There are so many things to sort out after a tremendous UFC 165 main event that featured Jon Jones narrowly edging out a decision victory over Alexander Gustafsson. In an otherwise lackluster card on paper, the entire night was coming off as simply better-than-average when the posterboys showed exactly why they get top billing.
The main and co-main offered a glimpse of the future of this sport. Barao, Gustafsson, and Jones are the simply light years ahead of their contemporaries. The main event in particular showed a pacing and drama that most Hollywood blockbusters lack. Just think about the inevitable rematch between Gustafsson and Jon Jones. Now, think about the fact that these two will eventually move into the heavyweight bracket and likely face off there as well. A rivalry was born tonight. Gustafsson didn’t give an inch, and Jon Jones got the “dog fight” he always wanted. Next time around, I see this one ending a lot sooner. But I’d also like to see this one happening a lot sooner.
That may be easier said than done as both champion and contender left to the hospital after the fight. According to Ariel Helwani, Jones went straight from the cage to the locker room, to the hospital on a stretcher with his eyes closed. Gustafsson did a few interviews and then also left for the hospital faring slightly better than the champ. However, that image of Jones bring carried to the back lies in stark contrast to the image of the champ doing a single-armed cartwheel into the cage.
Both men showed hearts bigger than their chests. Gustafsson brought out the best in Jones and vice versa. The only real loser to come out of that fight is Glover Teixeira. Glover has earned a title shot against Jones, but I can totally get behind seeing a rematch between Jones and Gustafsson first. That main event alone was worth the ppv money I spent, and I’d gladly fork over double to see 25 more minutes of those two locking horns. No one has tested Jones the way The Mauler did, and looking over the 205 division, I don’t see anyone else pushing him to the limit similarly.
In other news, the UFC needs to drop the “interim” prefix to Renan Barao’s bantamweight title. I have a lot of respect for Dominick Cruz, and though he still holds the title, Barao has earned the respect of the division and the fans. It’s a little insulting to refer to him as interim anything. He’s bonafide. I really would love to see the Dominick Cruz from 2011 taking on the Renan Barao of 2013.
Finally, let the eagle soar. Sort of. Khabib Nurmagomedov put on the hat, made 170, and decisioned a very off-his-game Pat Healy. Nurmagomedov channeled his inner Matt Hughes at one point during the match, carried and flung Healy to the mat. And despite some solid shots, Nurmagomedov could only control Healy, and failed to finish Healy. After the fight, Nurmagomedov called for a title shot. Please. No. Not now. A Showtime Pettis highlight clinic versus a Nurmagomedov toss and frost exhibition does nothing for me. However, a matchup between the winner of the Gilbert Melendez/Diego Sanchez showdown and Nurmagomedov does pique my interest.
At the end of the night, Gustafsson and Jones recieved fight of the night honors, Barao got KO of the night, and Mitch Gagnon earned a sub of the night bonus that I probably would have given to Brendan Schaub. The conversation for the foreseeable future, though, will be Gustafsson, Jones, and the 205 landscape. And rightfully so.