For all the things Jon Jones can show and do in the octagon -- the spinning back fists, the axe kicks, the front kicks, the wrestling -- it came down to this: his left arm.
Be it a jab or a straight punch or a hook or a lead elbow or just keeping his opponent at bay with his palm, Jones rode that left arm to a successful defense of his light heavyweight title at UFC 172 in Baltimore on Saturday night. Jones won a unanimous decision over Glover Teixeira, with all three judges scoring it 50-45.
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"A lot of it was improv," Jones said. "I realized I was a lot better hand fighter than he was."
If there wasn't such a thing as an elbow jab in mixed martial arts, there might be now. Jones fought at close range and regularly led with a left elbow strike from close range. He doubled it up at times as well, then would mix it up and show an actual left jab from the same position and ankle.
Jones often fights in the space of his opponent's biggest strength to prove a point. This time, it was an unplanned adjustment.
The 6-foot-4 Jones had a nine-inch reach advantage over Teixeira (22-3, 5-1), and he said his plan was to keep Teixeira at a distance and look for takedowns. But something happened early on Saturday night.
"I realized mid-fight he was winding up in his punches," Jones said. "And you can't really wind up when someone is right on top of you, so I switched the game plan up to go extremely short-range and it worked out great."
It was the seventh consecutive title defense for Jones (20-1, 14-1), extending his UFC record for the division.
"I think it was the best performance of his career," UFC president Dana White said. "If he didn't prove it in the [Alexander] Gustafsson fight, he definitely proved it in this fight -- Jones has a chin. He was the youngest light heavyweight champion ever. He's becoming a man right in front of everybody."
Teixeira injured his shoulder during the fight when Jones caught Teixeira's right arm in an overhook and cranked on it. That occured several times during the five-round fights.
"He comes with something different every time," said Teixeira, who landed a number of good uppercuts throughout the fight but left the octagon also with injured ribs and a major cut over his right eye. "He's tough. He took my best shots."
Jones had plenty of praise for Teixeira's performance in the fight.
"He definitely fought his heart out, and to the last second," Jones said. "That guy is a straight beast, he has the heart of a champion for sure."