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Jon Jones had to dig deep for this one.
Jones retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown with a unanimous decision over Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 165 headliner on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. In what was perhaps the frontrunner for “Fight of the Year,” all three judges scored it for Jones (19-1, 13-1 UFC): 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.
Gustafsson gave the champion all he could handle. He cut Jones over the right eye in the first round with a glancing blow, and the cut grew into a gash over time, the Swede scoring with repeated multi-punch combinations to the head and body. After 25 minutes, Jones was bloodied and swollen, but he had answered the first serious challenge of his career.
“I’ve been asking for a dogfight for a long time, and I finally got that dogfight I was looking for,” he said. “Tonight was a blessing in so many ways. I got the victory, and I got to prove a lot to myself. I’m not satisfied. I’ve got to do a lot of work in the gym to improve my game.
“He was a tough fighter,” Jones added. “I spent a lot of time on my boxing this camp. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea. Maybe I should have been like water and used more versatility, but hats off to Alexander. That was by far my toughest fight. I got to exercise my warrior spirit tonight, and that makes me happier than the win.”
Gustafsson became the first man to take down Jones in the first round. More importantly, he stuffed 10 of the champion’s 11 takedown attempts. Trapped on the feet, Jones absorbed more punishment than he had in any of his 19 previous professional bouts. He sprang to life in round four, however, where he badly stunned Gustafsson with one of his spinning trademark elbows.
In the fifth, with both men clearly exhausted, Jones scored with his only takedown and unleashed a series of head kicks that likely secured the victory. The win pushes him past Tito Ortiz in the record book and gives him the all-time record for consecutive title defenses at 205 pounds with six.
“I knew that the rounds were really tough,” Jones said. “It’s safe to say I had some desperation. Alexander was very game, and that guy definitely has a chin on him.”
The loss halted Gustafsson’s six-fight winning streak but earned him an untold amount of respect in the industry. Few gave the Alliance MMA representative a legitimate chance at dethroning Jones ahead of their unforgettable 25-minute battle.
“It’s just an honor for me to fight the champ,” Gustafsson said. “He’s the champ for a reason. I will learn from this and come back much stronger. I’m just starting my career, and I have tons of fights to do.”
Dynamic Barao Kick Stops Wineland
Renan Barao retained his interim bantamweight champion in spectacular fashion, as he stopped Eddie Wineland with a spinning back kick to the face and follow-up punches in the first round of their co-main event. Wineland (20-9-1, 2-3 UFC) succumbed to the blows 35 seconds into round two, as he was put away by strikes for the first time in his career.
The two world-ranked bantamweights battled to a relative stalemate through the first five minutes, though Barao started to zero in on his counterpart late in round one.
Early in the second, he unleashed the kick. While it seemed to only graze Wineland’s chin, it landed with enough force to drop the Duneland Vale Tudo representative. Barao followed up immediately with well-placed punches, sewing up his 21st straight win.
“I don’t practice that very often in my camps because I can hurt people, but if you go through my fights, I always try that,” he said. “This time, it worked.”
Afterward, Barao took aim at reigning bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz, who has been sidelined with knee injuries for nearly two years.
“I’m here to defeat anyone,” he said, “and I’m just waiting for Dominick Cruz now.”
Schaub Choke Sleeps Mitrione
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendan Schuab rendered Matt Mitrione unconscious with a first-round brabo choke in a featured heavyweight scrap. Mitrione (6-3, 6-3 UFC) went to sleep 4:06 into round one, shortly after he had given the universal thumbs up sign to the referee.
Schaub (10-3, 6-3 UFC) backed up the Blackzilians representative with a swarming combination, delivered a takedown and went to work on the mat. He trapped Mitrione in the choke as he attempted to rise to his feet. Moments later, the man they call “Meathead” lay
unconscious at his feet.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been,” Schaub said. “I’ve caught a lot of top-caliber jiu-jitsu guys in that move, so I’m very confident in it. I trained so hard.”
Carmont Overwhelms World-Ranked Philippou
Tristar Gym’s Francis Carmont grounded, pounded and overwhelmed the world-ranked Costas Philippou en route to a lopsided unanimous decision in a middleweight showcase. All three judges ruled in favor of Carmont (22-7, 6-0 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
Philippou (12-3, 5-2 UFC) was never a factor in the fight. Carmont struck for repeated takedowns, battering the former Ring of Combat champion with punches, hammerfists and elbows from top position. He mounted Philippou in the second and third rounds, slowly demoralizing the rugged Cypriot. Carmont has won 11
Nurmagomedov Dominates Healy, Moves to 21-0
Stinging strikes, takedowns and ground-and-pound carried Khabib Nurmagomedov to a unanimous decision over Pat Healy in a showdown between two of the promotion’s premier lightweights. A two-time combat sambo world champion, Nurmagomedov (21-0, 5-0 UFC) swept the scorecards by matching 30-27 counts.
Outside of a few power punches in the second round, Healy (29-17, 0-2 UFC) never found his rhythm. He spent much of the matchup eating punches and knees from odd angles, many of them fired while the Russian was moving backwards.
Nurmagomedov mixed in takedowns in all three rounds, punctuating his victory in the third, where he hoisted Healy skyward, carried him across the cage, a la Matt Hughes, and slammed him to the canvas.
“I’m 21-0. I’m 5-0 in the UFC,” Nurmagomedov said. “Give me a title shot, please. I am ready.”
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