It’s obvious that the UFC has done its best in letting us know that UFC 165 light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson is actually taller than reigning champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
After seeing Jones dominate smaller opponents in the past, the UFC made the push for the big Swede to get this opportunity after he defeated former champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Gustafsson’s 15-1 record is highly respectable, and he’s won six consecutive bouts. “The Mauler” has nine career knockouts and does possess good striking and footwork.
However, he heads into this matchup as a huge underdog.
Gustafsson’s lone defeat was a first-round submission loss at UFC 112 against current top-five light heavyweight contender Phil Davis. Davis is comparable to Jones in a couple of ways: he has solid length, and he’s shown terrific wrestling skills.
However, Jones is in a class all by himself when it comes to explosiveness and offensive creativity. His ground-and-pound is ferocious with those damaging elbows, and the champ also possesses dynamic submission skills. Gustafsson maintains he’s a different fighter and has learned a great deal since joining Alliance MMA in California after his only loss. Davis is actually one of his training partners.
Whether you like Jones or not (and many fans don’t like the champ for one reason or another), you can’t deny why he is the UFC’s pound-for-pound king.
In his last six fights, all Jones has done is become the youngest UFC champ in history when he dethroned Rua, became the youngest to defend a title successfully against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and then defeated former champions Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort in succession.
His last performance at UFC 159 was a brutal first-round stoppage of Chael Sonnen. The only punishment Jones sustained in that fight was a gruesome dislocation of his left big toe.
Jones is remarkably tactical in utilizing his 84.5-inch reach and combines that with an unorthodox and wide-ranging skill set that features his athleticism and speed. Jones also possesses top-notch wrestling skills. His lone scare during this stretch of brilliance was against Belfort when he was caught in a first-round arm bar in their title fight at UFC 152.
The champ survived that dicey moment and went on to punish the veteran Brazilian en route to a fourth-round submission stoppage.
Gustafsson is talking the talk heading into the fight, seems extremely confident and doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the challenge ahead. He certainly doesn’t need to be reminded that on any given night, any fighter can be beaten. Remember Chris Weidman versus Anderson Silva? It would be interesting if Gustafsson is able to land some solid punches to the jaw of Jones, as the champion gets hit so rarely.
Jones is intent on being the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time and at the age of 26, he’s well on his way to accomplishing that goal.
He will be looking to break the all-time record for most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses at UFC 165, surpassing former UFC great Tito Ortiz. Jones remains highly motivated and is a real student of the game, and he only seems to be getting better under the watchful eye of highly-respected trainer Greg Jackson.
While much of the promotion in advance of this matchup has talked about Jones finally facing someone his own size, “Bones” has shown he has his own intriguing techniques in the standup game.
The final analysis is that Jones is just better in more areas than the challenger. Expect Jones to showcase his brilliance once again on Saturday night in Toronto against Gustafsson, and establish a new record with his sixth straight successful light heavyweight title defense.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports