Jon Jones faces a formidable adversary in Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday evening for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but Bones will find a way to successfully defend his title for the sixth time.
UFC 165's main event in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto is destined to be a doozy, primarily because the 26-year-old Jones is almost always at an advantage in terms of size, standing at a towering 6'4". However, Gustafsson is one inch taller, though is short of Jones' massive reach by three inches.
That disparity nullifies the slight stature edge Gustafsson has. Whether it's that factor, Jones' pedigree or other elements, the oddsmakers aren't giving The Mauler much of a chance, per Jon Anik:
Odds for tonight's UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Jon Jones (-1000) v. Alexander Gustafsson (+700). #UFC165— Jon Anik (@Jon_Anik) September 21, 2013
Gustafsson isn't short on confidence despite being the underdog, though, which makes sense since it took him a lot of work to get to this point and to hold the No. 1 ranking in the weight class.
He feels his preparation has been first-class, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole:
It's not always about reach, it's about footwork, it's being fast, in and out, stuff like that. And I'm really making sure I've really done my homework here and I'm super motivated.
We try to break down Jon [and] his last fights into pieces and try to move through everything. That's what we do and how my coaches do it. And I've got 100 percent full trust in my coaches. I'm doing my homework here, too, so I'm just getting ready.
Then again, Jones is particularly renowned for his attention to detail in preparation, and B/R MMA Lead Writer Jeremy Botter believes the only man capable of stopping Jones is himself:
While the versatility and arsenal of moves Jones has are far superior to Gustafsson's array of combinations, it does help that the Swede is a legitimate light heavyweight who has excellent footwork and quickness.
For Jones, who has a tendency to get a little heavy on his feet, this could be problematic. It's a dilemma in tactics for Gustafsson, though. If he were to utilize his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess, going to the ground is just about the worst thing one could do against Jones, given what's happened to predecessors.
Take this vicious elbow Jones laid on Brandon Vera in the first round all the way back in 2010, for example:
What will be the outcome of the fight?
Being on the counterattack and staying on his feet is absolutely critical for Gustafsson. Even though antagonizing Jones in boxing situations isn't a great compromise in strategy, it's still better than trying to beat him on the ground.
Such a strategy would only be effective temporarily, though. Jones' only loss came to Matt Hamill for illegal elbows, and in his MMA career, only Rashad Evans has pushed him to all five rounds.
Whether it's by submission or a TKO, it is relatively certain that Jones will be able to do enough to hold off Gustafsson and maintain his claim as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
Prediction: Jones wins via fourth-round TKO.