16 Aug Who Should Jon Jones Fight?
The UFC light heavyweight division title picture has become complicated following the injuries suffered by Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones. Now, both Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson want the next crack at Jon Jones’ belt. But who should Jones fight next?
Let’s find out:
Jon Jones tore the meniscus of his left knee and suffered a high ankle sprain in two different places while doing wrestling practice with new teammate and UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem in Albuquerque earlier in the week. As a result, Jones had to pull out from his UFC 178 title defense against Daniel Cormier.
Jones underwent successful knee surgery in Los Angeles on Thursday and is already out of the hospital right now. However, the game’s number one pound for pound fighter is walking in crutches and is still wearing a knee brace. While the timetable for Jones’ recovery is still unclear, his team said that Jon is scheduled to meet his doctors on Monday to get a better picture of the injury. Meniscus tears usually heal after 4-6 weeks after surgical repair, but in the case of Jones ,the ankle sprain makes it more complicated.
Alexander Gustafsson may have sounded like a complaining brat when he insisted on being re-inserted in the UFC light heavyweight title match. But the guy has a legitimate claim and the right to demand.
Jon Jones proudly wore his “Not Quite Human” shirts during his walkouts. And why not? He had successfully defended the UFC light heavyweight title five consecutive times coming into UFC 165. Four of those wins were by stoppage and only Rashad Evans went the full route against him at UFC 145.
Going into their UFC 165 fight, Jones had already tied Tito Ortiz for the most consecutive title defenses at five. Gustafsson was supposed to be just a marker between Jones and greatness. Instead, the world witnessed what many called was “The greatest light heavyweight title fight of all-time”. But it wasn’t because Jones dominated like he did in the past, it was because the bout became a war of attrition.
Gustafsson became the first opponent to put Jon Jones on his back and he was able to cut the champion in round one. The lanky “Swedish Mauler” challenged Jones all throughout the bout, and it wasn’t until round four that Jones seemed to turn the fight in his favor. All three judges gave Alex the first round, and two of them had him ahead by a solitary point after round three. However, Jon Jones won the fourth and fifth rounds in all the scorecards to retain his belt.
There are different versions of what happened next. But the fact is, Gustafsson went on to fight and defeat Jimi Manuwa last March while Jones successfully defended his belt against Glover Texeira at UFC 172 in April. The rematch became inevitable and it was scheduled for UFC 178.
But then Gustafsson suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee while training last month and had to withdraw from the rematch. The UFC scrambled to find a replacement, and was able to dig a gold mine in former heavyweight contender and Olympic Wrestler Daniel Cormier. But now that that fight is moved to January 3, Gustafsson would be ready to fight on that date after successfully going under the knife a couple of weeks ago.
Like Gustafsson, Cormier is a legitimate contender for the light heavyweight title. The 35 year old former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion fought exclusively in the heavyweight division all throughout his MMA career. But because he trains with UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Cormier moved down to the light heavyweight division this year. Cormier has already fought twice in the first half of 2014, knocking out Patrick Cummins at UFC 170 in February before submitting the legendary Dan Henderson at UFC 173 last May. Those twin victories earned him the #2 contender slot, and made him the logical replacement for Gustafsson at UFC 178.
Cormier had always wanted a shot at Jones. He has been calling out the champion ever since he moved down to Jones’ weight class. After his win over Hendo last May, Cormier said this to Joe Rogan during the post-fight interview:
“Jon Jones, you can’t run away from me for ever, I’m the kid at the wrestling tournament that is always in your bracket. No matter where you go boy, I’m coming, You better hurry because I getting better.”
While DC accepted the reality that he had to wait in line as Jones and Gustafsson were already booked for UFC 178, he immediately grabbed the opportunity when Gustafsson was injured.
Cormier and Jones wasted to time in showing hatred as they figured in an ugly brawl during a UFC Media day press conference last August 4. Cormier says the animosity dates back to 2010 when he felt that Jones disrespected him in a chance encounter during the Brock Lesnar-Cain Velasquez fight at UFC 121.
A lot of reactions have been made on that brawl. Some called it the perfect way to hype a fight, while others said it showed the ugly side of the sport. Still, there were those who claim that the brawl was staged. Whatever it really was, it has surely turned the world’s attention to the Jones-Cormier war.
Starting a Circus
When the UFC decided to “move” the Jones-Cormier bout to UFC 182, it started a circus. Jon Jones apologized to the fans and underwent surgery. Daniel Cormier said that he “initially fretted that he would lose his title shot after Jones got injured.” But he’s glad that the bout was simply “pushed forward” the UFC. The third man in the story, Alexander Gustafsson, is the one who rightfully owned the title shot before his injury. With his surgery done and recovery expected to be completed in 6 weeks, he is now asking to be reinstated for the new January 3 schedule. As of presstime, the UFC stands firm by its decision to pit Cormier against Jones. Now, Gustafsson’s team is saying that the Swede won’t fight unless it’s the title shot against Jones.
So what gives here? All men have legitimate claims but the UFC has the final say. Should the bout between Jones and Cormier push through on January 3, it will take Jones or Cormier another four to six months before fighting again so Alexander Gustafsson will have to wait. Gustafsson has fought only once since UFC 165, and should he put himself inside the freezer, he won’t only suffer from inactivity but the rematch could lose its luster in the PPV arena. Should he fight someone else, he would be risking injury or an upset loss.
If the UFC makes a U-turn in the next weeks and reinstates Gustafsson for UFC 182, how would Cormier react? Will he make a similar stand as Alex Gustafsson? The UFC knows that the Jones-Cormier brawl may have made that fight a more sellable one than a UFC 165 rematch. The UFC’s numbers have suffered this year in the absence of a marquee PPV star, and Jones-Cormier was a candidate for this year’s breakout event. Would they proceed with a bout that’s already been hyped? Or will they try to hype up the Gustafsson rematch again?
These are only few of the many questions that still baffle us right now. But one thing is certain here, Jon Jones will be the UFC light heavyweight champion at the end of the year, as he has been since 2011. Although Jones has passed Tito Ortiz in successful title defenses, the Huntington Beach Bad Boy is still the longest reigning light heavyweight champion of All-Time. Tito Ortiz was light heavyweight champion for a total of 1260 days. If he would’ve fought and won on September 27, Jon Jones would’ve eclipsed that at 1288 days. But moving the fight to January 3 puts more separation between Ortiz and Jon Jones. Becoming the greatest light heavyweight champion of all-time is definitely not the motive of this circus, but Jones looks to earn that from all of these.
Heck, if these were the WWE, we would have suggested a Fatal Three Way match to Triple H so that Jones, Gustafsson and Cormier would dispute the title in a single match. But this is the UFC, so let’s wait for some tweet from Dana White instead.