On Saturday (Dec. 29) night, former longtime UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones (22-1-1) will make his highly anticipated return to action in the main event of UFC 232 from The Forum in Inglewood, California in a long-awaited rematch against Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (18-4) for the vacant 205-pound title.
Despite being among the greatest fighters of all-time, the 31-year-old Jones has often had issues outside of the cage including legal issues in addition to drug testing issues. The issue that most recently sidelined him was a failed drug test surrounding his July 2017 title fight against Daniel Cormier.
Jones ended up winning the fight via third-round TKO, but it was later revealed that he tested positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol in a pre-fight drug test. The American’s win was then changed to a no-contest and he was suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for 15 months.
And although Jones will indeed be fighting this week, controversy has still seemed to surround him. This week, it was revealed that UFC 232 would be moved from Las Vegas to California because of a drug test sample Jones submitted on Dec. 9.
Though USADA deemed that it was not due to a new ingestion of the substance but that it stemmed from the original failed test in 2017. Per ESPN, the test “showed the presence of the same long-term M3 metabolite for which Jones tested positive in July 2017.” So the show will go on and Jones is cleared to take on his rival once again.
The rematch between Jones and Gustafsson undoubtedly represents one of the very best fights that 2018 has had to offer. The two met for the first time back at UFC 165 in 2013. There, Jones earned the victory but it was arguably the toughest fight of his career and many still consider it to be the best light heavyweight title fight of all-time.
From a physical standpoint, few match up better with Jones than Gustafsson. Standing six foot, five inches and holding a 79-inch reach, the 31-year-old Swede has the ability to combat the height and length of Jones, who stands an inch shorter at six foot, four inches and owns an 85.5-inch reach.
Stylistically, the two also match up quite well. Despite a disqualification loss and a no-contest, Jones has been dominant for the majority of his career, repeatedly outclassing and beating former world champions and the best that his division has had to offer.
On the feet, the Jackson-Wink MMA product is an incredibly creative striker and he uses his length and reach to gauge distance and keep his opponents at bay. Often mixing it up, Jones uses a variety of different strikes and angles to land shots. He also possesses a bit of power as nine of his victories have come by way of T/KO.
In terms of grappling, Jones is a former Junior College All-American wrestler and he’s complemented that with a well-rounded submission attack as six of his victories have come via submission.
Moving onto Gustafsson, The Mauler is known for his tremendous boxing skills. A former amateur boxing champion, Gustafsson moves effortlessly for a man of his size, stringing together combinations with great fluidity which he showed in his first bout against Jones where he was able to bloody up the ex-champion.
On the mat, Gustafsson has drastically improved his wrestling ability over the years, specifically after he lost to Phil Davis in 2010. This betterment was on full display at UFC 165 where he defended almost all of Jones’ takedowns (thwarting 10 of 11 attempts), in addition to becoming the first man to take down Bones.
And while Gustafsson isn’t known primarily for his submission game, he has shown the skills needed to handle himself on the ground, owning three submission victories to his name, all the while only being submitted once.
Looking at how the rematch may play out, Jones has often discussed the fact that he didn’t take Gustafsson nor his training serious the first time around which may have played a role in his performance.
A case of ring rust may cause some concern for anybody rooting for Jones as he hasn’t been too active over the last few years, away from the cage for nearly 17 months now. But it’s also important to remember that Gustafsson has yet to compete in 2018 and fought just once the year before that.
Ultimately, if both men are on their A-games, a tilt as competitive as their first wouldn’t at all be surprising. I do, however, feel as if Jones may simply be too much for Gustafsson to handle and I expect him to outwit and outpoint The Mauler on his way to another decision victory.
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