Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visits Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for UFC 165: "Jones vs. Gustafsson," which can be seen live on pay-per-view (PPV) this Saturday night (Sept. 21, 2013), with the "Prelims" commencing the mixed martial arts (MMA) action on Fox Sports 1 and Facebook.
Already approaching legendary status at age 26, Jon Jones has beaten just about every noteworthy contender in the 205-pound division. He will have his hands full with "The Mauler," Alexander Gustafsson, as "Bones" looks to break the divisional title defense record with his sixth win as a champion.
Gustafsson, meanwhile, has lost just once in his 16-fight career, and is 8-1 fighting in the Octagon.
Interim Bantamweight champion, Renan Barao, looks for his second title defense against power-punching Eddie Wineland, who gets a title shot after a questionable run (2-2) with the promotion. Wineland, the first-ever World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 135-pound champion, has a 7-4 record under the Zuffa banner, while his opponent has not tasted defeat since his professional debut in 2005, boasting a stellar record of 30-1-(1).
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Saturday night might mean for these combat sports stars.
Here we go:
With the constant thoughts and rumblings of, "What have you done for me lately?" in MMA from the fandom, there is a possibility that a victory for Jones may not impress everyone. Simply put, "Bones" has exceeded expectations in his young career and this may be another dominant day at the office for the incredibly talented fighter. Regardless, a win over a young, hungry and talented fighter like Gustafsson would be another feather in Jones' cap, proving that he could also demolish the new breed of fighters who are coming up in the sport.
More important, Jones would break records yet again. He is currently tied with Tito Ortiz for most title defenses in Light Heavyweight history (and consecutive ones at that) at five and if he could get a sixth over Gustafsson, he tops that high-water mark. He would also break the record of most wins in championship fights with seven (also tied with Ortiz at six as we speak).
Ortiz, Jose Aldo and Matt Hughes share a record of third most consecutive title defenses in UFC history, and Jones would leap them all if he can best "The Mauler," with only Anderson Silva (10) and Georges St. Pierre (eight) who stand above him. Jones also has five fight bonuses to his name, and a sixth would put him on a list alongside Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, Carlos Condit and Joe Stevenson, who have all had memorable scraps in the organization.
If Jones is to win this fight, his next move is seemingly set in stone, as Glover Teixeira most likely gets the next crack at the champion.
Finally, Jones would make the case to be the greatest fighter on the planet if he overcomes, and especially finishes, the Swede. Silva's stock fell short after his UFC 162 loss, St. Pierre is fantastic though his finishing rate has many questioning his status and Aldo is up there, but he, too, has his critics who believe he has shown weaknesses in his fights, especially in the later rounds. Jones stock is always rising, he finishes just about everyone and he does not tire in the later rounds; in fact, he excels in them.
If Jones wins convincingly, get ready for the greatest of all-time tag would be flying everywhere, whether you agree or not.
A win for "The Mauler" would be one of the most historic upsets in the sport. Would it top Matt Serra's upset over St. Pierre at UFC 69?
Would it be greater than Chris Weidman's win over Silva, even though the Baldwin, N.Y., native was only a 2-1 under dog and knocked out the greatest fighter in the world? It could be, since the roles are eerily similar, yet Gustafsson is not getting anywhere close to the credit Weidman was getting.
Imagine he finishes, or better yet, knocks outJones? Hell would freeze over. Let us not get too ahead of ourselves and try to break this down.
Since Gustafsson has not faced nearly the same level of competition Jones has, if he beats the champion on Saturday night he would do what former UFC champions Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson could not do: Dethrone the great Jones. It would it shake up the division from the bottom all the way to the top in an instant.
Indeed, in a division where "Bones" has reigned supreme for over two years now, the Swede would flip the script and open new opportunities for the rest of the weigh class. Matchmaking would shift, the rankings would be totally different Monday morning and above all, we would have a new face to call the best in the world at 205 pounds.
Let us hope that a win for Barao signals the end of the interim title tag and that he becomes the actual champion for the promotion. As great, talented and unfortunate Dominick Cruz is, the show must go on if "The Dominator" is delayed any longer.
Barao has looked lethal at 135 pounds, and under the Zuffa banner, he has four stoppages out of seven victories, including one title defense and wins over durable opponents such as Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett.
Hopefully, we can say that Barao -- who has only one loss and one "No Contest" out of a whopping 32 fights -- is one of the best fighters in the world. However, his peers seem to overshadow him in that aspect -- his name is not always considered among the Top Three best pound-for-pound lists. With that being said, the Nova Uniao Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has to keep on impressing, winning decisively and dominating his opponents. If he gets the victory on Saturday night -- and if Cruz is ready for Feb. 2014 like he says he is -- a win in that fight should establish him as one of the world's greats.
For now, though, let us please get some closure on this godforsaken "interim" bantamweight belt scramble.
The thought of Wineland beating Barao might not be as farfetched when you think about it in advance. Yes, Barao is this incredibly gifted specimen who has not looked in the least bit of trouble (except for maybe against McDonald) in his UFC career and his win streak is uncanny for a competitor his age.
However, Wineland is playing the role of the underdog perfectly ... in every sense of the word.
Wineland has a puncher's chance -- not a slight chance that could have him victorious with a punch -- an actual chance because of his punching power. The former WEC champion also has the experience to do it.
But can he match that with his skills? We are going to soon find out.
Here is the thing: We said we wanted closure on the bantamweight title picture, right? Knowing UFC and its sometimes-pesky business model, Wineland would be declared another interim champion. It would not call Wineland the actual champion after giving Barao that tag after a year's time. This is not to declare that we do not feel comfortable with Wineland winning, it would just further complicate things for the time being.
Chances are, though, a situation like that -- if it happens -- is probably the last thing UFC is considering at this moment.
Let us face the facts: The organization needed a fresh challenger to throw down with Barao and it picked Wineland. Let us hope it is a competitive fight. If Wineland wins though, it would be a huge upset. One that could raise more questions rather than answers moving forward.
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