Five Thoughts – UFC 165, Jon Jones’ Title Defense and More

UFC 165 was an awesome card from top to bottom, capped by an unbelievably epic main event that is in the running for Fight of the Year.  We saw KO finishes, submission finishes, and dominant performances from rising stars.  Check out a recap and review of the UFC 165 main card:

1. Jones is vulnerable. He probably won’t lose to anyone else in the LHW division, although Glover Teixeira has to be ecstatic about his chances, and for good reason. But Jones showed two things against Gustafsson. First, he is a true champion who turned up his game when he most needed to. He had never been truly tested for an entire fight (Vitor only threatened him briefly) and he was tested against The Mauler. He needed that to answer any questions about his heart, drive, abilities and toughness.

Second, he showed he is actually (contrary to his walkout shirt) quite human. Gustafsson of course had the size and length to get to Jones, but he also had the quickness and skill. In fact, it’s plausible to say that the only reason Gustafsson didn’t pull out a split decision victory is because he simply got tired. We can probably assume it was the fifth round that really decided the fight and Gustafsson looked beaten and exhausted. Some of that is of course attributable to the greatness of Jones, but you’d have to wonder what the results would have been on Saturday night if Gustafsson had just a little more in the tank. Nevertheless, Jones won, but it was a very close fight, one in which he looked vulnerable, confused at times and very, very beatable. His aura of invincibility took a big hit.

2. Gustafsson could very well become the next LHW champion. Whether Jones stays in the LHW division or not, Gustafsson has what it takes to become a champion. He did what no one else even came close to doing. Jones is the #1 P4P MMA fighter in the world, without a single doubt. His resume is insane and you could argue that while he’s lost a fight by DQ, no one has actually been able to beat him. No one. With the quality of fighters he’s faced, that’s unreal. So Jones is up there, pretty much untouchable in the eyes of many. Gustafsson almost beat him. He wasn’t just competitive, he didn’t just survive five rounds. He almost beat him. He made Jones look bad, he touched him up and cut him, made his eyes and lips and face swell and sent him to the hospital. When’s the last time that’s happened? Gustafsson didn’t just show he can hang with the best in the world, he showed he can win the championship from one of the best in the world.

3. Barao continues his streak of dominance. Wineland, and many others, think the stoppage was a little premature and it’s hard to argue against that. But it’s a moot point. If Wineland didn’t like the stoppage, he shouldn’t have leaned into that spinning heel kick from Barao. He should have beaten Barao like he said he was going to. Some refs would have let that fight continue to see if Wineland would recover, some wouldn’t have. People won’t remember that. But they will remember Barao finishing another top contender and they will see that highlight replayed countless times. There aren’t many sensible options out there for Barao now, so here’s to hoping Dominick Cruz can make a successful and speedy return.

4. Schaub redeems himself. He embarrassed himself at Metamoris 2. He took a lot of heat for his tactics, which many people would describe as “running away”. But the setup and execution of that Brabo choke against Mitrione was beautifully done. He couldn’t have asked for a better way to end that fight. That was a fight he was supposed to win and he got the job done in a big way.

5. Carmont proves that you can still win fights by smothering guys all night. It was amusing to see GSP in his corner because Carmont gave Philippou the GSP treatment for three rounds, taking him down and effectively keeping him there. It wasn’t the most exciting fight and Carmont was a semi-hometown boy so he didn’t get booed as much as he could have, but it was unquestionably a dominant performance from Carmont. The guy is still undefeated in the UFC and he keeps beating steadily improving competition. Philippou was the 7th ranked middleweight in the division and Carmont just ran a ground game clinic on him.

6. What the hell was wrong with Pat Healy? What was the game plan for that fight? Go in there and just brawl? It’s almost like he acknowledged he was already going to lose the fight, so he went out there and just started throwing down. There wasn’t really a lot of adjustments between and during rounds, and he didn’t look like the same guy that came back to beat Jim Miller. In fact, he looked terrible, like an amateur matched up with a pro. Nurmagomedov, on the other hand, fought a brilliant, reactive fight. He took everything Healy could throw at him and worked around it beautifully, showing off a very diverse skill set including excellent counters and takedowns combined with good quickness and intelligence. “The Eagle” is 21-0 for a reason, and while he called for a title shot that he isn’t quite ready for, it may not be too far off if he keeps beating guys like this.

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