At UFC 165, we witnessed one of the greatest title fights in the history of the sport.
Jon Jones stepped into the octagon ready to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but “Bones” did not expect the challenge that was about to cross his path to victory. Alexander Gustafsson left his all in the octagon and went five full rounds with the champion and he had the momentum of the crowd behind him. Those watching at home and in attendance had expected a title change, but once the decision was announced the live audience booed in protest; Jon Jones had retained by way of unanimous decision.
Within seconds, there were posts on message boards and Twitter claiming the judges had been paid off to award the decision to Jon Jones. While the judge who scored the fight 49-46 in favor of the champion needs a new prescription for their glasses, the other two judges that scored the fight 48-47 do not deserve any of the flack that they are getting. Sure, it was a close bout. Gustafsson may have dealt early damage to Jones and gave him a severe enough cut to almost stop the fight, but the contest inside the octagon is not judged by who lost the most blood and a winner is not decided by who got carried out on a stretcher.
Fights are judged by a round-by-round basis. What that essentially means is that judges “Delete History” on their brains at the start of each round so there is no influence from what happened in Round 1 at the start of Round 2.
Going back to Twitter, fans and fighters alike seem to agree that Gustafsson took home rounds one and three while Jones easily won four and five. In this case the round that decided who took home the championship, ironically, laid within round two.
The solution to this dispute should be simple enough: Pull up the UFC’s Judging Criteria within the Rules and Regulations Book and look at FightMetric’s stats of Round 2.
If a casual mixed martial arts fan missed the fight on Saturday and simply looked at the stats above, they would assume that Jon Jones should be awarded the round. However, numbers don’t always tell the entire tale. Certain variables come into play such as aggressiveness and octagon control so let’s give Gustafsson the benefit of the doubt and break it down move by move.
[quote]C) Judges shall evaluate mixed martial arts techniques, such as effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense.
D) Evaluations shall be made in the order in which the techniques appear in (c) above, giving the most weight in scoring to effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area and effective aggressiveness and defense.
E) Effective striking is judged by determining the total number of legal strikes landed by a contestant.[/quote]
STRIKING: What’s stated above gives the nod to Jones in terms of effective striking. Gustafsson landed eleven less significant strikes than his opponent and the film provides further proof that Jones landed the more powerful shots. He found success with his head kicks, body shots and leg kicks. Jones’ ability to repeatedly land the oblique kicks helped him out a lot. The only time that Gustafsson was really able to land anything powerful was with thirty seconds left in the round where he landed a short uppercut and a open-palm hook (Pancrase style).
[quote]G) Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider are countering a grappler’s attempt at takedown by remaining standing and legally striking, taking down an opponent to force a ground fight, creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve mount, and creating striking opportunities.[/quote]
OCTAGON CONTROL: The defending champion dictated where the fight went 75% of the round. He was constantly pushing the pace and the only time Gustafsson was in the middle of the octagon was when he walked away from the action and reset in the center after being too close to the fence or throwing a combination. Even then, Jones was quick to push him away from there and continue to dictate the action. Like I had previously mentioned, Gustafsson finally got the upper hand with only thirty seconds left in the round. While that was the momentum he needed to win round three, it was nowhere near enough time for him to claim round two.
[quote]H) Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal strike.
I) Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or reversed while countering with offensive attacks.[/quote]
EFFECTIVE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Neither man took their opponent down this round, but Gustafsson defended two more takedowns than Jones. That’s where the good news ends for Gustafsson, though. Jones did a fantastic job at effective defense, only letting 29% of Gustafsson’s strikes land (15 of 51). Jones’ success rate was 62% (26 of 42).
Should Gustafsson have walked out with the championship slung over his shoulder? Did Jones deserve the victory? Did the judges make the right call? Those are all hypothetical questions that have no effect on the outcome of the fight. It’s fun to make arguments for both sides and I hope the two meet again so we can have another exciting contest. I’m just trying to provide the facts.