INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It took a last-minute change of venue and a debatable response to a drug-test result to get there, but Jon Jones is once again UFC light heavyweight champion.
Jones, coming off the second United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension of his career, absolutely manhandled Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC 232 on Saturday night at The Forum to claim the vacant belt.
The rematch of one of the greatest fights in UFC history wasn’t nearly as competitive as their first encounter, as Jones was rarely challenged before turning things on in the third round and finishing the job. The time of the TKO finish was 2:02.
“God, this is great,” Jones said. “This is a great feeling.”
Jones set the tone in the opening round, as he punished Gustafsson with brutal leg kicks and cracked him with sharp hands any time Gustafsson tried to close the distance.
In the second, Gustafsson landed a nasty eye poke which caused a stoppage as the doctor was brought into the cage. Jones was cleared to return by the doctor, and Gustafsson did his best to take advantage in the fight’s closest round. But that wasn’t enough, as Jones’ violent kicks kept Gustafsson from getting much untracked.
In the third, Jones took over, continuing with his kicks, scoring a takedown, continuously improving his position, and then finishing things off from back mount with a series of brutal punches.
The bout finished an extraordinary series of events over the past week. Jones, who had been UFC light heavyweight champion from 2011-15, was tipped of it due to legal woes. Daniel Cormier won the vacant belt in his absence.
Jones was supposed to fight Cormier at UFC 200, but was suspended the week of the fight due to a USADA violation. Jones and Cormier fought when Jones returned at UFC 214 in July, 2017, but Jones failed another test, and Jones’ knockout victory was overturned to a no-contest.
Jones was coming off his second suspension, but the Nevada Athletic Commission, which was overseeing a bout scheduled for Las Vegas, did not license Jones due to questions about a recent drug test, prompting the UFC to move the fight to California on six days’ notice.
Heavyweight champion Cormier, who was set to be stripped of the light heavyweight belt on Saturday, announced Friday he was voluntarily relinquishing the championship.
With the victory, Jones (23-1, 1 NC) has now won 15 in a row.
Gustafsson (18-5) had a two-fight win streak snapped. He’s now lost three challenges for the light heavyweight title. In addition to Saturday night’s loss, he also suffered a decision loss to Jones at UFC 165 in an all-time classic fight; and a split decision to Cormier in another thriller at UFC 192.