In one of the most epic battles in UFC history, at 165, Jon Jones fought to retain his light heavyweight title against No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson. Although the champion successfully defended his title, he was badly beaten and hospitalized immediately following the bout. If Jones wishes to not just win in a rematch with Gustafsson, but to do so unscathed, it would serve him well to minimize damage and maximize his talents.
Jones has mastered the art of dominating his opponents in the clinch and taking them down. However, much to Gustafsson’s credit, Jones struggled to do hardly any of the latter during their last faceoff. The light heavyweight champion commented on his opponent’s toughness and even acknowledged his own shortcomings following the fight. According to Dann Stupp of USA Today, Jones stated:
He was just a tough fighter. I spent a lot of time on my boxing in this camp. Maybe that wasn't the best idea. I should have been like water and used more versatility. But hat's off to Alexander. That was by far my toughest fight, and I really got to exercise my warrior spirit tonight. That makes me happier than getting the win.
If Jones is able to capitalize on his strengths and appeal to Gustafsson’s weaknesses, the clinch and ground game, the light heavyweight champion may not only win in their second outing, but do so in dramatic fashion.
Jon Jones embraces the close-quarter game with his opponents. Even though he enjoys an incredible reach advantage, which he uses to keep his opponents at bay, Jones’ grappling is second to none as well.
At UFC 140, Jones grabbed on to an elusive Lyoto Machida and choked him into unconsciousness with a standing guillotine. At UFC 172, against the hard-hitting Glover Teixeira, Jones surprisingly remained in the pocket, clinching and exchanging blows with the No. 3 light heavyweight contender for a large majority of the fight. Jones went on to win all five rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
However, against Gustafsson, Jones wasn’t able to close the distance at will. This was mainly due to Gustafsson’s own height (6’5”) and reach (79 inches), which are similar to those of Jones (6’4”, 84.5-inch reach).
Closing the distance and executing has produced incredible results for the champion countless times. If Jones wishes to emerge victorious and possibly finish Gustafsson, remaining inside and breaking his opponent’s will may be the answer.
The Ground Game
Jon Jones has made a career off taking down his opponents and either submitting or decimating them with a barrage of strikes from the top. In this fashion, the champion has manhandled the likes of Matt Hamill, Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyushenko, Ryan Bader, Chael Sonnen and even former world champions Quinton Jackson and Vitor Belfort.
Jones, however, was unsuccessful in this area against Gustafsson, scoring just one takedown during the whole fight. Jones himself was even taken down for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career during the bout.
Needless to say, at UFC 165, Jones was faced with his most difficult challenger and barely scraped by with the win, scoring 48-47 on two of the judges’ scorecards.
The light heavyweight champion possesses all the tools to emerge victorious against Gustafsson again. However, if becoming hospitalized for a second time is not a part of Jones’ post-fight plans, finding ways to neutralize Gustafsson in their sophomore effort would be ideal.