After meeting in what was the 2013 Fight of the Year, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson are on a crash course to face off again later this year.
Following the first epic clash between the pair, Jones and Gustafsson were expected to meet in an immediate rematch in response to the controversy of Jones retaining his belt. However this bout never materialized as Jones opted for a fight against Chuck Liddell’s understudy, No. 2 ranked contender Glover Teixeira, and Gustafsson took a bout against the hard hitting Jimi Manuwa.
In his first fight following the shot against Jones at UFC 165, some wondered how Gustafsson would respond as he headed into hostile territory to take on an undefeated Manuwa, who had been running through all his opposition. Gustafsson answered all the questions quickly as he took down and controlled Manuwa early, searching for submissions and roughing up the fearsome striker in the first round before taking him out on the feet in the second.
Following the victory, Gustafsson took the center of the cage and called out the champion Jones for a rematch.
Jones answered his rival this past weekend with a resounding win over a dangerous opponent in Teixeira. The champion Jones showed incredible in-fight awareness as he felt an advantage at short range against Glover early on and exploited it beautifully, lighting up the challenger with sharp elbows and uppercuts from in close before the challenger could load up on his powerful punches.
In the wake of Jones defending his title for the seventh consecutive time against the dangerous Teixeira in brilliant fashion, all roads seem to be leading to the rematch of the year, Jones vs Gustafsson II.
Although this time it could be Jones who will be forced to make the hop across the pond. Following Jones’ victory at UFC 172, UFC President Dana White revealed in the post-fight media-scrum that the UFC was considering putting on the rematch between Jones and Gustafsson in Sweden, possibly an outdoor arena.
Jones has seemed reluctant to play the role of the villain in the past, but with the possibility of a 50,000+ live audience in an exploding MMA market, it might not be up to the champ. In the long run this could actually prove beneficial to Jones and his legacy; what better way to definitively end a rivalry than claiming victory on the enemy’s home turf?
Although this is not to say all the pressure would be on Jones, the challenger will be coming into the cage with the weight of his entire home country on his shoulders and a legion of fans who believe he won the first matchup.
This fight will be without a doubt the most significant of either man’s career and possibly in the light heavyweight division’s history, but the prospect of it taking place in an outdoor soccer stadium, presumably the Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm which has the largest capacity in the country, takes it to a whole new level.
Make it happen UFC.