UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 232 card, set to take place in Inglewood, Calif.

Updated: Dec. 26, 2018 • 10:21 AM ET

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Jon Jones is looking to repair his tarnished reputation.

The UFC light heavyweight title will be on the line this Saturday in Inglewood, Calif., as former champion Jon Jones will return to the Octagon for a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson. The two originally fought at UFC 165 in 2013 with Jones winning by unanimous decision in one of the greatest light heavyweight fights of all time.

Saturday’s card was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, but the UFC moved the event to Los Angeles due to a licensing issue involving Jones. The U.S. Anti-doping Agency reported an atypical finding from a drug test that Jones submitted earlier this month, as a trace amount of the same long-term M3 metabolite that Jones tested positive for in July 2017 was found in his system. However, the UFC and USADA don’t believe the latest results to be a violation.

USADA informed the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) that they did not consider the amount found in Jones’ system during his latest test to be a violation. However, because the NSAC didn’t have proper time to investigate, the governing body did not grant Jones a license to fight in Nevada. Thus, the fight has been moved to California because their commission has granted Jones a license to fight in the state.

Jones is arguably the greatest fighter of all time, but he has had his fair share of issues outside the Octagon. He’s returning from a 15-month suspension for testing positive after a TKO win over Daniel Cormier in July 2017, but USADA ultimately ruled that Jones did not take the substance intentionally.

On Saturday, Jones will attempt to win the title he has been stripped of several times. He hasn’t fought since the TKO of Cormier, but that decision was later ruled a no contest because of Jones’ positive test.

Jones (22-1, 1 NC) hasn’t lost a fight since 2009 to Matt Hammill, which came because he was disqualified for throwing illegal elbows. He originally won the light heavyweight title at UFC 128 with a TKO of Mauricio Rua in 2011 and went on to defend the belt eight times. But, the UFC stripped him of the title in 2015 after he violated the promotion’s Code of Conduct policy for his involvement in a hit-and-run car accident.

Jones returned in April 2016 to win the interim title, only to be stripped again after a positive drug test. The positive test came before what would have been a rematch and unification bout with Cormier at UFC 200. Jones, though, understands what is at stake this weekend.

Via Twitter, he said, “I’m focused on achieving my ultimate goal of reclaiming my Light Heavyweight title.  I have willingly submitted to every USADA test in the lead up to this fight and USADA has confirmed what I've been saying all along, that I'm a clean athlete. I sincerely thank the California State Athletic Commission and Andy Foster for doing the right thing and supporting me through this process. I cannot wait to fight Alex Gustafsson this Saturday December 29th at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood.”

Jones will without a doubt go down as one of the all-time greats in MMA history. He has defeated top fighters, including Cormier, Gustafsson, Rua, Glover Teixeira, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Ryan Bader, Ovince Saint Preux and Brandon Vera. If he can defeat Gustafsson on Saturday, he’ll become a three-time champion and solidify his position as the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history. The only question is how long would his reign last?

Gustafsson is the only fighter who has truly tested Jones inside the Octagon. He’ll enter Saturday’s fight with a long layoff, as he hasn’t fought since defeating Teixeira by fifth-round knockout in May 2017. The 31-year-old Swede is just 3-3 in his last six fights and has only fought four times since the start of 2015; but despite his recent record and lack of activity, Gustafsson is one of the most talented and dangerous fighters in the division.

The 6-foot-5 Gustafsson matches up well with Jones, as proven in their first fight. However, since their first fight, which was a brutal five-round battle, Gustafson has experienced more wear and tear than Jones. Two fights after the first fight with Jones, Anthony Johnson TKO’d Gustafsson in devastating fashion, and Gustafsson then lost a five-round war against Cormier via split-decision.

After the fight with Cormier, Gustafsson took nearly a year off before fighting three hard rounds against Jan Blachowicz en route to a unanimous decision victory. Gustafsson then finished the four-fight gauntlet with five hard-fought rounds against Teixeira and looked better than ever. Nevertheless, it’s fair to consider that a high total of rounds will eventually take its toll on any fighter.

Have the wars better prepared Gustafsson for Jones this time, or will they hinder his performance against the former champion?

Gustafsson is confident heading into the rematch with Jones.

“Fighting Jon Jones again, and it’s been five years since we fought – it’s just the fight I’ve been wanting for a long time and dreaming about and training for all this time,” Gustafsson said during a recent media scrum. “I’ve been training and competing for just this fight, so this is it.”

Gustafsson continued, “Every session I’ve prepared for him. That’s the best guy out there, and that’s the guy I’m beating.”

Gustafsson (18-4) has key victories over Teixeira, Blachowicz, Jimi Manuwa, Rua and Thiago Silva. If he can find a way to win on Saturday, it would set him up nicely for a trilogy fight with Jones.

“I’m his kryptonite,” Gustafsson said. “He doesn’t like to fight me. I’m bringing something that he can’t really handle. That’s what makes it such a good fight.”


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will also be for a title, as women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg will defend her belt against women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.

Attempting to go 6-0 in the UFC, Cyborg is widely considered the greatest women’s fighter of all time and will defend the title for the third time. The Brazilian champion is coming off a first-round TKO of Yana Kunitskaya in March at UFC 222 and has not been tested in the UFC thus far, looking virtually impossible to defeat.

The featherweight champ has UFC victories over Holly Holm, Tonya Evinger, Lina Lansberg and Leslie Smith and hasn’t lost since her MMA debut in 2005. Cyborg also has a 2-1 Muay Thai record and 7-1 grappling record, winning gold at the 2011 and 2012 World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. The brown belt jiu-jitsu specialist is the most powerful women’s fighter in history, and her submission skills make her one of the most feared fighters today. Nunes, however, represents a new challenge for the champion.

Nunes (16-4, 9-1 in UFC) has defended the bantamweight title three times, most recently defeating Raquel Pennington via fifth-round TKO. She’s riding a seven-fight winning streak since losing to Cat Zingano at UFC 178 in 2014 and is attempting to become just the third fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time.

Nunes has tremendous power in her hands, but if she wants to defeat Cyborg, she’ll need to hurt her early and often or be prepared to take the fight into the later rounds. The Brazilian has key victories over Pennington, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Germaine de Randamie.

If Nunes wins on Saturday, she’ll solidify her position as one of the greatest champions in UFC history.




The rest of the main card

Welterweight bout - Carlos Condit vs. No. 9 Michael Chiesa

Light heavyweight bout - No. 5 Ilir Latifi vs. No. 10 Corey Anderson

Featherweight bout - No. 5 Chad Mendes vs. No. 10 Alexander Volkanovski


FS1 Prelims

Heavyweight bout - No. 13 Andrei Arlovski vs. Walt Harris

Women's featherweight bout - No. 5 Cat Zingano vs. Megan Anderson

Bantamweight bout - No. 14 Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Petr Yan

Lightweight bout - BJ Penn vs. Ryan Hall


UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Bantamweight bout - Nathaniel Wood vs. Andre Ewell

Middleweight bout - No. 14 Uriah Hall vs. Bevon Lewis

Welterweight bout - Curtis Millender vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

Bantamweight bout - Brian Kelleher vs. Montel Jackson

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