The end of the month is rapidly approaching and with it UFC 165, and Jon Jones’s sixth defense of his light-heavyweight title.
This time up, Jones will face Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson in a bout that many are touting as the first real test for the champion.
As Jones has blown through every opponent that he has faced, much has been made of Jones’s height and reach advantage, and the fact that no fighter in the division can match it or has been able to breach its defenses. However, in the case of Gustafsson, not only is he the equal of Jones in terms of size, he’s actually an inch taller and as such, many believe that Alexander has the frame and height to match the champion.
That said the tall Swede still has a number of hurdles to cross in terms of dealing with the champion.
First amongst those hurdles is Jones’s 6 inch reach advantage over Gustafsson. Taller or not, the Mauler still has to breach that formidable gap and in attempting to do so, he’ll have to enter the champ’s dynamic wheelhouse and subsequently, pay for every inch of Jones’s reach that he tries to nullify.
Secondly, Gustafsson will have to deal with the champ’s incredible wrestling and takedown defense. Bones is a very skilled grappler and has defeated every formidable wrestler that he’s come up against, and where he’s exhibited the skills to take others down, Jones himself, has never been taken down and as such, has a 100% takedown defense record. On the other hand, Gustafsson is less polished in this area and is apt not to be up to Jones’s level.
Thirdly, Jones has the experience advantage. As the champ has faced literally the best of the best at 205 and only (just) recently ran off a string of 5 consecutive victories over former UFC champions, he’s quite literally seen it all and probably won’t be surprised by anything Gustafsson brings to the Octagon.
Finally, whether on the feet or on the ground, Jones has demonstrated that he’s an absolute beast and a nightmare to deal with. In the twelve fights he’s had (I refuse to recognize his DQ loss to Matt Hamill) Jones has managed to sustain a 75% finish rate and again, against the best talent the UFC could throw at him. For his part, Gustafsson has managed a similar 71% finish rate in his 7 victories; 62% if we factor in his one loss, to Phil Davis. Either way and at least on paper, the Mauler stands up to Bones, but again, he’s done it against lesser talent.
In synopsis, I think it would be fair to say that Gustafsson is a decent challenge for Jones, but not a test the champion is apt to fail. Although talented and tough, Alexander will probably prove too inexperienced for Jones.
The other big fight on the September 21rst card is a very interesting bout between interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland. This will be Barao’s second defense of his interim title and Barao will be motivated to hang onto the strap, in an effort to be the guy Dominic Cruz faces when he returns from injury; hopefully early next year. Since coming into the promotion in 2011, Barao has won 5 fights in a row, has looked very impressive and has demonstrated not only well-rounded skills, but also incredible cardio and a frenetic pace in the Octagon.
On the other hand, Wineland, who’s 2 & 2 in the UFC, has been more of a hit-and-miss. On occasion he’s looked great, but at the same time, he’s taken a loss to Uriah Faber (a fighter Barao owned when he fought him) and a loss to Joseph Benavidez; two big tests he failed. As such, one has to wonder whether or not he’ll be up to the difficult test of Renan Barao. That said, Wineland has cardio, a solid wrestling and ground game, KO power, is tough and also sets a good pace in a fight. As such, the #4 ranked Wineland is one of the few fighters in the division who might have a legitimate shot at upsetting the interim belt holder.
All-in-all, the Toronto bound card looks to be a decent event and certainly one with solid main & co-main, bouts; here’s the UFC’s extended preview for the two bouts.