UFC 165 Preview: Power Ranking the Main Card Fights
The UFC doesn't necessarily need to buffer a Jon Jones title defense with anything spectacular, but on Saturday, September 21, UFC 165 will feature not only Jones looking to keep his light heavyweight championship out of Alexander Gustafsson's reach, but also a co-main event championship bout between 135-pound interim champion Renan Barao and top contender Eddie Wineland.
Though there are a few other noteworthy fighters sprinkled throughout the main card, it's important to note that not all of the scheduled fights are worthy of the same recognition and anticipation.
Let's take a moment to delve into the details behind the five main contests scheduled to go down in Toronto on Saturday night—perhaps a good power ranking is exactly what's needed to jump-start the combat festivities.
5. Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione
It's unfortunate that the most powerful punch Matt Mitrione packs is the one delivered by his mouth.
With only eight career fights to his name, Mitrione is also relatively inexperienced—his incomplete MMA game is likely the underlying cause of his past two losses.
Worse yet, his opponent, Brendan Schaub, hasn't been a stranger to bad publicity as of late—an ill-fated appearance at Metamoris 2 in June brought the worst kind of attention his way.
Perhaps it's the pairing of their rather turbulent histories mixed with their recently uneventful Octagon performances that drops them to the bottom of this ranking. Whatever the case may be, this is the bout you should be least concerned with during UFC 165's pay-per-view card.
4. Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont
Though there may be no imminent consequences as a result of this particular bout, both Costa Philippou and Francis Carmont possess the type of arsenal to truly put on a show.
Most notably, it bears mentioning that with a higher than 80 percent takedown defense rate boasted by both men, this is a fight that's likely to stay standing.
Yet with the betting lines placing Philippou as a slight favorite, there's no reason to doubt that Carmont is a live underdog who'll summon the experience of his 28 career fights to deliver everything he's got on Saturday night.
3. Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Hailing from a region of Russia neighboring the Caspian Sea, Khabib Nurmagomedov is no stranger to winter lows of minus-16.4 degrees Fahrenheit—perhaps that sort of forged, Dagestanian hardiness paved the way for his unblemished 20-0 career record.
Though his 8.17 average takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time signify that he's nothing short of a workhorse, his hands will be full at UFC 165.
Zuffa is throwing him into deep waters against Pat Healy, the very same fighter who outworked Jim Miller earlier this year—that statement should stand as testament in and of itself.
With a shared 30 percent of their victories going to decision, both Nurmagomedov and Healy are likely to pursue the submission or knockout at all costs. However this one ends, the fans are all but guaranteed to win.
2. Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland
There's no doubt that the ideal conclusion to Renan Barao's journey as the UFC's interim bantamweight champion is a unification bout against the ever-injured yet official 135-pound champion, Dominick Cruz.
But with the expected date of that showdown continuously postponed for the "near future," fans have had to garner a new appreciation for Barao's ability to decimate everyone other than Cruz.
On Saturday night, Eddie Wineland will look to overcome immensely long odds by stopping Barao's streak of five consecutive UFC victories.
It won't be easy, and quite honestly, it's unlikely to happen. Expect Barao to put on an epic display as he reminds fans the world over why his only genuine opposition remains in Cruz.
1. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Given the UFC's somewhat odd attempt to promote Jon Jones' record sixth title defense as one in which his opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, has greatness within reach, you might be surprised to hear Jones is still a landslide favorite just days before fight time.
Yet in spite of the promotion building up to the light heavyweight title fight, the reality of the situation is that there's simply no reason to falsely postulate why Gustafsson is particularly likely to trouble Jones.
In the Swedish contender, we're looking at a fighter who was submitted by Phil Davis and took both Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua to decision. Valiant efforts in all three instances, to be sure. Yet none of them inspired the kind of momentum needed to topple a fighter such as Jones.
We're not talking about an ordinary champion here—Jones is the culmination of this era of mixed martial arts and likely the archetype for the era to come.
Greatness will be in reach on Saturday night as Jones surpasses Tito Ortiz for consecutive light heavyweight title defenses. I'm inclined to think that he'll get it done in a manner that will leave no room for doubt as to his position atop the pound-for-pound list.
For those fortunate enough to tune in to the UFC 165 pay-per-view main card, there's no reason to doubt that Jones vs. Gustafsson carries the type of importance, skill and potential to leave combat sports fans with dropped jaws.