Fight of the year: Jones-Gustafsson
January, 4, 2014
By Brett Okamoto
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAlexander Gustafsson gave light heavyweight champ Jon Jones all he could handle for five rounds.Let's be real, none of us had Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson on our short list for potential fight of the year candidates, right?
Oddsmakers saw it as a mismatch, pegging Jones about an 8-to-1 betting favorite. The UFC's marketing strategy heading into the fight basically consisted of telling everyone how long Gustafsson's limbs were.
Jones, in one of the more ironic moves of the year, walked to the Octagon on Sept. 21 in a shirt that read "Not quite human." Looking back now, of course, maybe Jones was tempting the Fight Gods with that one, but at the time it felt pretty much true.
That's one reason this is, easily, the right choice for ESPN.com's fight of the year. So is the fact that somebody finally made Jones, the UFC's light heavyweight champion, look human in 2013.
It's not as if Jones' career had been nothing but uncontested layups to that point -- he just made plenty of his fights look that way. It was great to see the 26-year-old tested over the course of a full five rounds.
That's not the only reason, though. Some suggested that because the expectation was for Jones to run through Gustafsson, when it didn't happen we were so shocked. Everybody kind of freaked out a little bit.
There might be some truth to that, but at the end of the day this was just an incredible fight. Regardless of who was involved or who we thought would win, the fight itself was competitive, technical, back-and-forth and contested for a world title.
Was it the best fight in UFC history? That's a near-impossible question to answer, even though plenty of observers called it that immediately after. It's far easier to call it the best fight of 2013, which it undoubtedly was.
No. 2: Gilbert Melendez UD Diego Sanchez, UFC 166
UFC president Dana White was so excited about this lightweight fight, he got out of his seat and literally ran around the cage. That happened.
No. 3: Mark Hunt NC Antonio Silva, UFC Fight Night 33
A post-fight failed drug test by Silva puts a sour aftertaste on this heavyweight bout (originally ruled a majority draw), but you still have to admire what these two gave in this one -- everything they had.
No. 4: Eddie Alvarez SD Michael Chandler, Bellator 106
The rematch was just as good as the first meeting, setting up what will surely be a highly anticipated trilogy bout. These two were made for each other.
No. 5: Dennis Bermudez SD Matt Grice, UFC 157
Voted the fight of the midyear by ESPN.com, Bermudez went back and forth for three rounds and nearly stole the show on a historic night for the UFC -- the debut of Ronda Rousey.