Jon Jones took the vacant UFC light-heavyweight title with a third-round TKO of Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson.
Jones, who was fighting for the first time since serving a 15-month doping ban, had the edge against the Mauler over the first two rounds but neither fighter was able to assert dominance over the other.
But the American was able to secure a takedown in the third, struck Gustafsson with elbows and landed more than a half dozen blows before a stoppage was called.
The second meeting of Jones and Gustafsson – Jones won their first encounter at UFC 165 by decision – was due to take place in Las Vegas, but it was switched to Los Angeles at the 11th hour after an abnormality in a pre-fight drug test from Jones.
After the fight, Jones called out Daniel Cormier who relinquished the belt saying: “What guy just gives up his belt because someone else made it home?
Meanwhile, Amanda Nunes became the first woman to hold a strap in two weight classes after an overhand right saw her knock out Cris Cyborg.
It was the first time that Cyborg, who held the featherweight belt, had been knocked out with her only other MMA loss coming via submission in her first career fight in 2005.
Nunes, bantamweight champion, started out the stronger of the two women, landing heavy haymakers from the get go and knocked her opponent out inside 51 seconds.
In the early preliminary fights, London-based bantamweight Nathaniel Wood knocked down opponent Andre Ewell before submitting him at 4:12 in the third.
Wood’s rear-naked choke saw him improve to 15-3, his last defeat coming in February 2016.
An abnormality in a pre-fight drug test collected from Jon Jones has forced UFC 232 to be moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reported it found an “extremely low level” steroid metabolite (DHCMT) in a urine sample taken on December 9, the same prohibited substance the American tested positive for in July last year that led to a 15-month retroactive suspension.
The USADA ruled the sample was consistent with residual effects from his prior exposure and Jones obtained no performance enhancement, and therefore would not be sanctioning the former light heavyweight champion.
But a licensing issue in Nevada meant the card – including Jones’ championship shot against Alexander Gustafsson – would be moved from the T-Mobile Arena to The Forum in California, UFC president Dana White told ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Jeff Novitzky, UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance, said the Nevada State Athletic Commission did not have the time to fully investigate the issue ahead of the December 30 bout, but Jones could be granted a licence in California.
In the announcement to the sports programme, Novitzky said: “Both USADA and worldwide anti-doping experts told us this was not a re-ingestion of a prohibited substance, it was remaining effects from the July 2017 positive test – for which he was already sanctioned.”
In a statement, the USADA said: “The level reported was at approximately 60 pg/mL and there was no parent drug or other metabolites of the drug in his sample. As a result of these findings, USADA has determined that Mr Jones is not facing a violation per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.”
Jones’s victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 in Anaheim, California, in 2017 was recorded as a no-contest and the UFC stripped him of the championship belt.
Conor McGregor was beaten on his UFC return as Khabib Nurmagomedov delivered a career-best display – but the Russian was seemingly the instigator of a post-fight melee.
McGregor was making his comeback to mixed martial arts after a near two-year hiatus but he submitted to his rival’s rear-naked choke midway through the fourth round at UFC 229 in Las Vegas.
Watch picture highlights of the bout below: