On Saturday, Sept. 21, UFC 165 will play host to the Lightheavyweight Championship bout between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. Both fighters have just one loss on their respective resumes and each has a history of knocking opponents out in swift fashion.
If Gustafsson is hoping to leave Toronto, Canada with the UFC Lightheavyweight title, he'll need to stay true to that form and end the fight early.
Gustafsson enters the fight with an overall record of 15-1, having won seven of his eight fights in the UFC. Three of those seven wins have come by knockout and an additional three via submission, with just two of his 16 career bouts going three rounds or longer.
It's safe to say that Gustafsson knows how to end fights early.
He's not alone in that distinction, as Jones has ended seven fights before the first round and 11 prior to the second. Not only has he picked up knockout victories in that time, but he's used a submission maneuver to end things early, as well.
Plain and simple, Jones is dangerous in every sense of the word—just don't think that it means he's untouchable.
During his first 13 fights, "Bones" Jones reached the third round just three times. During his past six fights, however, Jones has gone to the third round or further in four separate battles.
The common ending has seen each of Jones' opponents fall victim to fatigue, and in turn, Jones has pulled out a magnificent finish.
Only one of Jones' past 10 wins has gone to the judges, with the rest ending via knockout or submission. Of the four most recent fights to go past three rounds, three have been ended by submission and one via technical knockout.
Don't expect the 26-year-old to show any signs of fatigue since he hasn't already up to this point.
Jones can beat any opponent at any given moment, but in recent matchups, we've learned something new. The longer a fight lasts, the better the champion becomes on the mat.
As you can see below, Jones doesn't believe Gustafsson has the stamina necessary to prevent him from taking control in this fight, either.
Can we blame him?
In 16 career fights, Gustafsson has reached the third round just twice, with nine ending in the first round. With that being said, Gustafsson has reached the third round in each of his past two matches, earning wins over Mauricio Rua and Thiago Silva.
Unfortunately, three-round fights and five-round title matches are completely different animals.
Gustafsson has drawn praise for his conditioning, but to date, he's never been forced to put that on display. His quick and powerful hands have ended most fights, and when tasked with defeating Jones, he'll need to turn to those reliable fists once again.
As the saying goes, why fix what isn't broken?
If Gustafsson is hoping to win this match, his best chance is to prevent Jones from extending the length of the fight. Once the battle goes to the ground, Jones is all but unstoppable, and he'll impose his will via strikes or attempted submissions.
Gustafsson has improved his ground game, but to call it comparable to Jones' would be naive.
If the Swedish star can remain on his feet and be aggressive early, he will have a fighter's chance at winning the gold. He's as dangerous a knockout artist as anyone in the mixed martial arts community, and as great as Jones has been, we've seen more unpredictable knockouts happen.
It will take a legendary effort, but if Gustafsson is going to stand any chance of striking gold, he'll need to end things early.