close, and it was controversial. Many thought Gustafsson dethroned Jones three rounds to two. Others saw it in favor of the champion.
When the final horn sounded, and the last second ticked off the clock, one thing was crystal clear: on Saturday, Jon Jones found his foil.
At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White was flooded with the obvious question on everyone’s mind: Will there be an immediate rematch?
But first, the UFC’s head honcho wanted to reiterate how good the main event at UFC 165 was.
“So you wanna know how good that fight was? Neither the champion or the challenger will be here (at the post-fight press conference),” White said from the post-fight podium.
“Jones is already at the hospital and Gustafsson is headed to the hospital right now. That’s how good that fight was. I don’t think we’ve ever had that happen before. It’s usually one or the other.”
But what about the rematch?
“Who doesn’t want to see this rematch, you know?”
With the scorecards wildly divided across the MMA universe, White was questioned as to whom he felt won.
“To be honest, I got so caught up in the fight – and people were yelling at me and stuff and I was yelling back – I honestly didn’t even score the fight,” he recalled.
“When I was leaving, I heard people yelling, ‘I had it 3-2 for Gustafsson!’ Other people were saying 3-2 Jones. And then I talked to Marc Ratner and he said he had it even going into the fifth round, and gave it to Jones.”
He continued, “One of the exciting things about this sport is things never go the way you expect them to go, and tonight was one of those nights. This is one of those fights where you’re going to have people divided, and some are gonna say Gustafsson got screwed tonight and some that will say Jones won, but it was close.”
Yeah, but are we going to get a rematch?
“I didn’t say we’re gonna do the rematch,” he reiterated with his trademark grin. “I said I’d like to do the rematch.
“I mean, it makes sense. I like it. I still gotta… first of all, with a fight like this, you gotta go home, let things play out. Jon Jones isn’t even gonna want to hear the word ‘fight’ for two or three weeks. I can guarantee you that. So we wait and we see what happens.”
Prior to the historic main event, surging UFC light heavyweight Glover Teixeira was promised the next shot at the 205-pound strap.
According to White, however, that may no longer be the case. As is the conundrum with many contenders, Teixeira may have to take a back seat to one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history. Yes, the fight was that good.
“Maybe it is Glover,” said the non-committal White. “Maybe it is a rematch. I don’t know.”
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