Fight of the Year: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
If 2012 was the year of the injuries in mixed martial arts, then 2013 was the year of the epic battles. For awhile it seemed every single card added another fight to the long list of potential fight of the year candidates.
But following the UFC 165 main event between UFC Light Heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound king Jon Jones and the Swedish striker Alexander Gustafsson, the debate was quickly put to bed.
Entering the bout, few gave Gustafsson a chance as Jones was riding a record six straight title defenses and looked absolutely unstoppable against the best of the 205-pound division. It seemed like a submission victory for the champion was inevitable as his world class wrestling and ground game would surely prove to be the deciding factor. Too bad Gustafsson didn't get the memo.
As soon as the opening round began, Gustafsson utilized tremendous footwork and head movement to avoid Jones stand up game while peppering the champion's face with perfectly placed counter strikes. Visibly frustrated, Jones attempted a front kick only to be caught out of position and end up on the receiving end of a takedown for the first time in his MMA career. The crowd gasped as they realized they had just witnessed history. This was not how this fight was supposed to play out as Jones was clearly the superior wrestler and Gustafson had shown a weakness to a strong wrestling attack.
The next few rounds carried on similarly to the first as Gustafsson continued to counter the champion's attack with strong takedown defense and counter-striking. But in the end, Jones managed to right the ship in the final two rounds and walk away with a narrow decision victory. The crowd gave a thunderous standing ovation to both men as they limped away from the carnage in the cage.
Both fighters earned the respect of the fans as they showed true warrior spirit. The rematch fans have been calling for should finally come to fruition.
Honorable Mention: Brian Stann vs. Wanderlei Silva, Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez, Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva, Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler 2, Jessica Penne vs. Michelle Waterson