Three years ago today, reigning UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones took on surging Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.
The card was stacked with some of the top athletes in the UFC today, including Wilson Reis, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Stephen Thompson. It also featured an interim title fight in the bantamweight division between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland. But the fight everyone's attention was focused on was Jones vs. Gustafsson.
Ahead of the event, Alexander Gustafsson was looking like a serious threat to Jon Jones' reign. He was 7-1 in the UFC, including victories over Matt Hamill, Thiago Silva, and Mauricio Rua. A six-fight win streak had landed him a well-deserved title shot.
But at this point in his career, Jones was on another level. Even as the youngest champion in UFC history, he had already taken down MMA legends like Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Vitor Belfort. Jones was on a nine-fight win streak and had successfully defended the belt five times, tying him with Tito Ortiz for the most in the division's history.
A lot was on the line for both fighters in this one and the fight itself more than lived up to the hype.
Jones and Gustafsson had an all out war for five rounds. Jones had finished all but three of his opponents in his 19-fight career, and Gustafsson only had three in his 16-fight career, but neither man was going down. The two traded blows in an even contest, but Jones got the better of "The Mauler" winning a unanimous decision, 48–47, 48–47, 49–46.
With the win, Jones secured the record for consecutive title defenses in UFC LHW history and his 10th straight win in the UFC, a feat only four other fighters have accomplished (Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Royce Gracie, and Demetrious Johnson).
This was also one of the last times he was truly tested inside the Octagon. His three fights since UFC 165 have all been one sided decisions, winning 14 of the 15 rounds in those fights. His own actions outside of the Octagon have been the only things to stop him.
Gustafsson has since struggled in the UFC, going 2-2. Though he has beaten the fighters he is supposed to beat, he has not been able to beat top contenders in the 205 division such as Daniel Cormier (split decision) and Anthony Rumble (TKO).
Though both men have stumbled in the last couple of years, they can both look back at this fight as one of the biggest wars they have ever been involved with in the UFC.