Jon "Bones" Jones is set to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson on Saturday night at UFC 165, and although Jones has been installed as a significant favorite, he'll need to be wary of his skilled, Swedish opponent.
With a career record of 18-1 and nine straight victories to his credit, Jones is considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by many. Gustafsson is on a hot streak in his own right, though, and he should pose a very difficult challenge to Jones at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Here is some further analysis on the biggest keys that Jones must take into account in order to extend his winning streak and take care of Gustafsson.
Get Gustafsson on the Mat
One of Jones' best attributes is his versatility, as he can beat his opponents in any number of ways. While winning by knockout seems to be his preference, as half of his wins have ended that way, Jones is also a very proficient submission fighter. Jones has won six times via submission over the course of his MMA career, and he has submitted his opponent in three of his past five bouts.
The lone blemish on Gustafsson's record came back in 2010 as Phil Davis defeated him via an anaconda choke. Gustafsson has been perfect aside from that, but it goes to show that he is susceptible to tapping out. There is a lot on the line for Jones in this fight, as a victory would give him the most light heavyweight title defenses, according to UFC Tonight, so he'll pull out all the stops to come away with a victory.
Gustafsson prefers to brawl due to his size, and while Jones can definitely do that as well, he clearly has a major advantage over Gustafsson when it comes to mat wrestling. Gustafsson isn't overly comfortable in that regard, as he has won just three fights via submission. Even if Jones can't get Gustafsson to submit, he'll impress the judges if he can neutralize the big Swede.
Refrain from Trading Punches
Jones has scored some highly impressive knockouts over the course of his career, and while UFC fans would love to see another one on Saturday, Jones is best off staying away from that type of fight. Jones usually has a huge advantage over his opponents when it comes to trading punches due to his 6'4" frame, but Gustafsson is 6'5" and has a long enough reach to go toe-to-toe with Jones, whereas most of Jones' past challengers couldn't.
Jones still has a reach advantage despite the fact that Gustafsson is taller, but all nine of his knockouts have come by way of punches, and punching isn't necessarily Jones' strongest suit. Although it isn't exactly a weakness either, Jones shouldn't play into Gustafsson's strengths. According UFC's official Twitter account, Gustafsson believes that he does know Jones' weakness, though, and he plans to take advantage of it.
If Gustafsson is able to have some success in the upright position against Jones, it will give him confidence that he can actually beat the champion. Jones can't allow Gustafsson to feel empowered, so employing a ground-and-pound offense is his best bet. Gustafsson will try to bait him into a brawl, however. Jones needs to stick with the game plan that is most likely to work.
Don't Look Ahead
While Gustafsson is 15-1, few seem to believe he has any chance of beating Jones. It would be very easy for Jones to feel the same way and start looking ahead to his next potential fight, but he can't afford to do that.
Gustafsson has wins over capable fighters such as Mauricio Rua, Thiago Silva and Matt Hamill to his credit, and all it might take is one punch for Gustafsson to pull off one of the biggest UFC upsets in recent memory.
If Jones is able to come out on top at UFC 165, a huge match against Glover Teixeira may be looming. The 33-year-old Brazilian star is 22-2, and he hasn't lost a fight since 2005. It's possible that Teixeira is the only fighter who can truly challenge Jones, but Jones can't afford to think that way. It may be hard to ignore Teixeira, though, based on all the trash he has been talking, according to UFC on FOX.
Jones always seems to be focused on the task at hand, so he should be able to forget about Teixeira for the time being. This fight against Gustafsson has the proverbial "trap game" label written all over it, as Jones needs to get past Gustafsson in order to set up a massive fight against Teixeira, but Jones will be able to get through if he's as dominant as he appears to be.
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