UFC 232 Picks

MMA Fight: UFC 232
Key Matches: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
When: Saturday, December 29, 2018
Time: 11:00PM EST
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Jon Jones, (-300), 22-1 (9 KOs, 6 Submissions) vs. Alexander Gustafsson, (+250), 18-4 (11 KOs, 3 Submissions)

Jon Jones returns to the octagon to take on Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title on December 29. The UFC typically has these end-of-the-year cards and this year features a nice one. For all his issues, Jones is rightfully recognized by many as the best MMA fighter who ever lived. But innumerable issues have led to him having two fights since January 2015, with one an overturned win after another failed drug test. When he was in the midst of his heyday, he was hard to stop. The only man to give him a challenge was Gustafsson, who lost a close 2013 fight to Jones in a memorable war. Who will get the upper hand in Jones-Gustafsson II?

Suffice to say that Jones is a screw-up. It has led to a lot of loss and a ton of inactivity. He should have been heavyweight champion by now—a goal that is still within reach. In his last outing, a year and a half ago, he beat rival Daniel Cormier, who is currently the heavyweight champion. The win was overturned after yet another transgression with the drug test. Whatever happened there is almost secondary, but what happens now is what matters. Jones’ inactivity would mean more if Gustafsson had been active, but he hasn’t been either.

Gustafsson, the same age as Jones at 31, last fought in May of 2017, knocking out Glover Teixeira in a nice performance. But since fighting Jones over five years ago, he has fought just five times, only one more than Jones. For Jones, the issues have been mostly by his own doing. For Gustafsson, it’s been injuries that have been the sticking point. He also took a few losses along the way, getting starched in horrifying fashion by Anthony Johnson and losing a split decision to Cormier for the light heavyweight title. In a way, Jones has the excuse of being a screw-up, whereas Gustafsson’s body has been breaking down and he’s shown himself to be great, but not enough to get over the hump.


As our mind goes to Gustafsson’s drawbacks, it’s also important to tether ourselves to the concept that styles dictate the results of this sport. And the first time, it was a war, with a late-surging Jones locking up the narrow win. Gustafsson is the only 205-pounder on this level who can match up well size-wise with the supremely-long Jones. He’s actually an inch taller at 6’5.” He wasn’t out-of-range like all of Jones’ other opponents. He can strike well with Jones and was the first fighter to score a takedown in the octagon against “Bones.” He was also successful in avoiding being taken down until late in the fight.

It has been a long time since UFC 165 when these two first met. A lot has happened. But in the octagon, nothing has really occurred to question Jones’ standing. It has certainly gotten to the point where his margin for error is narrow. Any more slip-ups and he might be primed to be plucked, as the sport will simply pass him by. But in Gustafsson, he has a contemporary on his hands and a guy who hasn’t seen everything go all completely-swimmingly since their 2013 battle. And what a battle it was, with both men earning distinction.

From a matchup standpoint, we can always go to Jones’ stamina, which has always been otherworldly. It allowed him to gain the edge in their first bout. But until then, Gustafsson saw his wrestling gain him an edge, as he got into the fifth round before getting taken down. Over stretches on their feet, Gustafsson had an advantage in the hands category. Jones certainly was doing well and imposed his will on Gustafsson with some well-placed kicks and elbows, but all in all, it was a high-level fight that was for the most part evenly-contested.

Alas, each side of this bet has drawbacks. For Gustafsson, can his body hold up to the rigors of a full camp, followed by what figures to be a rugged 5-rounder with the best to ever do it. The problems the Swede has suffered through don’t typically get better with time. The fight with Cormier shows he still belongs at a high level. But the kind of beating he took to Johnson can leave a fighter a few percent diminished, a margin he can’t afford against Jones. While Gustafsson still should be a top commodity at 205 pounds, his inactivity, uneven track record since 2013, and list of injuries and surgeries make him a bit hard to pinpoint.

The same issue exists for Jones. He still looked to be a monster last year against Cormier, but no fighter is forever immune to layoffs or a lifestyle not befitting a top athlete. Do we see that start to resonate now? If someone told you he would still be fighting in light heavyweight title in 2018 back in 2013, it would have been hard to believe. How easy is it for him, now in his thirties, to get that big body down to 205 pounds?

Still, banking on Jones to be diminished is perhaps wishful-thinking for potential Gustafsson backers. There is no ample evidence to suggest he will be a reduced version of his former self, other than projection or maybe even a guess that he will have to pay at some point for all the nonsense. But Gustafsson supporters don’t necessarily have to bank on Jones’ demise to have a path to victory in this fight. He has the size to match up well with Jones, where his striking prowess can resonate better than fighters who have to work hard to get within range. And with his wrestling, Jones isn’t able to throw him around as he does others.

A lot of the data here is a wash. Jones has fought one less time than Gustafsson since their first meeting and unlike Gustafsson, he hasn’t lost twice since then. The angular Swede is still hungry to get a title and should be a handful in this fight again for Jones. His combination of skills and size just make it so that is how it works out. And in a lot of ways, he has actually improved since then and is even more dangerous with his hands. Jones, however, is the best ever in many people’s minds for a reason. No one has beaten him. With the knowledge of what he is up against, I see Jones approaching this fight with utmost professionalism and being the better man. I’m taking Jon “Bones” Jones.

Loot’s Pick to Win the Match: I’m betting on Jon Jones to win at –300 odds. Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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