UFC 165 Preview: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
By Jaime C. Feal
Two title fights headline a very solid PPV card tomorrow night, live from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Renan Barao looks to continue his dominance of the bantamweight division in the absence of the injured Dominick Cruz. He will take on Eddie Wineland, who has been on a tear of late and possesses dangerous power and speed in his hands. The main event is an enormous fight between pound for pound stalwart Jon “Bones” Jones and Swedish contender Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson. Should Jones successfully defend his title, he will have defended the light heavyweight strap for a record six straight times, and the discussion will begin whether he can eclipse Anderson Silva’s overall record of 10 straight title defenses.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub (9-3, 5-3 UFC) vs. Matt Mitrione (6-2, 6-2 UFC)
A matchup of two veterans from the same season of The Ultimate Fighter, both these heavyweights are extremely exciting to watch, and love to stand and exchange punches. Brendan Schaub is a former Golden Gloves boxing champ, and likes to go for power in his punches. Mitrione, a former NFL football player, employs a very unorthodox style, using very fast movement for a heavyweight, and quick, accurate punches.
When a power puncher meets someone with better movement and more accurate punches, the latter usually wins. However, this is not a straight up boxing match, and Schaub possesses the better ground game and jiu-jitsu. As we saw in Mitrione’s last fight, of course, his hips are freakishly strong, as he literally knocked his opponent out by simply stuffing the takedown coming forward with his hips like the former NFL defensive lineman that he is. With Schaub unable to get the fight to the mat, expect Mitrione to use his rapidly improving stand-up to pick Schaub apart en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Matt Mitrione wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship (135 lbs.):
Renan Barao (30-1, 5-0 UFC) vs. Eddie Wineland (20-8-1, 2-2 UFC)
In fairness, Dominick Cruz has been on the sidelines for so long that Renan Barao should not be just the interim bantamweight champ, but the true UFC bantamweight champ as well. Barao has been ultra impressive in the past two years, taking out the likes of Uriah Faber and Michael “Mayday” McDonald. The well-rounded Brazilian is equally dangerous on the feet as he is on the ground, as the talented striker possesses a black belt in jiu jitsu from the heralded Nova Uniao camp.
Barao will take on the somewhat one-dimensional Eddie Wineland, who has found success employing a Chuck Liddell type style: Use wrestling in reverse to keep the fight standing, and hunt for knockouts with vicious punches. This style has been working for him and been very exciting for the fans, likely earning Wineland the title shot. The problem for Wineland is that Barao is a master of employing game plans and staying patient.
In this fight Wineland will no doubt start out guns-a-blazin’. He will be looking to catch Barao with one of his nasty combos and turn his lights out quick. Barao will be ready for this, and will stay methodical and patient, looking for his opportunities to counter while also mixing in leg kicks, something that is missing from Wineland’s game. Then, in the championship rounds as Wineland’s punches lose some of their muster and his takedown defense some of its vigor, Barao will take the fight to the ground and use his excellent submission skills to tap out Wineland, who will be in far over his head on the mat.
Prediction: Renan Barao wins by submission, Round 4.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (205 lbs.):
Jon “Bones” Jones (18-1, 12-1 UFC) vs. Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (15-1, 7-1 UFC)
Alexander Gustafsson is being billed as a new type of contender to Jones’ crown, as he equals him in height and comes close to Jones’ massive reach. Gustafsson is also a skilled striker who is fast on his feet, using excellent movement to set up good counter strikes. What he faces in Jones will be by far the biggest challenge of his life, as he takes on a supremely confident and well-rounded martial artist in “Bones.”
Jones has been on an absolute tear ever since he entered the sport, and the “loss” on his record is really just the result of a questionable DQ for a 12-to-6 elbow against Matt Hamill. What we have in Bones is something we’ve never seen before in MMA: A man-child hailing from a super athletic family (Jones has two brothers who play in the NFL) who evolves rapidly with every fight. In his bout against Rashad Evans, Jones employed an amazing jab-like standing elbow, using his reach to elbow Rashad in the face from distance. Jones has all the tools though, whether it’s his incredible wrestling base, his powerful, creative striking, or his devastating choke-hold submissions. The way he put Lyoto Machida to sleep with a standing guillotine was downright scary, and Jones always seems to be finding new ways to improve himself.
Gustafsson simply cannot go to the ground with Jon Jones. “The Mauler” is a very skilled striker, but his submission defense may be his Achilles heel, as Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis proved when he kimura’d him with only one arm. If Jones were smart, he would simply take Gustafsson down fast, and begin unloading his vicious elbows and ground-and-pound, ultimately looking for a submission finish. Jones, however, is so confident these days he is on the borderline of cocky, and all the talk between himself and Gustafsson over who has the better stand-up may get him into an ego contest.
Expect this fight to mostly be a stand-up war, as Jones allows Gustafsson to fight where he feels most comfortable. Nevertheless, Jones will prove why he is one of, if not the best in the sport, when he out-strikes Gustafsson on his way to a stoppage victory, becoming the first man to KO “The Mauler.”
Prediction: Jon “Bones” Jones wins by KO, Round 3.UFC 165 Preview: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson