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What's at Stake
The UFC's light heavyweight title: Long established as the most prestigious title in MMA, it's an immediate star-maker for anyone able to win it.
Jones, who has defended the title five times in a row since winning the belt from Mauricio Rua in 2011, is fighting for legacy. He's already historically the best fighter in the weight class despite being just 26. Every win makes the debate over the best of all time, one that features Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, just a little murkier.
For Gustafsson, this is the chance of a lifetime. Jones has run through the cream of the crop in the division. No one expects the young Swede, also 26 years old, to be able to compete with Jones' superlative wrestling.
But Gustafsson has won six in a row for a reason. He's at the absolute apex of his ability. If he's ever going to reign, it's got to be right now. In the UFC, there are not always second chances.
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It's hard to find anyone who feels worthy of Jones. He's looked vulnerable only momentarily, like when Vitor Belfort surprised him with an armbar from the guard. Otherwise, he's been unchallenged as champion.
Gustafsson has looked amazing since he lost to his now-teammate Phil Davis back in 2010. At that point, wrestling was a real weakness, as Davis proved. With diligent work and training with Davis and coach Eric Del Fierro at Alliance, Gustafsson has improved remarkably in this area.
Yet, at no moment in his six-fight win streak did I see anything that would make me suspect he can challenge Jones. But that said, he's earned the opportunity. I guess Gustafsson has the same chance as anyone else—slim.
Jones is a walking highlight film. Gustafsson, if he wins, will likely do so by knockout. Don't blink.
"I'm so motivated," Gustafsson told Bleacher Report. "I want that belt. I'm hungry, I want the fight. That's what I've been dreaming of since I started this."
Gustafsson is a great young fighter. But nothing I've seen from him convinces me he isn't going to be taken down and smashed by Jones. At this point I can't imagine myself picking against Jones. He's simply too good, too young and too smart. This is the best fighter in MMA history in his prime. Enjoy him.
(Jones, ground-and-pound, Round 2)