• UFC 165

Jones defends title despite take down

Franklin McNeil
September 22, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Jon Jones retained his UFC light heavyweight championship Saturday night at UFC 165 with a unanimous decision over Alexander Gustafsson in Toronto.

The judges scored the fight 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46, but it could have easily gone the other way at Air Canada Centre.

Gustafsson gave Jones what the champion called the most difficult fight of his career. And when the two finished going at it for 25 minutes, Jones, not Gustafsson, was the bloodier combatant.

Both fighters went to the hospital after the fight, according to UFC president Dana White.

"I've been asking for a tough fight like this and I got it," said Jones, who set the UFC light heavyweight record for successful title defences with six. "I have a lot of work to do in the gym. I felt really sloppy tonight. He was just a tough fighter. That was by far my toughest fight."

Despite his dominating reign as light heavyweight champion, Jones had something to prove entering the cage. Though he's regarded as the best mixed martial artist in the world, his critics claim he has benefited from being bigger and stronger than other 205-pound fighters.

Well, based on what Gustafsson accomplished, size has played a role in Jones' Octagon success. Gustafsson hit Jones with left uppercuts, straight punches and kicks. He even became the first man to take him down.

Jones, on Twitter afterward, said he learned something from the win.

After three rounds, the feeling inside the arena was Jones' title might be slipping away.

Sensing he might be down a round heading into the fourth, Jones popped Gustafsson with several hard right hands. But it was early in the fourth and Gustafsson was just getting started. He snapped Jones' head back with stiff right hands and drew blood from his right eye.

With his title slipping away, Jones showed exactly the type of fighter he is, catching Gustafsson with spinning elbows and sharp knees to the chin.

The strikes opened a cut on Gustafsson's head that caused blood to flow.

Each fighter was bloody in the fifth, but Jones' face was much worse.

Gustafsson's length did come into play early. He hit Jones more often than any other fighter. But Gustafsson was also in the unfamiliar position of facing an opponent as tall as him.

As a result, Gustafsson ate quite a few strikes. Jones delivered spinning back kicks and some elbows.

But Jones gave Gustafsson a reason not to get too confident -- a front kick to the jaw briefly wobbled the challenger.

Gustafsson landed a right uppercut in the second round that momentarily stopped Jones in his tracks. And Gustafsson made the night even tougher for the champion as he continuously stuffed Jones' takedown attempts.

But whenever Jones felt the momentum swing in Gustafsson's favor he connected with spinning back kicks. Each one sent Gustafsson reeling slightly. But none managed to discourage Gustafsson, who kept coming forward.

By the end of the third round, Jones' right eye was noticeably puffy.

When the final horn sounded, the crowd showed its appreciation for the performance by giving each fighter a thunderous roar.

Meanwhile, Renen Barao retained his 135-pound belt with a second-round technical knockout of hard-hitting Eddie Wineland in the co-main event.

The victory means that either lineal bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz will fight Barao or he'll be stripped of the belt.

Barao finished Wineland with a spinning right back kick to the face. When the strike landed, Wineland went down immediately and Barao jumped in to apply the finishing touches -several punches. Referee Yves Lavigne stepped in to halt the assault at the 4:06 mark.

A version of this article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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