Jon "Bones" Jones extended his reign over the MMA world on Saturday night by retaining his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson. While Jones scored a unanimous-decision victory, Gustafsson pushed him to the limit and proved that it is possible to give Jones a run for his money with the proper game plan.
After escaping Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with a big victory, Jones can now look ahead to his next opponent. Since Jones is the biggest draw in the sport, there is no doubt that countless fighters would love to compete against him, as it would bolster their credibility and their bank accounts. Only one lucky fighter will have the opportunity to get the next crack at Jones, though.
Here is a closer look at three fighters with the best chance of stepping into the Octagon with Jones when he ultimately decides to defend his title yet again.
In terms of his body of work, there is no question that Glover Teixeira deserves a shot at Jones' UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. The 33-year-old Brazilian is currently in the midst of a run that puts Jones' 10-fight winning streak to shame. While Teixeira only has five UFC bouts to his credit, he has won 20 consecutive contests and hasn't lost since 2005, so he has all the confidence in the world that he can beat Jones.
Generally speaking, there is a lot of parity in UFC, so it's rare to find two fighters with winning streaks as long as those that Jones and Teixeira possess.
Teixeira is coming off a dominant win over Ryan Bader. He's done everything asked of him since joining the UFC and has nothing left to prove. There is little doubt that he's ready to challenge Jones.
Teixeira was in attendance for Jones vs. Gustafsson, and he had nothing but praise for both men afterward:
With that said, he would obviously prefer to fight Jones himself rather than Gustafsson getting another crack at him. Teixeira has a pretty sizable fanbase, so Jones probably realizes that it would be a lucrative fight. While facing Gustafsson again would definitely generate some interest, fans generally like to see new, fresh encounters.
Jones has a perfect record aside from a controversial disqualification loss to Matt Hamill a few years ago, but nobody has come closer to legitimately defeating him than Gustafsson did on Saturday. He clearly understood what he needed to do in order to be competitive against Jones, and he executed. Gustafsson turned the fight into a brawl and prevented Jones from taking him down, so he was able to keep himself in it long enough to go to the scorecards.
Gustafsson fell just short, but he gained a great deal of respect in the process. Although he had only lost one fight heading into Saturday night, there were plenty of question marks regarding his level of competition. Gustafsson answered those questions and established himself as a contender in the light heavyweight division.
While Teixeira seemed fairly confident about being Jones' next opponent, Dana White suggested that a Jones vs. Gustafsson rematch could be on the horizon, according to Ron Kruck of AXS TV:
Jones vs. Gustafsson I was an instant classic, so there is definitely a market for Jones vs. Gustafsson II. While Gustafsson didn't have as much of a name as Teixeira did prior to Saturday's bout, it can be argued that things have changed. He has already shown once that he can have a great fight with Jones, so it is possible that pitting them against each other once again will appeal to UFC.
The dark horse in this entire situation is Daniel Cormier. While Cormier is currently a heavyweight, he has shown interest in moving down in order to take on Jones. Cormier is quite vocal, and that seems to have rubbed Jones the wrong way.
According to MMAJunkie.com, Jones was less than enthused about the prospect of facing Cormier in an interview with Jim Rome.
“As far as Daniel Cormier, he definitely won’t be getting a title fight,” Jones said. “I don’t think I would accept a fight against him. He’s a guy I don’t respect at all, and I would definitely make sure he loses the weight, makes 205 and earns himself a title shot.”
It's important to never say never in a sport like MMA, though, as Cormier could end up being Jones' best option. After all, he would pose a tough test due to his immense physical strength. And it seems likely that there would be mutual dislike, which always improves the build toward a fight.
According to UFC Tonight on Twitter, Jones conceded that he could potentially face the winner of a Cormier vs. Teixeira bout at some point:
Whatever the case, it doesn't seem as though Jones intends to face Cormier immediately. That makes him a distant third behind Teixeira and Gustafsson. Assuming he remains committed to moving down in weight, though, he should face Jones eventually.
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