UFC 165 Review
By Mike Fagan, September 24th, 2013
Jon Jones’ legacy owes a great deal to Alexander Gustafsson.
Not that Jones’ legacy needed helping. A win, any win, at UFC 165 secured Jones’ spot as the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history. Had the fight played out like one would expect with an 8-1 favorite, Gustafsson would have been just another name on Jones’ ledger, just another notch on the wall.
Instead, Gustafsson showed up and gave Jones the stiffest test of his career, and we end up with a fight of the year contender and one of the greatest title fights in UFC history. The win elevates Gustafsson’s status; he was arguably one of the top 3 candidates to fight Jones, but his resume didn’t offer much. And for Jones? It’s the first time he’s been forced to gut check during his championship run, and he delivered.
-Here’s a fun fact: Had this fight ended after the third round, the judges would have awarded the fight to Gustafsson. The scorecards:
Richard Bertrand: Gus, Jones, Gus, Jones, Jones (48-47 Jones)
Douglas Crosby: Gus, Gus, Jones, Jones Jones (48-47 Jones)
Chris Lee: Gus, Jones, Jones, Jones, Jones (49-46 Jones)
Personally, I had a hard time confidently scoring any of the first three rounds. Four and five looked like clear Jones rounds, and all three of the official judges scored them as such.
According to MMA Decisions, four media members scored the fight 49-46 for Jones, eight scored it 48-47 for Jones, and only a single person scored it 48-47 for Gustafsson. It’s likely that most or all of those scorecards awarded Jones the final two rounds as well.
The FightMetric central brain spit out a 49-48 card, giving Gustafsson (a very close) round one, 10-10s in rounds 2 and 3, and Jones the final two rounds.
-Breaking down the FightMetric stats, Jones outlanded Gustafsson in Significant (134-110) and Total (137-114) Strikes. Gustafsson landed more to the head (66-55) and body (33-29), while Jones landed the majority of leg strikes (53-15).
Gustafsson’s wrestling may have been the most surprising element of the fight. Not only did he take Jones down for the first time in the champion’s UFC career, but he held Jones to a single takedown in eleven attempts.
-Twitter and comment boards blew up after the fight with calls of robbery. This happens a lot when heavy underdogs outperform expectations and bring a fight with ‘em. If I was (more of) a hack, we’d call this the Underdog Robbery Theory or the Junkyard Dog Theory or the Dogs In Ski Masks Robbing Banks Theory Wait That’s Not A Theory That’s Genius (And Adorable) Theory.
The theory suggests that when a heavy underdog shows up more competitive, it throws the brains of fans, judge, whoever out of whack. We are creatures of habit and patterns and such, and the brain has a hard time processing events that clash with what we expect. So, judging standards shift, and a round we may have scored 10-9 for Generic Fighter A (Jones) over Generic Fighter B (Gustafsson) becomes a 10-9 round for Gustafsson when we add in context.
A great example of this is the first B.J. Penn fight. FightMetric scored the fight 49-47 for Penn, and five of six media members scored it for Penn according to MMA Decisions. Yet, all three judges awarded Edgar the decision, including Douglas Crosby, who turned in an incomprehensible 50-45 Edgar card. (Fortunately, he turned in a completely defensible 48-47 Jones card on Saturday.)
Plus, as I remarked with regards to my own live scoring, how many rounds could you, with 100% certainty give to Gustafsson? By that I mean, if there was an Objective Truth to prizefighting, and someone or something somewhere could tell you the winner of a round, would you be willing to bet your life that Gustafsson won any round? Because I would feel pretty confident taking Jones in round four or five.
-I think I’m going to touch more on this for Thursday’s column, but Jones/Gutafsson is one of the top ten UFC title fights I’ve ever watched live.
-Without taking anything away from Gustafsson, something looked…off about Jones. Cornerman Mike Winkeljohn tweeted immediately after the fight that he thought Jones injured (“possibly shattered”) his foot. Jones, however, was released from the hospital with a (relative) clean bill of health.
Gustafsson cut Jones very early in the fight. You’d figured it would affect Jones more as the fight wore on and the cut worsened, but Jones looked more like himself in the final two rounds than any other point in the fight.
Maybe it was something in training? Maybe something in his personal life? Maybe it had to do with Greg Jackson not being allowed in the corner?* Maybe it was the cut or the foot? And hey, maybe it was just Alexander Gustafsson providing him a look he had trouble with.
-Speaking of that cut, here’s Dana White post-fight:
“They took Jon out of the Octagon and took him straight to the hospital. He was in an absolute war; he’s got a massive cut. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the doctors were going to stop the fight in the last round because of the cut. Jones begged him not to stop the fight. And from what I understand (referee John) McCarthy did too – pleaded with them not to stop the fight.”
This sounds bad (“pleaded” especially invokes Jones and McCarthy on their knees, hands clasped together begging a Canadian doctor to allow the fight to continue), but it’s hard to comment any further without some video/audio evidence of said pleading. We also won’t know for sure how well Jones could (or could not) see out of the eye until he comments on it, but his performance in the final round suggests allowing the fight to continue was, if not the right decision, a not bad decision.
-One another thing regarding McCarthy. Jones poked Gustafsson in the eye in round one, thanks to a Lidellian open palm wandering toward the face. Jones continued to palm around Gustafsson’s face for the rest of the fight, drawing calls of “watch the hands” or “close the fists” from McCarthy multiple times in each round. THIS is the problem with eye pokes in MMA, which I wrote about back in May.
Jones, in my perfect world, would have been deducted a point for the initial eye poke (accidental or not, it’s your responsibility to keep your fingers out of your opponent’s eyes). In a less perfect world, he would have been given, at most, one additional warning for keeping his open hand where it shouldn’t be, and deducted a point for the next infraction.
-Rematch, yes, obviously. I have no problems with the UFC announcing “next in line” contenders if they’ve earned it, but, sorry, Glover Teixeira, beating up “Wah-page” Jackson and Ryan Bader isn’t a Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory. Gustafsson, as I noted before the fight, didn’t exactly have the most glowing resume either, but his performance on Saturday made him the most interesting and marketable fight for Jones.
-The analogy isn’t perfect, but…
Both fights took place in Toronto, Canada, in the Toronto Maple Leafs arena. Gustafsson and Chuvalo are both of European descent. (Chuvalo was Canadian but born to Croatian parents.) Both fights were lopsided, Chuvalo was a 7-1 underdog, Gustafsson could be found at +660 at the opening bell. The fights played out differently – Ali took a big lead against Chuvalo, who gave him a scare late – but both outperformed their heavy underdog status.
-So, Dominick Cruz really wants to fight Renan Barao after 724 days (and counting) off and two knee surgeries? All right, pal.
-Me, tweeting during Schaub/Mitrione: “Schaub letting Mitrione back him down is the worst.”
Moments later, Schaub came forward with a wild combo and pushed Mitrione’s back against the fence. A takedown and some ground work later, and Mitrione’s passed out on the mat. Would you look at that
-When the clip switches to an overhead view, keep your eyes locked on Mitrione’s right foot.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at FightFansRadio.com, also available as a podcast via iTunes.