A rematch over five years in the making takes place on Dec. 29 in the main event of UFC 232 (Poster Credit: UFC Twitter)
When Jon Jones (22-1, 1 NC) and Alexander Gustafsson (18-4) take centre stage at UFC 232, it will have been 1,926 days since their last meeting. A narrow decision was had, Jones retained the belt and the fight left fans wanting more. Now, more than five years since their last, two of the sport’s biggest stars get a chance to run it back and in some ways both make a return to the promotion.
For Jones, the layoff feels as if it’s been longer than that of his Swedish counterpart; however, Jones’ rematch with Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 214 on July 29, 2017. Jones owned the fight, out-striking Cormier 95-60 and earning a knockout in the third round en-route to once again owning the UFC’s light heavyweight crown.
But in true Jones fashion, he was stripped of the belt in the fall of last year due to a failed drug test and Cormier was reinstated as the promotion’s champ (the fight result was also overturned to a no-contest). Cormier has gone on to defend his light heavyweight belt since, and has also won the promotion’s heavyweight crown in the past year.
Jones is the only champion who’s been stripped of a belt three times in the UFC, he also holds the record for most successful title defences in the division. He’s been a pay-per-view darling, an infamous character in mainstream media and one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Gustafsson on the other hand has been one of the most bankable stars, soft-spoken and as consistent as a fighter can be in terms of performance. However, his career post-Jones has lacked in regularity, stepping into the Octagon five times in the past five years. The only losses on his record are against the sport’s highest competition, including Phil Davis very early on in his promotional tenure, the division’s hardest hitter Anthony Johnson and subsequently a split decision title challenge against Daniel Cormier. Gustafsson last fought May 28, 2017 in a spectacular performance against Glover Teixeira (27-7) and winning by TKO in the fifth round.
The Swede is currently ranked second in the promotion’s light heavyweight division. He’s been at the top of the mountain for years, but unable to dethrone the champion at the time on two occasions. Arguably, if Cormier were to stay as a career heavyweight and Jones were out of the equation, Gustafsson would have been able to clean up in the division but these are hypotheticals and water cooler talk best saved for banter in the Twitter comments.
On Dec. 29 the pair can once again attempt to squash their beef in the main event of UFC 232. A card stacked with top talent also includes an excellent co-main event with women’s featherweight champ Cris “Cyborg” Justino (20-1, 1 NC) set to defend against bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes (16-4).
At the end of the night will we finally see Gustafsson with gold around his waist (roughly +225 underdog) or will Jones be able to once more impose his will and set himself up for another long tenure at the top of the division?