Jon Jones may have looked a little rusty after a 15-month layoff, but he still looked like Jon Jones.
Even with a slightly tentative approach, he displayed the well-rounded skillset and fight IQ that has made him a legend by his early 30s. He had a tall task in front of him (literally and figuratively), but he rose to the occasion in a big way.
Jones and Alexander Gustafsson were running back their legendary light heavyweight showdown from five years earlier, with Jones once again being surrounded by controversy. The presence of a trace metabolite from the substance he tested positive for in 2017 was in his system, but this wasn’t enough to get the fight cancelled.
Instead, the promotion packed up and switched locations from Nevada to California, still managing to sell out the venue. Jones was even throwing surprises when it came to his walkout song – a snippet of “We Are the Champions” blared over the arena speakers, only to stop with a record scratch and change to “The Champ Is Here.”
And indeed he was – despite the title being vacant when the bout started, it seemed like Jones knew he would be victorious. With a much smarter game plan this time around, Jones stayed out of the lanky Gustafsson’s boxing range, effectively nullifying a great deal of his offense.
There were a couple of fouls in the early going, including a knee to the groin from Jones and an eye poke from Gustafsson. These accidental infractions aside, the bout was crisp and technical albeit a little slow start. Jones found most of his success early on with leg kicks and elbows, the former stopping Gustafsson’s crafty footwork.
Jones took the first two rounds, then in the third, he turned up the momentum and landed a takedown. On the ground, he stayed in complete control and went for the crucifix position. Gustafsson fought out of it, but ultimately, Jones ended up taking his back. Some heavy ground strikes followed, and shortly after that, the referee called a stop to the bout, with Jones defeating Gustafsson and reclaiming his light heavyweight championship.
In his post-fight interview, Jones thanked the people around him and then called out Daniel Cormier. He questioned why Cormier would give up the title just because Jones returned, wondering if he could really be a true champ-champ if that were the case. Rumors have already swirled about a potential third showdown between the two GOAT contenders.
Jones now surpasses Chuck Liddell for the most wins in the light heavyweight division with 17, and he’s already been getting called out for his next fight. Surging contender Anthony Smith hinted at a potential showdown between the two on the FS1 post-fight show, but Jones’s next move is uncertain.
Despite the controversy surrounding him, Jon Jones is still Jon Jones – and the 205-pound division has been put on notice that the champ is truly here once again.