Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Their Rematch

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Their Rematch

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    Jon Jones dispatched Glover Teixeira with ease at UFC 172, and next on his list is Alexander Gustafsson. When and where the fight will happen remains unknown, but it's hard not to already start getting excited for a rematch of 2013's best fight.

    In their first bout, at UFC 165, Jones got the better end of a unanimous decision (to the tune of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46). Will the rematch be any different, though? Well, how about we compare and contrast the striking, grappling and submission skills of both fighters and figure it out? 

    Welcome to the head-to-toe breakdown of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 2. Here we go!

Striking

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    What Happened Last Time?

    There was no question entering this fight that Gustafsson wanted to keep things standing and work Jones over with his punches. He succeeded in the first part, avoiding almost all of Jones' takedowns, but to say the Swede beat Jones standing would be inaccurate.

    Gustafsson landed some solid punches in the early goings of the bout and opened a huge cut above Jones' eye, but he never truly hurt the champ. Jones found success with his dynamic kicks and elbows but had serious difficulties when Gustafsson stuck him with jabs and moved away. Jones would seal the fight in the fourth round with his trademark spinning elbow. 

    That one strike very easily could have been the difference in the fight.

     

    What Have We Seen Since?

    Both fighters have notched a win since they came together last September. In terms of striking, we have not seen much change from either fighter. Jones still has his slicing elbows, and Gustafsson still has heavy hands and a solid clinch-striking game. 

     

    Will Anything Change?

    That's a tough call.

    Jones had trouble keeping up with Gustafsson's lateral movement. Part of that was because Gustafsson did a very good job of using his much-hyped reach advantage. Part of that was how Jones, at the time, largely relied on his oblique kick to maintain his preferred distance rather than a conventional jab.

    That is where Jones struggled, but Gustafsson's biggest shortcoming was how he was unable to maintain Jones' pace by the end of the fight. As his cardio dropped, so did his speed, and that allowed Jones to assert himself in the fourth and fifth rounds.

    It's impossible to say whether or not these two things will change radically in either way.

Grappling

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    What Happened Last Time?

    Both fighters were reluctant to get into a war in the clinch. Jones has immaculate trips in the clinch, and Gustafsson has some strong dirty boxing and knees. That was enough incentive for both fighters to keep their striking at a safe distance.  

    The big surprise came when Gustafsson easily shrugged off Jones' takedown attempts, or (that one time where he did get taken down) immediately popped back up when things hit the mat. That was a true shock from a fighter who didn't seem all that far removed from being submitted by Phil Davis. 

     

    What Have We Seen Since?

    There was no real sign in either direction from Gustafsson when he fought Jimi Manuwa. Manuwa is a striker, and really, both of them were content in banging, bro.

    Jones, however, was unable to impose his will on Glover Teixeira consistently and acknowledged to reporters that the initial plan was for him to look for takedowns against the Brazilian. That is a serious departure from Jones' first 13 UFC fights, where he took down and roughed up solid wrestlers such as Matt Hamill, Ryan Bader and Chael Sonnen at will.

     

    Will Anything Change?

    That will be interesting to see. Again, Jones used to effortlessly dominate even formidable wrestlers in ways that previously seemed impossible. On paper, he should have been able to nail a trip or shot in Round 1 and finish things right then and there against both Teixeira and Gustafsson.

    So why didn't he? While it's easy (and completely reasonable) to say Jones whimsically chose to play his opponents' games because he can, he's also smart enough not to risk losing. The doctor could have ended his fight with Gustafsson at any point after his eye socket became ventilated, and Teixeira did wound Jones in Round 2.

    How much of that was Jones, perhaps, getting a bit rusty with his wrestling? How much of that was him, perhaps, struggling to deal with physical specimens as impressive as himself? How much of that was him, perhaps, lulling all of us into a falsehood because he is the greatest fighter of all time and can just do that kind of thing?

    We'll see. We will definitely see.

Submissions

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    What Happened Last Time?

    Very little. Neither fighter actively looks for submissions. All of their submissions have either come after wounding an opponent standing, moving to the ground and sinking in a choke, or capitalizing on a poor move after ground-and-pound.

    Neither fighter attempted submissions on the other during their fight.

     

    What Have We Seen Since?

    Again, not much. Gustafsson roughed up Jimi Manuwa standing. Jones beat Teixeira standing with little difficulty.

     

    Will Anything Change?

    Probably not. It's possible we'll see one wound the other and look to end it with a submission. It's far more likely that we won't, though.

X-Factor

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    The biggest X-factor, which could work in either direction, is how deeply Gustafsson seems to be in Jones' head.

    The fact that Jones refused an immediate rematch says a lot. So, too, does the way he handled questions about Gustafsson at the UFC 172 post-fight press conference—oh, and the way "his PR team" got so mad about some random Scandinavian teenager saying he was ducking a rematch that it prompted it to go on a lengthy homophobic tirade?

    Yeah...that's something, but it's unclear how much of a difference that will make.

    This isn't the first time Jones has had an ugly buildup to one of his fights, and in all likelihood, nothing will ever trump the Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans rivalry. Evans, though, didn't challenge Jones in the cage, and there also hasn't been any serious talk of a rematch (yet).

    We already know that Gustafsson has the tools to beat Jones and vice versa.

    Will Jones become motivated by how things have gone with Gustafsson? Will he become scarier? Will he become reluctant? Could doubt have seeped in?

Prediction

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    Saying Jon Jones stands a chance of defeat is still a very, very bold claim—even when it comes to Alexander Gustafsson.

    It's a claim this writer isn't quite willing to make.

    The fact of the matter is that the last fight, for almost every one of its 25 minutes, took place where Gustafsson is at his best...and at best, he was still just Jones' equal. If the two fight again and more time is spent in the clinch or on the ground, things aren't even close.

    The best-case scenario for Gustafsson is very similar to how the first fight went, with him managing to keep things at striking distance for the vast majority of the fight.

    Even then, though, things will wind up incredibly close. In which case, as we have seen with Benson Henderson against Frankie Edgar, Dominick Cruz against Joseph Benavidez and Georges St-Pierre against Johny Hendricks, the judges will almost certainly break in favor of the champion.

    Prediction: Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson via 49-46 decision.