Jon Jones Faces Legitimate Threat in Alexander Gustafsson

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Jon Jones Faces Legitimate Threat in Alexander Gustafsson
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On Sep. 21, 2013, reigning Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones will face rising star Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. The event will be held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada, where Jones previously defeated Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida, respectively.

It may take an actual defeat for Jones to be viewed as anything but the heavy favorite, but Gustafsson is a legitimate threat to Bones' crown.

Jones has defeated some of the top fighters in the world, including Belfort, Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson, Machida and Chael Sonnen. He's 18-1, and the only loss he's ever experienced was a result of a disqualification for using an illegal 12-to-6 elbow on Matt Hamill.

Just don't think Gustafsson is an unworthy competitor.

As you can see in the video provided above, the man can fight.

Gustafsson has grown as a fighter over the past three years, developing into one of the better in-ring performers in the UFC. Defeating Jones will take a monumental effort, but that doesn't mean the Swedish star can't do it.

Keep in mind, he's already proven his worth against the ranks of the elite.

Since losing to Phil Davis at UFC 112, Gustafsson has gone from one of MMA's best strikers to an all-around competitor. He's improved his wrestling, working with Davis, and has even developed an understanding for submissions.

As a result, he's won six consecutive fights.

Gustafsson's past four wins have come against Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko, Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua. To begin this impressive four-fight stretch, he became just the second person to knock out Hamill, with UFC legend Rich Franklin serving as the other.

Gustafsson also joined Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and, you guessed it, Jon "Bones" Jones as the only men to have knocked out Matyushenko.

In his most recent fights, Gustafsson defeated two of the world's best in Rua and Silva. Silva is undeniably controversial, but that doesn't discredit his lethal ability in the ring, nor does it take away from the significance of Gustafsson's victory.

It was an impressive unanimous decision that truly set him on his title path.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rua, meanwhile, was the UFC light heavyweight champion as recently as March of 2011, before losing it to Jones. Following in the footsteps of the reigning champion, Gustafsson defeated Shogun, winning yet another unanimous decision affair.

Just like that, we had ourselves a title contender.

Defeating the reigning champion will be an entirely different animal, as the pressure and competitor is unlike anything Gustafsson has previously faced. Jones has a powerful case for being recognized as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and this is Gustafsson's first title fight.

With that being said, this isn't just a low-profile opponent who Jones can afford to overlook. Gustafsson is a legitimate threat.

Again, Jones remains the favorite to win this fight, and rightfully so. Outside of Georges St-Pierre and perhaps Jose Aldo, there isn't a fighter in the world who rivals Jones for the title of the best pound-for-pound competitor.

Just don't think that makes him untouchable.

Gustafsson is an aggressive striker who has a penchant for attacking early and overwhelming his opponent. This approach may be dangerous, but it's also what has taken the Swedish striker this far to begin with.

Jones is the rational favorite, but Gustafsson has every skill necessary to bring him down.

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