The light heavyweight division turned on its head after the September 21 clash between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. Prior to the bout, there were claims of Jones wiping out the light heavyweight division with a win over Gustafsson and subsequently moving up to heavyweight. What followed was not only unexpected, but sheer brilliance for the UFC.
Alexander Gustafsson put in the best performance of his career, taking the champion to the judges’ scorecards and despite the unanimous decision resting in Jones’s favour, many argued the case of Gustafsson winning the fight. 9 months removed from the 2013 Fight of the Year and talks of a rematch are in place, though it seems that the champion is less than keen on a second fight with Gustafsson.
While Jon Jones may argue that he has already beaten the Swede, the nature in which he did so and the follow-up performance from Gustafsson against Jimi Manuwa in March makes a second fight easy to market. The rematch could be a big pay day for both fighters and it all seemed like the perfect scenario.
That’s when a man by the name of Daniel Cormier showed up.
After making his light heavyweight debut against lacklustre short notice opponent Patrick Cummings at UFC 170 and despatching of the American in quick and devastating fashion, Cormier made a huge statement at UFC 173 in May. Defeating well respected veteran of the sport, and then-ranked #6 in the division, Dan Henderson was impressive enough, but the way Cormier treated him like an amateur was mesmerising.
With slams, takedowns and strikes aplenty brutalising the former Pride and Strikeforce champion, Cormier ended the fight in the third round by choking Henderson unconscious. DC is now ranked #2 in the light heavyweight division, and he has put a spanner in the works of plans to match Alexander Gustafsson up with Jon Jones once again.
Of course, champions rarely decide who they fight in the modern sport, but both fighters are viable contenders for a shot at the title. Even more convincing are the cold stats of the fight, with Cormier not only being a world class wrestler, but undefeated as a mixed martial artist.
To add to this is the age factor. Daniel Cormier being 35, Alexander Gustafsson at just 27. Why make the older fighter wait on the sidelines when Gustafsson could easily fight for the title once again soon, anyway?
This is why claims of Jon Jones ‘ducking’ Alexander Gustafsson are inaccurate. The Swede put up an incredible fight with the champion and posed a number of problems for him, single-handedly becoming the hardest fight of Jones’s career hitherto. But if Jones is calling out a man who is 15-0, a former Strikeforce tournament champion and with wins over Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson on a stacked resumé, does this constitute as ducking?
Jones responded to the claims with an Instagram post that was soon after deleted, and he makes a valid point. My opinion:- match Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier together, while Alexander Gustafsson is given a tune-up opponent (Bader-Feijao winner or OSP-Jimmo winner come to mind) before receiving another shot at the title.
Leaving a 35 year old on the sidelines could be costly for the UFC, and if Jones gets past Cormier and Gustafsson gets past his next opponent, that just makes the second fight even more appealing.