Jon ‘Bones’ Jones returned to the UFC and produced a clinical display to beat Alexander Gustafsson and win the vacant light-heavyweight title – then called out old rival Daniel Cormier for a third fight in 2019.
Both American Jones, 31, and Swede Gustafsson, 31, returned to action at UFC 232 in Los Angeles after lengthy lay-offs, but the former world champion looked sharper as he outstruck Gustafsson in the first two rounds.
Jones pushed the pace in the third to take Gustafsson to the mat, take his back and finish the fight with heavy ground strikes.
Jones reclaimed the belt he never lost inside the octagon as he returned to the top of the sport following a turbulent week that saw him under suspicion once again after a pre-fight drug test registered an abnormality stemming from a failed test in July 2017.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) exonerated Jones of any wrongdoing, and UFC head of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said the abnormality was because of a “pulsing effect” following another failed drugs test in 2016.
Despite clarification that Jones was cleared by Usada and would gain no performance-enhancing effect from the metabolite detected, the Nevada State Athletic Commission would not clear him to fight without first holding a hearing to discuss the case.
With no time to wait for such a hearing, the UFC opted to switch the event from Las Vegas to Los Angeles at six days’ notice – a controversial move which was met with significant criticism from fans, fighters and the media.
But the fighters on the card delivered a string of eye-catching performances, with 10 of the 13 bouts – including both world title fights at the top of the card – ending inside the distance.
After his win, Jones turned his attention to his old rival Cormier, who relinquished the title the day before UFC 232 rather than be officially stripped of the belt on fight night.
First, Jones mocked Cormier for relinquishing the title, telling UFC co-commentator Joe Rogan: “I know there’s a guy who’s been calling himself ‘champ champ’.
“I mean, what guy just gives up his belt because somebody else made it home? Daddy’s home, DC.”
Then Jones issued a challenge to current UFC heavyweight champion Cormier to move back down to the light-heavyweight division for a third matchup between the pair at 205lbs.
“Prove to the fans you’re a ‘champ champ’,” he said.
“Come get a taste, I’m here. Get your belt back. I’ll be waiting right here.”
Cormier made a thinly veiled reference to Jones’ past anti-doping indiscretions in his assessment of his performance, tweeting: “Dude starts with a head start every time.”
Although many in the sport feel Jones should step up to face Cormier for the heavyweight title, former Olympic wrestler Cormier hinted that he might be persuaded to move down to 205lbs to challenge Jones for a third time if the drug-testing arrangements were increased.
He tweeted UFC bantamweight champion and co-commentator Dominick Cruz: “You just said outside of all the testing stuff. Is there really stuff outside of the testing? Or we just do more testing and neither of us fail. That would be best case! We do that I’ll be back at 205!!!!!”
Nunes stuns ‘Cyborg’
In the night’s other world title fight, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes spectacularly knocked out featherweight champion Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino in only 51 seconds to become the first female athlete in UFC history to hold two world titles simultaneously.
Victory over her fellow Brazilian means Nunes, 30, has now beaten the three biggest female fighters in UFC history.
Nunes submitted Miesha Tate in the first round to capture the bantamweight title at UFC 200 and knocked out Ronda Rousey in 48 seconds in her first title defence at UFC 207.
Briton Wood shines in early prelims
Earlier in the night, British bantamweight Nathaniel Wood produced an impressive performance to beat American Andre Ewell via third-round rear-naked choke submission.
Former Cage Warriors champion Wood, 25, dominated the first two rounds, before finishing Ewell with 48 seconds remaining to register his second straight victory in the UFC and extend his overall winning streak to seven in a row – all by finish.
Wood used his post-fight interview to request that the UFC give him a hometown fight when the octagon returns to London on March 16, 2019.
Source BBC News