UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2: Predictions and Picks
For over a decade now it’s been somewhat of a tradition for the UFC to sign the year off with a big show – from Liddell vs. Ortiz in 2006 and Lesnar vs. Overeem in 2011 to Silva vs. Weidman in 2013 and Rousey vs. Nunes in 2016 – and it looks like 2018 is going to be no exception.
UFC 232 takes place on Saturday 29th December from The Forum in Inglewood,California and we’ve got two huge title fights scheduled, as well as a pretty packed undercard. With two of the biggest stars in the sport – Jon Jones and Cris Cyborg – at the top of the card and big stars like BJ Penn, Andrei Arlovski and Cat Zingano on the prelims, this should be a box office hit too.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2.
#1 Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Well, it’s been a long time coming. Jones and Gustafsson first faced off in September 2013 with Jones’ Light-Heavyweight title on the line, and what seemed like a routine title defence for ‘Bones’ soon turned into a trench war, with Gustafsson almost prising the title away from him only to fall to a late rally and come up short on the judges’ scorecards.
The fight was a consensus choice for Fight of the Year, and many fans actually felt Gustafsson deserved the nod. After the Swede picked up a win over Jimi Manuwa – and Jones defeated Glover Teixeira in another title defence – the rematch was booked for September 2014’s UFC 178. But of course, it didn’t happen – Gustafsson got hurt, Daniel Cormier stepped in, and then ‘The Mauler’ lost to Anthony Johnson in early 2015.
From there it’s been a pretty convoluted path to this fight, with Gustafsson losing in another title fight to Cormier, but winning against Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira, and Jones being stripped of his title twice for various infractions including two busts for positive PED tests. To add more confusion, this fight is for the vacant Light-Heavyweight title, as the UFC have stripped Daniel Cormier to allow him to focus purely on his Heavyweight title reign. Whew.
In all honesty, it’s tricky to see how this one will go down because things have changed so much since that first meeting. Both men remain largely the same fighters in terms of their skill-set, but they’ve had long layoffs to contend with; Gustafsson hasn’t fought since his May 2017 victory over Teixeira due to injuries and contract issues, while Jones has obviously been suspended since July 2017.
For me, there are more question marks around Jones, though. Gustafsson looked fantastic during that fight with Teixeira, using his knowledge of range and distance to abuse the Brazilian with jabs and uppercuts, and while he was suffering from an existing back injury in his fight with Blachowicz, he showed some solid wrinkles in his wrestling game, taking the Pole down and using his ground-and-pound for the victory – although worryingly, Blachowicz tagged him numerous times on the feet.
Jones on the other hand obviously looked brilliant in his fight with Cormier; he worked through some adversity as Cormier caught him cleanly on a few occasions, largely outwrestled the Olympian, and picked away at him using his range until the third round head kick that ended the fight. But of course, post-fight he tested positive for the banned steroid turinabol.
It was Jones’ second positive test for a banned substance – ignoring his cocaine issue in 2015 – and in all honesty, that simply has to bring his great run from 2010 to 2015 into question. Could ‘Bones’ have been cheating throughout his UFC career? Nobody knows for sure, but it’s entirely possible; USADA only started working with the UFC in 2015 and since then, Jones is one of the only fighters to test positive twice.
If that’s the case, then who knows how Jones will look coming back from his latest suspension, assuming he’s clean? Add in the fact that he’s been out of action for well over a year, and is coming back to face a man who, stylistically, is still probably his toughest fight in the division, and I just don’t know if we’re about to see the “old” Jon Jones.
Gustafsson has fewer questions around him, but obviously, it’s still a difficult fight for him. He knows he came close to beating Jones in 2013, but a lot has happened since then – most notably his knockout loss to Johnson and a string of pretty serious injuries. And he’s been on the shelf for even longer than Jones.
I’d love to pick Gustafsson here, but I’m just not sure that I can justify the pick – he had a lot of success against Jones last time with his takedown defense and rangy striking style, but still came up slightly short. While he’s improved slightly since then, Jones seems to have another level in his arsenal – the level he used to tear the sway of the fightback from Gustafsson in 2013 and the level he unleashed on Cormier last summer – and it’s near impossible to pick against him.
Barring something out of the ordinary happening – as in, Jones coming in seriously depleted – I think ‘Bones’ wins this one via decision.
The Pick: Jones via unanimous decision