Jon “Bones” Jones, so far the best ever to hold the UFC’s Light Heavyweight title and arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the whole world, is facing the Swedish Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson, number two in the same category, for the second time.
The upcoming bout is a rematch of what the American dubbed “the hardest fight in his entire career” this Sunday, December 30th 2018.
And that is not speaking lightly, given the UFC’s star-studded roster and multitude of top-notch, incredibly accomplished fighters that he had to face in his successful career.
The last encounter
The two first clashed in UFC 165 in September 2013, in an incredibly well-balanced match has become an instant classic of the competition’s history, and arguably one of the bloodiest and most thrilling ever to have taken place in the Octagon. At the time, some in the press went as far as dubbing it “one of the greatest fights in UFC history”.
At the time, Jones had been well into a career that saw him breeze through former champions such as Lyoto Machida and Rampage Jackson, leaving press and fans to wonder if there would be anyone who could match such a perfect mauling machine.
Enter Alexander Gustafsson, former Swedish amateur boxer and rising UFC star. Even if Gustafsson’s record would put him on the level for a title bout, not many would expect anything but another somewhat easy win for Jones. Oh boy, were they wrong.
It was a surprisingly balanced fight, with favourite Jon Jones getting badly cut above the eye in the very first round by an inspired Gustafsson, who went on to become the first fighter to ever take Jones down, making his opponent’s life very hard for the next rounds.
And while previous Jones fights seemed a bit one-sided, this battle went on for the full five rounds to end in a controversial unanimous decision (48–47, 48–47, and 49–46) that saw Jones keeping the belt, and both disfigured fighters heading straight to the hospital to recover from their wounds.
Some commentators went so far as to dispute the result, claiming a 3-2 win for Gustafsson, a fact of which Jones is well aware. Since then, Jones has been eager to prove his superiority once and for all, and MMA fans have been eagerly waiting for a rematch. Well, no more.
The upcoming bout
Set to take place on Sunday, December 30th 2018, during UFC 232, the bout itself is surrounded by controversy, as it’s not the first time that the main event is less focused on the fight itself, but on Jones’ drug test history.
Jones’ history with prohibited substances saw him stripped of his UFC belt twice in the past two years. And now, again he tested positive for the same substance that led to his 15 month suspension, leading to the state of Nevada not granting him permission to fight within its borders.
In a controversial move, the UFC organisation hastily took the fight to Los Angeles, but the change has done little to appease press and fans against yet another episode of un-sportsmanship by Jones.
Even though he said he is happy that the fight is happening, when asked if he believed that Jones is cheating, Gustafsson bluntly replied: “Yes, I do.”
The fight is on, nonetheless, and despite all the controversy, in the end the result will play the decisive role in guiding the narrative of this historical rematch.
Back to win at 1.33
Jones, with a 21-1-0 record, is again favourite to win. His record speaks for itself, with only one (quite controversial) loss in his career. Despite the recurring mishaps in his career, which saw him stripped of the title in three distinct occasions, Jones is still very much alive and kicking.
He excels in pretty much every aspect of fighting, and has the longest strike reach of all categories. He is extremely hard to take down, with the first one to accomplish that feat being, ironically, Gustafsson. He says he has learned his lessons, and is now ready to prove his superiority.
Back to win at 3.43
Gustafsson, a boxing specialist a very impressive 18-4-0 record in his professional career, has one of the best strikes in the category. During their first match, the Swede had many “firsts” against Jones: first time to take him down, the top striker (with nearly double the average strikes) to hit his opponent, and until now the one who got closest to taking the belt (at least while on the octagon).
Perhaps due to his strong boxing background, he is one of the best strikers in the category, a fact that surely won’t be overlooked by Jones this time. His reach is almost a match for Jones’, and that should make the standing game a dangerous one for the defending champion.
What to expect
Both are monsters in the sport. Both are thorough and technical, with wide-reaching strikes (Gustafsson boasting 201cm reach, while Jones sporting a massive 215cm) and excellent ground game. And while past record slightly favours Jones, their last match is proof that Gustafsson just might have what it takes to finally stop the unstoppable Jones.
If records are anything to judge by, this should be an incredibly competitive fight, with two experienced and technical fighters who won’t give up easily.
Jones will likely try to end it as fast as he can, as memories from the last fight should remind him that a grind with Gustafsson can be very painful to say the least.
Gustafsson, on the other hand, should play a more studied game, as Jones had time to learn from his past mistakes, and will likely be more prepared against the Swedes powerful long punches this time.
However it plays out, it will sure be a night to remember, with a lot more thrilling fights - including Women’s Chris Cyborg defending her title against Amanda Nunes, and many more.