Jon Jones was at the peak of his career in 2013. He had just defended the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship for the 5th time when he beat Chael Sonnen in April and was looking to break the record for most title defences in light heavyweight history when he fought Alexander Gustafsson on September 21st at the Air Canada Center.
Most people counted out Gustafsson as he hadn’t fought the type of competition that Jones did. Jones had beaten 5 champions back-to-back when he won the title, while Gustafsson’s only notable win was against Shogun Rua in his previous fight. Jones was undefeated and was expected to run through Gustafsson, just like he did with his previous opponents and this fight was not expected to be close at all.
But on fight night, things began to turn out quite differently, as fans that night ended up witnessing one of the greatest fights of all time. The fight won Fight of the Year at the World MMA Awards and several media outlets called it the greatest fight of 2013. What was expected to be a one-sided domination ended up being one of the closest fights of all time. The 2 men landed nearly 250 significant strikes, a number that is almost never seen in the higher weight classes.
Gustafsson started out strong, checking Jones’ leg kicks and defending his takedowns. In a massive turn of events, Gustafsson became the first man to take Jones down, as he landed the takedown on his first attempt. Jones who had previously lost just 1 round in his entire 19 fight career ended up losing the first round against Gustafsson, and was left with a massive cut over his right eye. Dana White said “what makes this such a great fight; it was the first time Jon Jones had been taken into deep water…ever”
Despite a very high paced first round, the two men never slowed down. The fight got more and more intense as each round became difficult to score because of how close it was. After 2 rounds, Gustafsson defended all of Jones’ 6 takedown attempts. Jones outstruck Gustafsson in both the rounds and two of the judges scored the round for Jones.
At the end of round 3, Gustafsson was up on the judges’ scorecards and Joe Rogan said “Jon Jones may be losing this fight” as the fight entered the championship rounds. Jones had deep cuts over both his eyes due to Gustafsson’s punches. Gustafsson’s height and reach proved to be a huge problem for Jones.
Gustafsson seemed comfortable for majority of the 4th round, but a heavy spinning elbow from Jones towards the end of the round turned the course of the entire fight. Gustafsson slowed down but was saved by the bell at the end of the round.
Going into the 5th round, the scores were even. This meant that whoever won the 5th round ended up winning the fight. Jones proved why he is the champion as he outclassed Gustafsson in the 5th round to win the round, and closed the fight strong with a series of brutal head kicks as the fight reached the 25-minute mark.
Several people thought Gustafsson did enough to win the fight, while most people argued that Jones’ comeback in the championship rounds earned him the win. At the end of the fight, all 3 judges scored it in favor of Jones (48-47, 48-47, 49-46). With this win, Jones broke the record for most title defenses in light heavyweight history.
Both men were immediately rushed to the hospital following the fight, as they sustained several injuries in the battle. Before this fight, Jones had lost only 1 round in his career, but that night lost 2 rounds against Gustafsson. They would rematch 5 years later, where Jones would finish Gustaffson, but the first fight is one that will never be forgotten, especially because it was the first and for a long time, the only night where a challenger took the fight to the still undefeated Jon Jones.