Jon Jones’ heart was on display at UFC 165 versus Alexander Gustafsson. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa/UFC/Getty
It was the type of fight that shortens careers and lengthens legacies.
Jon Jones kept the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown under his wing with a hard-earned unanimous decision over Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 165 main event on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “Bones” swept the scorecards with 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 marks, passing Tito Ortiz in the UFC record book with his sixth consecutive title defense at 205 pounds.
Gustafsson challenged Jones like no one else had inside the Octagon. He opened a cut over the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts ace’s right eye in the first round, blasted away with multi-punch combinations and appeared to leave him frustrated and bewildered at various points during the 25-minute encounter. Jones mounted a late surge and was particularly effective in the fourth round, where he came close to stopping the Swede after landing one of his patented spinning elbows to his forehead.
Despite exhaustion and the copious amount of punishment he had absorbed, Jones found the wherewithal to deliver his only takedown of the fight in the fifth round before belting Gustafsson with a series of kicks to the head. Though the Swede never went down, the points had been banked.
Talk of an immediate rematch surfaced afterwards, but perhaps cooler heads will prevail. Glover Teixeira -- he of the 20-fight winning streak -- has already earned his stripes as the No. 1 contender at 205 pounds. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt improved to 5-0 in the UFC with his first-round technical knockout against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 28 a little more than two weeks ago.
Jones was not the only champion to leave the cage with his belt. Interim bantamweight boss Renan Barao stopped Eddie Wineland with an exquisite spinning back kick to the face and follow-up ground strikes in the second round of their co-main event. The Brazilian has now won 21 consecutive fights and figures to be in line for a unification bout with 135-pound titleholder Dominick Cruz sometime in early 2014. Derailed by a pair of serious knee injuries, Cruz has not competed since he outpointed Demetrious Johnson at UFC Live 6 nearly two years ago.
In the wake of UFC 165 “Jones vs. Gustafsson,” here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Rashad Evans: Based on performance, one has to believe this will not be the last time Gustafsson bids for UFC gold. The 26-year-old Swede gave the sport’s current pound-for-pound king all he could handle in losing a close unanimous decision and raised his stock to new heights in the process. Evans will confront Chael Sonnen at UFC 167 in November and would make for an intriguing opponent should he emerge victorious.
Eddie Wineland vs. Raphael Assuncao-T.J. Dillashaw loser: Wineland was victimized by a spectacular spinning back kick to the face from Barao, as he succumbed to strikes for the first time in his professional career. The 29-year-old former World Extreme Cagefighting champion figures to remain a mainstay in the top 10 at 135 pounds and could soon catch another high-profile bout. Assuncao and Team Alpha Male’s Dillashaw will face one another in a pivotal bantamweight scrap at UFC Fight Night 29 on Oct. 9.
Brendan Schaub vs. Stipe Miocic: Schaub, it could be argued, had never looked better. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist rendered Matt Mitrione unconscious with a first-round brabo choke in their brief heavyweight encounter. Schaub has quietly rattled off back-to-back victories in the UFC’s shallowest division, putting him in position to pursue higher-profile quarry. Miocic recorded the most significant victory of his career at UFC 161, where he cruised to a unanimous decision over former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson.
Francis Carmont vs. Michael Bisping-Mark Munoz winner: Carmont has suddenly become more than just a person of interest in the middleweight division. The 31-year-old Tristar Gym export and Georges St. Pierre stablemate channeled his inner “Rush” and rolled to his 11th straight win, as he overwhelmed Costa Philippou with takedowns and ground-and-pound. Bisping and Munoz will collide in the UFC Fight Night 30 main event on Oct. 26 in England.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Gilbert Melendez: Still perfect as a professional, Nurmagomedov crossed over the line as a legitimate contender at 155 pounds with his three-round thrashing of Pat Healy. The 23-year-old two-time world combat sambo champion attacked with punches and knees from odd angles, mixing in well-timed takedowns as he went. An unblemished 5-0 since joining the UFC in January 2012, Nurmagomedov should be given the green light to pursue even bigger fish. Melendez, a former Strikeforce champion, would certainly fit the bill if he can get past Diego Sanchez at UFC 166.