LOS ANGELES -- Seventeen months, one failed drug test and a storm of negative headlines later, Jon Jones is still the UFC light heavyweight king.
Jones (23-1, 1 NC) was able to block out all of the talk regarding his drug history to finish Alexander Gustafsson via third-round TKO in a rematch of their thrilling 2013 title classic. Jones claimed the vacant 205-pound title that was.
The 31-year-old Jones, who was heavily criticized for the UFC's decision to move Saturday's UFC 232 card on just six days' notice from Las Vegas to The Forum in Inglewood following an irregularly in his Dec. 9 drug test, immediately called out his most heated rival after the fight.
"I know there's a guy who has been calling himself 'Champ Champ,'" Jones said. "I mean, what guy just gives up his belt when someone else is home. Daddy is home, DC. Come prove to the man that you are the 'Champ Champ.' I'm here. Come get your belt back. I'm here."
Jones captured the light heavyweight title for the fourth time (he also briefly held the interim title in 2016) after being stripped of the 205-pound crown a record three times due to disciplinary and drug suspensions.
In his first fight since knocking out Cormier in their July 2017 rematch, only for the fight to be ruled a no contest after Jones failed a test for a banned steroid, Jones largely avoided the slugfest that was his decision win over Gustafsson in their first meeting.
In a fight that was much more tactical, Jones worked patiently from the outside to control distance while chipping away at Gustafsson with leg kicks and body shots to open up takedown attempts.
"This is great, this is a great feeling," Jones said. "The main difference is that I was aware of how far away I was at all times. He landed very few punches in my face tonight. I really believe my team is the most dangerous team, especially when we get a rematch."
Gustafsson (18-5) returned from a 19-month layoff of his own and did well in the early going by being the aggressor and stuffing Jones' takedown attempts. But Jones would break through in a big way with a takedown in Round 3 that brought an end to the fight shortly after.
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Jones patiently worked his magic on the ground and eventually took Gustafsson's back before reining down a series of brutal punches and short elbows from behind on his knees until referee Mike Beltran rescued the Swedish fighter at 3:01 of Round 3.
"Alexander Gustafsson, he's the type of guy where if he can get up quick, he does well," Jones said. "But if you can hold him down for more than 30 seconds, you are more than likely going to keep him down. We knew that and the idea was to get back to wrestling and get back to riding time and everything worked out."
Gustafsson came up empty in his third shot at the light heavyweight title and suffered his first defeat since a split-decision title loss to Cormier in 2015.
Cormier, who lost his first meeting with Jones by decision in 2015, has been publicly critical of Jones, UFC and USADA for their handling of Jones, which included giving him a title shot in his first fight back after his suspension was reduced to 15 months from a possible 2-4 years in October.
A trilogy bout between Jones and Cormier remains one of the biggest fights to make in the sport and the continuation of the most intense rivalry in UFC history. In July, Cormier moved up in weight to knock out Stipe Miocic and become just the sixth fighter to hold titles in two divisions and the second to do so simultaneously (Amanda Nunes later joined that club in Saturday's co-main event).
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UFC 232 card/results
Jon Jones (c) def. Alexander Gustafsson via third-round TKO (punches)
via first-round TKO (punches)
via second-round submission (Kimura)
Corey Anderson def. Ilir Latifi via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
via second-round TKO (punches)
Walt Harris def. Andrei Arlovski via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Megan Anderson def. Cat Zingano via first-round TKO (eye injury)
Petr Yan def. Douglas Silva de Andrade via second-round TKO (corner stoppage)
via first-round submission (heel hook)
via third-round TKO (punches)
UFC 232 updates, highlights
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