At UFC 178, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will once again face off against his most difficult opponent to date in Alexander Gustafsson. Since the end of their first Octagon meeting at UFC 165, in which Jones won by unanimous decision, the UFC and the majority of MMA fans had been pining for a Jones/Gustafsson rematch. Eventually getting their wish, the champion will defend his title for a second time against his Swedish counterpart on September 27.
The Champion’s Reluctance
After his seventh title defense and dismantling of Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, Jones wasn’t interested in a rematch against Gustafsson. In fact, Jones wanted to put his championship title on the line against undefeated and highly touted MMA fighter Daniel Cormier. In response, on June 2, UFC President Dana White stated to UFC.com (h/t MMA Junkie):
Just to clear up a couple things, people think we’re in contract negotiations with Jon Jones – we’re not. Jon Jones still has five fights left on his contract. So what we’re doing right now is trying to get him to sign the bout agreement for Gustafsson. He doesn’t want to fight Gustafsson.… Lorenzo and I have a meeting with Jones on Thursday to get him to sign the bout agreement, and he’s asking to fight Cormier instead.
Jones eventually relented and signed on to fight Gustafsson. However, in response, according to Andrew Ravens of MMA Frenzy, Jones stated:
Who’s more deserving? I would say Daniel Cormier has better accolades and the better record. He’s undefeated, and he’s beaten former world champions before…
…He was a world champion in the Strikeforce organization, so I would say Cormier. But, I think the fans want to see me fight Alexander more, and I think that’s what’s most important.
Irrespective of Cormier’s dominance and undefeated streak, the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion will realistically have to wait for a title shot until late 2014, at the earliest.
In the end, the UFC wins, utilizing heavy media tactics to get Jones to fight Gustafsson. A lot of hype surrounds this fight, as the champion struggled against his Swedish counterpart in their last meeting, having to be hospitalized immediately following the bout. Monetarily, the UFC capitalizes greatly on a rematch that the fans desire to see. Therefore, UFC 178 will most likely become one of the UFC’s highest-grossing pay-per-views to date.
Winner: The UFC & the Fans
Alexander Gustafsson’s Desperate Need to Secure the Title the Second Time Around
Gustafsson will enter UFC 178 as the underdog. If Gustafsson loses to the champion again, especially if it occurs in dramatic fashion, the consequences will be significant. The Swede would realistically be presented with two options: Move to another weight class or wait until the champion loses and fight for the championship once more (assuming he doesn’t lose in the interim).
Both are difficult options, putting him into the same class as Urijah Faber and Junior dos Santos, who are seemingly better than everyone else in their respective divisions, except the champion.
According to David St. Martin of MMA Fighting, Gustafsson recently exclaimed:
He (Jones) knows now, it's a bad fight for him. I think I'm a little bit in his head. I know that I can beat him. I can take that belt and that's what I'm looking forward to do. It'll be a finish. I've done the distance thing before and I don't [sic] do it again. A finish and I'm taking that belt. Get ready. Get ready, man. It will happen.
Gustafsson is more than confident in his abilities as he prepares for UFC 178. However, a second loss to the champion would prove profound and force the Swede to take major steps in reanalyzing his career.
Possible BIG Loser: Alexander Gustafsson