A bloody Jon Jones won a unanimous decision against hard-charging Alexander Gustafsson to retain his light-heavyweight title at UFC 165 on Saturday night.
Jones (19-1) won with his closest margin with the judges scoring the five-round fight 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.
Gustafsson (15-2) gave a remarkable effort, getting the best of the early rounds before hanging on in the fourth and fifth. He made Jones look human, cutting him and taking him down for the first time in his UFC career. As he promised, the Swede’s hands were faster.
It wasn’t until the end of the fourth round that a bloody Jones finally did damage, setting the stage for a dramatic fifth.
Both men were bleeding. Jones took Gustafsson down but the Swede fought his way back to his feet. Gustafsson looked exhausted and Jones threw everything at him, mixing elbows and kicks.
"I finally got the dogfight I was looking for," said Jones, adding he needed more work in the gym.
"Who doesn’t want a rematch," UFC president Dana White said.
Jones and Gustafsson both earned $50,000 bonuses for the fight of the night.
Still, White refused to say a rematch would be next.
In the co-main event at the Air Canada Centre, interim bantamweight title-holder Renan Barao stopped former WEC champion Eddie Wineland in spectacular fashion, finishing him with a spinning back kick to the face in the second round.
The 6-foot-5 Gustafsson had a one-inch height advantage on Jones, though the champion still had a 3-inch reach advantage thanks to his UFC-leading 84-inch wingspan.
Thank you for everyone support. I felt a little off my game tonight but I learned alot about myself and I promise to come back better.
Gustafsson cooly stuffed an early takedown and came at Jones, who fought back with kicks. The Swede cut the champion at the right eye midway through the first round. And with a minute left, he took Jones down for the first time in the champion’s UFC career.
Jones just missed with a spinning elbow in a first round that was good for Gustafsson.
The Swede tripped Jones as he attempted a kick early in the second, only to have Jones get back up and charge at him. Jones stalked Gustafsson, who stuffed another takedown.
Gustafsson looked to stick and move in the third while Jones looked for answers. In the fourth, Gustafsson continued to move in and out, with Jones’ face showing more damage from strikes.
A bloody Jones stunned Gustafsson with a spinning elbow and followed with a string of knees as the round counted down, leaving the Swede dazed and bloodied.
"He’s the champ for a reason," Gustafsson said.
The win — his 10th straight — gives Jones a UFC light-heavyweight record-six consecutive title defenses. He already holds the mark for most submissions (five) by a light-heavyweight and is tied for most finishes (nine).
Wineland (20-9-1) had had a good first round but was put away soon after with Barao following the kick with several punches before referee Yves Lavigne stepped in after 35 seconds. The UFC said it was the first such spinning back kick KO in its history.
Barao (31-1) has won 21 straight and is unbeaten since April 2005 in his pro debut. The flashy Brazilian may upgrade the interim belt to the real thing if champion Dominick Cruz, sidelined since October 2011 by two knee surgeries, is unable to return to action in 2014.