Jon Jones went from pound-for-pound the best fighter inside the octagon to just plain pounded.
Jones took a beating, the worst one of his record reign, in a bout against Alexander Gustafsson that knocked the light heavyweight champion on the canvas for the first time in his career and put his belt in jeopardy.
Looking as human and humbled as ever, Jones wouldn’t let his hard-earned championship slip away easily and gutted out another title defence – a UFC record sixth straight – that set up him up to find another challenger of the month.
Enter Glover Teixeira. Teixeira boasts a whopping 20-bout winning streak that dates nine years and is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bader.
Jones (19-1) and Teixeira (22-2) fight in the main event of UFC 172 Saturday night when the promotion makes its debut in Baltimore.
Phil Davis fights Anthony Johnson in the other headline bout.
Jones, one of UFC’s biggest active pay-per-view draws, won a unanimous decision against Gustafsson at UFC 165 in September. Gustafsson cut the champion at the right eye midway through the first round. And with a minute left, he took Jones down for the first time in the champion’s UFC career.
Jones said he knew he was as close as ever to dropping the belt.
“I realised I needed to switch up my strategy and begin improvising a little bit more, and that’s what I did,” he said. “I think with Gus I was trying to fight like a technical kick boxing match and I think I was losing at that. I just had to switch my style up and start flowing a little better and start winging things, making up, creating, and finding new openings.”
He found enough of them to escape and put his name in the record book.
With the win, Jones passed UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz’s light heavyweight mark of five straight successful title defences. After beating Shogun Rua on March 20, 2011 to win the belt, Jones went on to defeat Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Gustafsson.
He beat all but Evans and Gustafsson during the streak via TKO or submission, and three times earned UFC fight of the night honours. Known as “Bones,” Jones said it’s time to return to his dominant form to keep the streak going.
“I’m totally prepared to fight for five rounds, but my goal in this fight is to dominate the fight in a way that no one seen possible,” he said. Domination is in my psychology. It’s the way I train. It’s the way I eat. It’s the way I visualise. It’s the way I believe.
“If I don’t dominate the fight, I’ll still be happy with the victory. But domination is what I’m planning on.”
Teixeira, the No 2 title contender, is 5-0 since jumping to UFC but an underdog in the fight of his life.
“My strategy against Jon Jones is simple, go out there and be myself and knock this guy out,” he said. “I’ve been training my whole life for this.”
Jones, a former college wrestler and the brother of two NFL players, nearly suffered a broken arm in his win over Belfort and broke a toe against Sonnen. Winning while hurt, then turning around the Gustafsson bout in the final two rounds, proved to Jones he can win under any circumstances.
“After that Gustafsson fight, I’m even more confident in my will,” he said. “I know I have a lot of will. I know that I’m armed with that going into this battle on Saturday night.
Jones has two brothers in the NFL, including Arthur, a Super Bowl champion with the Ravens who now plays for the Colts. Arthur Jones will be at Baltimore Arena with some of his former teammates rooting on his brother for the feel of a hometown advantage.
“They supported our family while he was here and that’s why I wanted to fight here,” Jon Jones said. “I hope his leaving doesn’t change anything because I still love the fans and the support they have given to me and our family.”
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