UFC: Alexander Gustafsson Is Still the Top Threat to Jon Jones

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

Alexander Gustafsson, from Sweden, right, fights Mauricio
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Move over, Daniel Cormier.

It's only a matter of time, Glover Teixeira.

You're not ready, Phil Davis.

We've already seen it, Rashad Evans.

Sorry, UFC light heavyweight division, but none of you guys are a threat to the man at the top of the heap. Champion Jon Jones is a bad man, and not one of you is ahead of the pack in making a case to fight him.

Teixeira tries next at UFC 172 in April, mostly because Jones angled for the fight instead of rematching his one true 205-pound foil: Alexander Gustafsson.

In September 2013, Gustafsson took Jones to the limit in a wild brawl that showed just how great MMA can be when it's executed at the highest level. Many (including me) thought the rangy Swede had snatched the title from Jones, but the judges didn't agree, and the champion escaped UFC 165 battered but belted.

In the interim, no one has emerged as a bigger threat. That mantle belongs to Gustafsson, who fights to remind the world why this weekend in London at UFC Fight Night 37.

Why is he the biggest threat? Because he proved it. He went five rounds with Jones, beat him from pillar to post while taking the best the champion had to offer, and was still standing at the end.

No one else can claim half as much.

Cormier is, like it or not, still an unproven 205er with a single win over an expert on the merits of fair trade beans.

Teixeira is an aging gladiator who has looked incredibly human during an unbeaten UFC run. He has no obvious tools to use in toppling Jones.

Davis' signature win probably wasn't a win at all against Lyoto Machida, and he's booked for another fight anyway.

Evans took a dreadful beating from Jones already and presently has one functioning knee.

Not exactly a murderers' row, is it?

The reality is that Gustafsson is the only true threat to Jones right now, particularly when health, track record and fight scheduling are all factored in. His fight against Jimi Manuwa this weekend is basically a showcase of his talents—one that should allow him to line up a second crack at Jones if he keeps his chin tucked and his jab pumping.

And that's the way it should be. When two guys are a good match and no one else is pressing to get into the conversation, let them hash it out in the cage. For a long time, no one looked capable of pushing Jones, so when that guy has proved to exist, he should be given every chance to show what he can do.

Gustafsson is that guy, and he should soon earn that chance again. Everyone else either needs to get better or get used to it.


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