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Praying for pictures as Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight title

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos


The photo positions beside the octagon at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 165 presented me with a new wrinkle. It was something I had never seen before, rather than photographers standing beside the octagon platform, or sitting, we had a low padded bench. 

The bench is to kneel on, much like the kneelers in church pews.

It was appropiate though, because shooting a fast moving sport through the octagon cage had me praying for a picture.

The fence was a little more of a challenge because it is painted with a black glossy paint which reflects light like crazy and makes an irresistible target for our autofocus cameras.

The solution is to use a combination of autofocus and manual focus.


 Alex Caceres lands a knee on Roland Delorme.

The solution to shooting through the fence, that is solved by shooting with a shallow depth of field or wide open or with a large aperture. We talk about this in a Master Glass tutorial.

You still can see a little bit of the chain-link fence but it doesn't dominate the picture. 

It is funny, there are photographers at the paper who never shot film, digital is all they know.

I'm part of the generation before that where many have always shot auto-focus.

I started with the Minolta Maxxum 7000 which was billed as faster than the human eye, it wasn't.

I was glad the there were 13 bouts on the card which gave us a chance to get used to shooting through fance and aclimatize to shooting the sport.

But I was also a little concerned that 13 bouts might mean a lot of work. I was using boxing as a reference.

Boxing exercises your motordrive, you react to every little move a boxer might make and in a three minute round might have 200-400 pictures to go through. UFC with three five minute rounds on the undercard fights looked like it might produce an avalanche of images. 

I was happy to see that, for the most part, the fighters were not throwing as many punches as a boxer and when they went to the ground our shooting slowed. There was also the quick knock out that kept the clicks low. I averaged about 400 clicks per bour over the first 12 fights.

All this was thrown out the window for the main event between Light Heavey Weight champion Jon Jones and challenger Alexander Gustafsson. Their five round fight, where neither was interested in going to the ground generated about 1,800 clicks. It was also one of the loudest fights I had ever been to.

Before shooting this I called up Rene Johnston who had covered a few previous UFC nights. His advice, bring some sanitizer to clean the blood off yourself between rounds.

The Undercard fights 

Nandor Guelmino of Austria comes to after getting knocked out by Daniel Omielańczuk from Poland  in the third round of their heavyweight bout.

Jesse Ronson tries to get out of the clutches of Michel Prazeres.


John Makdessi from Montreal celebrates his first round knock out of Renee Forte.


The ring girls freshen up while the fight is on.


Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury,Ontario tries to get avoid a foot from Dustin Kimura from Hawaii.


Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury, Ontario celebrates after choking out Dustin Kimura in their Bantamweight bout.


Welterweights Chris Clements from London Ontario and Stephen Thompson from South Carolina grapple along the octagon cage.


Wilson Reis from Philadephia takes Ivan Menjivar from Montreal to the ground in a Bantamweight bout.


 Lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov from Russia bloodied Pat Healy from Portland.


Lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov from Russia celebrates his win against Pat Healy from Portland.


Middleweight Francis Carmontat from Montreal takes down Costa Philippou from Long Island.


Georges St. Pierre shouts instructions to Middleweight Francis Carmontat.


 Heavyweight Brendan Schaub from Venice Beach lays a punch and later wins by submission over Matt Mitrione from Boca Raton.


Heavyweight Brendan Schaub from Venice Beach wins by submission over Matt Mitrione from Boca Raton.


Bantamweight Renan Barão from Brazil retains his interim title with a knock out via spinning back kick to Eddie Wineland.


Bantamweight Renan Barão from Brazil retains his interim title with a knock out via spinning back kick to Eddie Wineland from Indiana.


The main event - warning, things get a little bloody

Light Heavyweight Jon Jones makes his way to the ring to defend his Light Heavyweight title.


Jon Jones waits for the bout to start.


Alexander Gustafsson isn't winking at the referee, he is reacting after getting poked in the eye.


Alexander Gustafsson eludes Jon Jones.


Light Heavyweight Jon Jones retains his Light Heavyweight title against  Swede Alexander Gustafsson.


Alexander Gustafsson lands a blow on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


Jon Jones bleeds.


Light Heavyweight Jon Jones clashes with Swede Alexander Gustafsson.


He might be the Swede that Don Cherry would love! Alexander Gustafsson draws more blood from Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


Alexander Gustafsson lands an elbow on Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


Alexander Gustafsson, who started the fight as a blonde, is a red head in the last round against Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


An exhausted Jon Jones celebrates after time runs out in the match.


Light Heavyweight Jon Jones retains his Light Heavyweight title against a disappointed Alexander Gustafsson. The score cards had Jones at 48-47, 49-46 and 48-47.


My only other bloody sport experience was Ana Julaton getting bloodied by Mary Brown at Rama in 2010.




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