Jon “Bones” Jones has yet to meet a physical challenge like Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson, his opponent at UFC 165, since winning the UFC light heavyweight title nearly three years ago.
The 6’5” Swede will look down on the champ, but only from a physical standpoint. There is no looking down on one of UFC’s greatest champions. Jones has earned that distinction by successfully defending his title five times—tied for the most in UFC light heavyweight history with Tito Ortiz—over a span of two-and-a-half years.
Despite having a slight size advantage—which shouldn’t be overlooked—Gustafsson is at a disadvantage when it comes to the rangy reach of the champ. Jones boasts an 84.5-inch reach, the most of any fighter in the UFC. The Mauler falls closely behind with an 81.5-inch reach.
What does he have to do in order to make up the difference? We’ll look at a couple of keys for the challenger in a title bout that figures to be a lopsided affair in favor of the champion.
Stay Upright as Much as Possible
If Jones gets Gustaffson on the Octagon’s mat with a strong takedown, you might as well stop the fight. Gustaffson’s only chance lies in his striking ability while staying upright in a boxing stance.
In all of The Mauler’s previous six fights—all wins—he’s been taken down just twice. His defense will easily be tested more than it ever has been by Jones, though.
One thing we haven’t seen much of is Jones being brought to his back on the mat. We know he’s going to try to close the gap and get close to Gustaffson for takedown attempts. But what we don’t know is how he’ll respond if The Mauler can flip the script and put him on his back.
There’s a chance for a knockout, sure, but if Gustaffson has been doing his homework he’ll prepare to counter Jones’ various and unpredictable tactics.
Don’t Hold Back
After preparing for the bout, The Mauler sounds confident that the end of the Bones era is upon us, per Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole. He needs to use that confidence to fuel a strong early assault that may be strong enough to overpower the domineering champion.
It will be hard to get close enough given Jones’ tactical acumen and reach advantage, but a relentless attack may give Gustaffson a window of opportunity.
Any fighter can win on any given night. We’ve seen that play out countless times. But will The Mauler be able to do the unthinkable against one of the best champions in UFC history? It’s hard to see it happening, even if he fights a perfect bout.