Jon Jones and Alexandrer Gustafsson had themselves a classic Saturday night at UFC 165.
It exceeded all expectations. With all the hyperbole we find in MMA these days, that’s an amazing achievement.
But, it seems that those low expectations are still clouding everyone’s judgement and memory of the bout, too.
I remember that feeling as Gustafsson began the bout shrugging off Jones’ attacks to establish his own jab and score punching combinations to the champion’s head and body.
I remember thinking, maybe this isn’t what I thought it’d be… and it wasn’t.
The challenger Gustafsson was not only competitive, but he won the first two rounds of the bout on my scorecard — evading each of Jones’ takedown attempts and exhibiting the superior boxing.
Then, I saw Jones hit a beautiful series of kicks in the third, which seemed to turn the tide. It was an agonizingly close round, but I thought Jones did just enough to earn the round.
The fourth saw another turn, as Gustafsson took a minor advantage for the majority of the stanza. But then, Jones hurt him with elbows, and kept the pressure to the round’s end. Again, it’s close, but I felt Jones’ work at the finish was more significant than Gustafsson’s early in the round.
In the fifth, Jones was dominant, but not enough for a 10-8 round.
Add up my card, and it’s 48-47, Jones. But hey, that’s a lot of close rounds. I can see an argument for scoring the fourth differently, by measuring Gustafsson’s early dominance greater than Jones’ more damaging later flurry. The third could have gone either way, too.
Did you score a few rounds even? I don’t blame you.
When the score was to be announced, nothing would have surprised me. It went, of course, to Jones. Another successful title defense. Just not the one we expected.
Do you disagree with the decision? Hey, I can see that. But, to call it a robbery, as I’m seeing on many message boards and on social media? No way.
It seems many fans were so surprised by Gustafsson’s great showing Saturday that they’re going a little too far. The only way it’s a robbery is if you’re dead set on hanging on to those low expectations — which should be buried forever. Alexander Gustafsson should never again be a (+700) underdog. Never.
So don’t do it.
Think of this great fight. Remember the great exchanges these two had throughout the grueling battle. Remember Gustafsson doing what seemed impossible, in scoring those takedowns on Jones. Remember Gustafsson landing those beautiful boxing combinations.
Remember it as a triumph of sportsmanship. Look at the picture which Gustafsson posted to his Facebook account of he and Jones smiling for the camera together in the hospital following the bout. The caption:
“Didn’t go my way last nite but ill be back stronger thats a promise!!! Wanna thanks all my fans u r amazing!!! Had a great time in Toronto….”
100% class. Sure maybe the English isn’t perfect, but the sentiment sure is.
Remember it as a triumph of will — for both men. Remember Jones having to rally from his slow start to stagger Gustafsson in the fourth stanza. Remember Gustafsson looking totally shaken in the fifth, barely able stay standing, but somehow finding the strength to continue.
Remember it. Remember whoever you felt triumphed in the end.
But please, whatever you do, don’t remember it as a triumph of your own low expectations.