It seemed a foregone conclusion that after one of the most dramatic and exciting UFC light heavyweight title fights in history, that Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson would be heading to an immediate rematch. Well that all changed with the announcement that “Bones” had opted for Glover Teixeira next and that the UFC was targeting that title fight for Super Bowl weekend in New Jersey.
No doubt, the news had to be a surprise to “The Mauler”, who easily gave the champion his stiffest test and in the process turned in the finest performance of his career. Both fighters showed tremendous heart and determination at UFC 165 and plenty of sportsmanship as well. That included a hospital picture of the two fighters after their fierce battle. Gustafsson has obviously grown tremendously as a fighter since joining Alliance MMA and training with fellow light heavyweight contender, Phil Davis, the only man to have ever beaten him.
Jones has indicated that a rematch with Gustafsson will happen after he takes care of Teixeira, and UFC President Dana White has said that the Swedish star will get a homecoming fight in early 2014. Given that Gustafsson’s stock has never been higher, it would be safe to assume that he would get a top-10 contender in that bout.
One possibility that immediately comes to mind is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The pair had been initially targeted to headline a UFC event in Sweden in April of 2012, but it didn’t materialize when the Brazilian pulled out due to a knee injury. “Lil Nog” is 4-2 with the promotion and occupies the no. 6 slot in the light heavyweight rankings. He’s posted back-to-back wins over Tito Ortiz and most recently bested Rashad Evans at UFC 165. Nogueira had been scheduled to fight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 161, but a back injury scuttled that.
Another name to keep an eye on as a possible opponent is that of Gegard Mousasi. The two had been set to square off in the main event of a card in Sweden back in April, but Gustafsson was forced out of the fight after suffering a cut over his eye while training. Instead “The Dreamcatcher” was forced to take on very late replacement Ilir Latifi and won an easy unanimous decision in his UFC debut.
Mousasi fought the bout with an injured knee and underwent surgery after that fight. He still remains a top-10 light heavyweight and is looking to make a real impression with the organization. A fight against Gustafsson might help Mousasi to do that.
Either Nogueira or Mousasi would shape up as exciting clashes for Gustafsson, and a victory in his homecoming bout against an opponent of high quality would have him well positioned for the Jones rematch — that’s if the champion gets past the hard-hitting Teixeira in early February.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports