UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has proven he can beat just about any opponent in the world. Moreover, he's made a habit of beating many of them at their own game. He out-grappled master wrestler Chael Sonnen in his last fight and submitted Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist Vitor Belfort in September 2012.
Because his opponent at UFC 165 on Saturday night, Alexander Gustafsson, isn't known for his wrestling prowess, it would be smart for Jones to subdue him with a pointed ground attack. I'm not doubting Jones' ability to beat Gustafsson in a stand-up battle, but he could make the fight a lot easier for himself by taking the big Swede to the mat.
Gustafsson's only loss came at the hands of world-class wrestler Phil Davis. The former NCAA champion wrestler manhandled Gustafsson on the mat and submitted him with an Anaconda choke.
Jones is a brilliant in-ring performer, so he undoubtedly knows this is a perceived weakness for Gustafsson. We all know Jones marches to the beat of his own drum; because most would expect him to attack Gustafsson's underdeveloped wrestling, he's probably been training and concentrating on striking for the last eight weeks.
Part of what makes him great is his unpredictability and versatile attack. In this fight, he'd be better off taking the safe win. Jones is building a legacy that will ultimately be compared to the best runs of excellence the sport has ever seen.
His title is on the line and there is no reason to take unnecessary risks. Gustafsson is an explosive striker who presents Jones with a different challenge because of his height.
He stands 6'5", so he is the only fighter Jones has faced in the UFC who is taller than the light heavyweight champion. This could create an advantage for Gustafsson in the stand-up game, but that length will most likely work against him on the mat. His long limbs only give Jones more real estate to work with for submissions.
When you add in the fact that Jones is simply more skilled on the ground, the champion could make this an easy fight if he takes his man down.
Normally, any MMA fan would applaud a champion choosing to stand and throw even when it wasn't in his best interest. After watching Anderson Silva fall at the hands of Chris Weidman, fans should understand if Jones comes in looking to minimize risks.
With so much on the line, the predictable and safer approach is the best bet.
Follow me for musings on MMA, boxing, WWE, NBA and sports video games.