Jon Jones left all the controversies behind once the Octagon door closed behind him.
In his first appearance in more than a year, Jones reclaimed the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown with a third-round technical knockout against Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 232 headliner on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Gustafsson succumbed to blows 2:02 into Round 3 and fell to 0-2 in his head-to-head series with “Bones.”
Jones was again masterful inside the cage. Gustafsson too often found himself stuck in between, either too far away to do damage with his hands or close enough to be drawn into rabbit-hole clinches with his rival. Jones kept the Swede at bay with continuous kicks to the legs and body, all while remaining out of punching range. Early in the third round, he swooped in for a takedown, elbowed Gustafsson from half guard and utilized a half nelson to transition to the back. Once he secured his position, Jones dropped punches on “The Mauler” until referee Mike Beltran had seen enough.
In the aftermath of UFC 232 “Jones vs. Gustafsson 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier: Since his disqualification loss to Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale in December 2009, Jones has compiled a 14-0 record with one no-contest. Gustafsson (twice), Cormier, Glover Teixeira, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Mauricio Rua and Ryan Bader have all failed to derail him. In fact, Jones has so thoroughly dominated the light heavyweight division for so long that only one move makes sense, not at 205 pounds but at heavyweight. There, the final chapter in his rivalry with Cormier awaits, along with the chance to become a simultaneous two-division champion. Cormier last appeared at UFC 230, where he submitted Derrick Lewis with a rear-naked choke to retain his heavyweight title on Nov. 3. The 39-year-old American Kickboxing Academy captain has rattled off three consecutive victories.
Amanda Nunes vs. Cristiane Justino: Nunes made history at the expense of a fellow all-time great in the co-main event in did so in utterly spectacular fashion. The American Top Team star blitzed Justino with punches and leveled the Brazilian with one final overhand right behind the ear to claim the undisputed featherweight championship and become the first woman to hold UFC titles in two weight classes simultaneously. Nunes brought it to a close just 51 seconds into the first round, the result sending shockwaves through the MMA world. A left hook-right hook combination sent “Cyborg” into a tailspin from which she could not recover, as she suffered her first defeat since May 17, 2005. Because of Justino’s standing in the sport and the lack of viable contenders at both 135 and 145 pounds, an immediate rematch would seem to be in order.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway: Volkanovski announced his arrival as a serious title contender in the featherweight division, as he buried Chad Mendes with punches in the second round of their 145-pound showcase. Mendes succumbed to blows 4:14 into Round 2. Volkanovski waded through some adversity -- a left hand from “Money” sat him down briefly and he conceded a few takedowns -- but overwhelmed the Team Alpha Male stalwart along the fence late in the middle stanza. A left hook to the body followed by a right hook upstairs had Mendes searching for a way out and prompted referee Mark Smith to act. Holloway retained his featherweight crown at UFC 231 on Dec. 8, forcing a doctor stoppage against Brian Ortega in between the fourth and fifth rounds.
Corey Anderson vs. Misha Cirkunov: Superior conditioning allowed Anderson to overcome a slow start and carried him to a unanimous decision over former Superior Challenge champion Ilir Latifi in a three-round light heavyweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Anderson. Latifi had his moments -- he shook “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner with a pair of left hooks in the first round -- but ran out of steam in the second half of the fight. Anderson threw more and landed more over the final 10 minutes, as he posted his third straight victory. Cirkunov threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak in October, when he submitted Patrick Cummins with a first-round arm-triangle choke at UFC Fight Night 138.
Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Rocco Martin: Chiesa worked over Carlos Condit and submitted the former World Extreme Cagefighting champion with a one-handed kimura in the second round of their main card battle at 170 pounds. Condit conceded defeat 56 seconds into Round 2. Chiesa followed his game plan to perfection: “The Ultimate Fighter 15” winner closed the distance on “The Natural Born Killer,” swallowed him up in the clinch and delivered takedowns at will, the approach ultimately leading to Condit’s demise. Martin extended his run of consecutive victories to three at UFC Fight Night 142, where he put Jake Matthews to sleep with an anaconda choke on Dec. 1.