Jones proves his pedigree despite a 17-month layoff

Jon Jones (right) knocking Alexander Gustafsson out for the UFC light heavyweight belt.
Jon Jones (right) knocking Alexander Gustafsson out for the UFC light heavyweight belt.PHOTO: REUTERS,

LOS ANGELES • No matter the controversy - and there was a mountain of it during the chaotic week-long lead-up - the one constant in Jon Jones' career has been his undeniable talent.

Despite the 17-month layoff, Jones proved he was still at the apex of mixed martial arts with an all-round game that was far too much for Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson in their title bout at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 232 event on Saturday.

With the win, Jones regained the light heavyweight title he never lost in the cage.

The main event of UFC 232 was a far cry from their thrilling first encounter, but it, too, ended with Jones' hand being raised after he knocked out Gustafsson in the third round following nine blows to the head from a back mount.

When they met in September 2013 at UFC 165, Jones prevailed via a controversial decision. There was no doubt this time, with Gustafsson never landing any strikes of consequence.

"It was always about being the champion again, it was never about the opponent," the American said.

"Nothing personal. I'm just happy with my belt and, for now, I want to go back to the gym and improve my game."

He also goaded rival Daniel Cormier, who was relieved of the light heavyweight belt after turning his focus towards defending the UFC heavyweight title, saying: "Daddy's home DC, prove to the fans that you're the 'champ-champ'. I'm here, I'll be waiting."

The pay-per-view event was originally ticketed for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but there was a last-minute change in venue after an adverse finding in Jones' drug test was revealed.

California agreed to license him after the Nevada Athletic Commission declined to do so.

While the relocation was met with much criticism, the event was still a sellout (15,862 in attendance) and generated a US$2.06 million gate (S$2.8 million), according to UFC president Dana White.

In the co-main event fight, Amanda Nunes staked her claim as the greatest UFC female fighter of all time in emphatic fashion.

The Brazilian became the first woman in history to simultaneously hold two UFC championship belts with a first-round knockout of compatriot Cris Cyborg.

Nunes already held the bantamweight title but added the featherweight belt after just 51 seconds.

It was the first knockout loss Cyborg had suffered in 23 professional fights.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Jones proves his pedigree despite a 17-month layoff'. Print Edition | Subscribe