On Saturday night in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Ontario Canada UFC 165 kicked off possibly the greatest run of mixed martial arts events in history.
Speaking of possibly the greatest in history, Jon Jones was the headlining attraction. Coming into the fight the size of his opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, was the main promotional catalyst. He was said to be the first opponent tall enough, young enough and athletic enough to test the seemingly unbeatable Jones. He was. Gustafsson delivered. He came out from round one and took it to Jones. Going blow for blow with the champion. Jones was cut, bloodied and taken down in a first round that the Swede clearly won. The next four rounds to blend into each other. Jones jabbed constantly with his front kick as he does so often and hurt Gustafssons left knee at one point. Jones, who is a master of the takedown, had all but one stuffed by Alex, who quickly got up the single time he hit the mat. Gustafsson landed left-hook after left-hook as Jones struggled to boss the fight. The championship rounds, in the end, were the difference. Gustafsson tired by the fifteen minute mark as Jones had a big round four. By the last round both men were tired from what will more than likely be fight of the year. Jones landed a spinning back elbow to Gustafsson who stuffed ANOTHER takedown. As the fight ended the judges were going to be controversial whatever they said. 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 were the Judges scores. All gave the fight to Jones who becomes the longest-serving light-heavyweight champion of all time. Gustafsson may not leave with the belt but he may find consolation in earning thousands of new fans after one of the most heroic displays in MMA history.
The co-main event saw (hopefully) the last interim bantamweight title fight, for the moment at least, when current interim-champ Renan Barao took on the first ever WEC 135 pounds king, Eddie Wineland. It was an even first round fought totally on the feet with both men having their moments as Wineland grew in confidence throughout. It was all over just thirty-five seconds into the next. Barao came out from his corner and almost immediately threw a spinning back kick which landed flush to the face of Wineland, knocking him down and forcing referee Yves Lavigne to step in and stop the fight giving Barao his sixth UFC victory. After the fight Barao told Joe Rogan that he wanted to unify the belts with champion Dominic Cruz who is returning from two-year on the side-lines through injury. If that is to materialise it will likely be one-off the biggest attractions of early 2014.
Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione were finally able to meet inside the cage after a previous fight cancellation and a Twitter beef which was both long and unconvincing. When mid-tier heavyweights clash the outcome is usually either a huge knockout or a boring, grinding, snooze-fest. This was different though. They stood and traded early, catching each other with hard counters. As Mitrione opened up on the feet Schaub saw his opportunity and secured a slick takedown midway through the round. It was soon clear that the “The Hybrid” had a massive grappling advantage. Schaub caught Mitrione in the tightest of D’Arce chokes and put the Blackzillian to sleep for the very first submission victory of his career.
In the middleweight division top-10 ranked Costa Philippou took on a fighter best known for getting lucky decisions victories, Francis Carmont. On paper it looked a complete mismatch and that’s exactly how it worked out – but the other way around. Carmont dominated the first period as he took Philippou down early and didn’t let him up until the bell sounded – landing some smart ground and pound in-between. The second round was literally the exact same. Philippou needed to go for the kill in the last round, being two down, but he just couldn’t stop the Carmont takedown which was landed inside of seventy seconds and secured until the final bell as Carmont took the judge’s decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Opening up the Pay-Per-View portion of the nights business and was a match-up that was never going to disappoint between Strikeforce vetern Pat Healy and Russian sambo artist Khabib Nurmagomedov. From the outset Nurmagomedov was happy to fight off the back foot with a clear speed advantage in the striking as Healy constantly pushed forward. “The Eagle” bloodied up “Bam Bam” with a flying knee and secured the round with two late takedowns. The second round began as the first ended with Nurmagomedov getting the takedown inside of a minute. Healy, though, never gave up and out-struck the Russian for the rest of the round before suffering another takedown towards the end leaving it in the balance entering the final five minutes. The last round was by far the easiest to score as Nurmagomedov totally dominated. An early takedown led to some big ground and pound which transitioned into the Russian lifting Healy across the cage and dumping him in his corner, Matt Hughes style. In the end Khabib won a deserved unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) and pleaded with the UFC for a title shot immediately after. At 21-0 it’s going to be hard to deny him on for much longer.
Topping the preliminary bill was another lightweight scrap as TUF 15 inmate Mike Ricci took on the unbeaten prospect Myles “Fury” Jury in a fight which failed to live up the hype. It was a largely uneventful first round which Jury won with some strikes and a nice takedown towards the end. In the second Ricci got his jab going and evened it up, Going into the last it was all for the taking, but neither man did. It ended as it started, boringly. It wouldn’t be right to call either man a winner in this fight but Jury got the nod from the judges with a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Welterweight prospect Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson did his reputation no harm with a stunning knockout of Chris Clements. “Wonderboy” dominated from minute one, catching his opponent with head kicks early as well as showing his ever improving grappling game with a takedown midway through the maiden round. In the second Thompson opened up with his strikes – knocking Clements down twice before giving referee John McCarthy no option but to end the fight after a pinpoint right-left combination which knocked Clements back onto the cage, moving Thompson to 3-1 inside the Octagon.
Elsewhere in the card, more bantamweights were on show as Mitch Gagnon put Dustin Kimura to sleep with a nasty guillotine late in round one after a furious first period and long-time contender Ivan Menjivar was defeated by his short notice opponent Wilson Reis (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) after three grinding rounds.
In the early prelims Daniel Omielanczuk defeated Nandor Guelmino with a huge knockout right hand midway through Round 3, Alex Caceres won an impressive split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over Roland Delorme, lightweight debutant Michel Prazeres triumphed over Jesse Ronson, who impressed after taking the fight on short notice, by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) and John Makdessi pulverized Renee Forte with vicious strikes to earn the stunning stoppage victory inside of the first frame.
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