TORONTO – For 25 minutes of heart-pounding action, it was clear that Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson was a special kind of fight. So special, in fact, that neither combatant was able to attend the evening’s post-event press conference.
A quick look at FightMetric’s post-fight report tells you that Jones (19-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC) landed 137 total strikes in the five-round affair. Gustafsson (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) countered with 114.
But if you ever need proof that numbers alone are incapable of telling the entire story of a fight, sit down and watch a replay of Saturday night’s UFC 165 headliner. Or just listen to UFC President Dana White’s post-fight explanation of what he had just witnessed.
“You could tell in the last round both of those guys were fighting on pure heart,” White told MMAjunkie.com. “Both of them. Gustafsson had never been five rounds before, and he got hurt bad with those elbows in the fourth round. He got hit with some stuff in the fifth round. Jon Jones was busted up and kept moving forward. He pleaded with the doctor not to stop it in the fifth.
“Not that I can talk to this either, but I believe this is one of those fights where both guys felt like they were going to die. You feel like, ‘I don’t know if I can continue. I don’t know if I can keep doing this. I don’t know if I can go one more round,’ if they even knew what round it was.”
Indeed, the fight is one that will long live in the memories of those who were present at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre to witness it first-hand. Swedish challenger Gustafsson, despite being a huge underdog, pushed Jones to his very limit, using impressive speed, footwork and even wrestling to frustrate Jones from the opening bell.
The first three rounds were closely contested, but the challenger was clearly up to the task, and his precise striking racked up points and sliced open the champ. Gustafsson appeared ready to run away with it in the fourth when a series of punching combinations left Jones battered and wobbly. But “Bones” dug deep and scored with a brutal spinning back elbow before rifling off several knees that found the mark. It was just the momentum-shifter that Jones needed, and he kept riding that wave through the fifth frame.
Gustafsson, who gave Jones – the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter – a stiffer test than he’d ever faced before, was exhausted in the fifth. He looked down at the floor and appeared close to simply collapsing from the back-and-forth war, but he pressed on to the end. Jones looked equally punished but found the will to finish with a flurry, clinching the victory in the final moments of the fight.
Afterward, both fighters were transported to a local hospital for observation.
Jones did take to Twitter to offer a few brief thoughts.
“Thank you for support,” Jones wrote. “I felt a little off my game tonight but I learned alot about myself and I promise to come back better.”
With the two headliners missing from the press conference and unavailable to relive the epic affair, White was left to try and frame the moment. Rarely at a loss for words, White did his best to evaluate the epic encounter but ultimately just opted for the most simple explanation possible: It was the type of contest that reminds you why you’re a fan of mixed martial arts.
“It was one of those kind of fights,” White said. “It’s why you’ve got to respect what happened here so much.”
For complete coverage of UFC 165, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.