Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is heading back up to "The Great White North" for its latest and greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) pay-per-view (PPV), which takes place this Saturday night (Sept. 21, 2013) at Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
His win over Vitor Belfort may be the fresher of the two, but it was his submission victory against Lyoto Machida in late 2011 that left the Toronto attendees talking. That was the infamous "go get some fans" fiasco, which came after Jones dropped "The Dragon" like a toasted Spuddy Buddy.
Forgive and forget?
It seems like the bantamweight division has forgotten about Dominick Cruz ever since he committed to the longest kneehab in UFC history. In his absence, interim titleholder Renan Barao will keep the belt warm against the tough but grotesquely outmatched Eddie Wineland.
Then again, anything can happen in MMA.
How else can you explain the heavyweight pairing of Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub? Usually when no titles are on the line you can at least leave the arena with bragging rights, but I'm not sure a win here is anything worth bragging about, which is why neither fighter is ranked in the top 10 ...
... A place that has recently welcomed Pat Healy, though he's likely to cough up that spot to Khabib Nurmagomedov, if "Bam Bam" is unable to stave off one of the most dangerous up-and-comers in the entire lightweight division. Fight of the night?
This could be fight of the year.
Good thing we have Francis Carmont vs. Constantinos Philippou as a cool-down match. To be fair, a stoppage against the "Limitless" Parisian is likely to get "Costas" into the middleweight title hunt, as it will mark his sixth win in a row. For Carmont, it would be his eleventh.
So, who gets the job done tomorrow night and who comes up lame? I'm glad you asked...
Nostradumbass predicts: Beating Jon Jones is kind of like trying to pull the sword from the stone. If and when it does happen, it's probably going to be by surprise. Until then, every milk-and-water light heavyweight this side of Camelot will joust their way into the top spot, only to have us shake our heads in disappointment as they fail spectacularly.
Alexander Gustafsson will be no exception.
It's never a good sign when the best the promotion can drum up to hype a fight is the fact that fighter A is taller than fighter B. Seriously, that's all they had to say about "The Mauler" in those goofy voice-over ads that were running on FOX Sports 1.
What's the alternative?
Nobody will buy tickets if you tell the truth. And the truth is, Gustafsson is not good enough to beat Jones. Is he a talented young 205-pounder? No question, but decision wins over Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua have effectively taken the wind out of his sails.
The Swede is here because he has a 15-1 record and the division is light on contenders.
To close that yawning chasm that separates their betting lines, you would need Gustafsson -- or any challenger, for that matter -- to roll into the title fight with an impressive win streak highlighted by convincing finishes over top contenders. In short, you would have to mirror Jones, who has crushed five former champions since taking over as division despot in early 2011.
Barring any detachable piggies, a first-round finish would not surprise me.
Final prediction: Jones def. Gustafsson via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: The bantamweight division is made up of three fighters: Urijah Faber, Renan Pegado and Dominick Cruz. Faber can beat everyone at 135 pounds except Pegado and Cruz. "Barao," meanwhile, has to play second fiddle to "The Dominator," who's riding the pine until his reconstructed knee gets rubber stamped by his physician.
Until then, it's a round-robin of contenders who will get there shot, simply because everyone gets a turn.
That's really the only way to explain how Eddie Wineland ended up in a championship co-main event on a major UFC PPV. He's a grizzled veteran who held the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) bantamweight title over seven years ago, which looks great on paper, but doesn't mean a whole lot when you factor in the level of competition back in 2006.
In addition, he's only two fights removed from back-to-back losses to Cruz and Faber.
This is the guy who's going to stop Pegado? The Brazilian's resume reads like a work of fiction and watching him neutralize aggressive fighters like Michael McDonald and "The California Kid" doesn't give me any reason to think he won't do likewise against Wineland.
The question is, does he finish it?
I would imagine that a five-round dance would be more than enough time to seal the deal; however, I'm not going to discount Wineland's heart. I believe the challenger gets worked over the course of three rounds, then comes back and makes it interesting in the final two after "Barao" runs out of gas.
Still won't change the result.
Final prediction: Pegado def. Wineland via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Oops, they did it again. In case you couldn't tell from the Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera stinker at UFC 164, the promotion has no problem asking fight fans to pay for a heavyweight match-up between two sapless strikers who aren't ranked in the top 10 and probably won't be anytime soon.
This isn't a crusade against Matt Mitrione or his Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 pal Brendan Schaub, rather a critique of the organization's decision to take two plodding ogres -- both 1-2 over their last three bouts -- and give them squatter's rights on prime real estate.
Send them to the FOX bunker, as I'd much rather see a pair of rising stars like Myles Jury vs. Mike Ricci.
Having said that, this fight is fairly easy to break down. It all comes down to whether or not Schaub's collapsible chin will hold up after three rounds against Mitrione. He may not be a refined striker, by any stretch of the imagination, but "Meathead" certainly hits hard.
He doesn't have five wins via knockout/technical knockout by accident.
On the flip side, I don't consider him to be as polished as "The Hybrid," who proved in his wrestle-fest against Lavar Johnson that he can use Greg Jackson's gameplan when he knows he's outgunned. I believe that may be the case here, as it was against "Big," so expect the early boo-birds to get these two worms.
Final prediction: Schaub def. Mitrione via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to look at Francis Carmont as a physical specimen and think, "Wow that guy's a killer." Just as easily as it is to discover he was KTFO by British bumpkin Ross Pointon and think, "Wow, that guy's a can." So, which one is he?
Somewhere in the middle.
I know that's a specious argument based on the fact that he's won 10 straight, but let's not forget that five of those 10 wins have come against guys on the European circuit whose own mothers couldn't pick out of a police line up. As for his UFC run?
He'll have to settle for a golf clap.
That's not to suggest that Constantinos Philippou gets a standing ovation. He's also bagged and tagged five in a row, but like his "Limitless" opponent, there isn't a whole lot there to get excited about. His biggest victory to date was a technical knockout win over Tim Boetsch and that came by way of injuries, head butts and eye pokes.
A win is a win, I suppose.
When push comes to shove, I think Philippou is the better striker and after years under the Team Serra-Longo banner, he's also become accustomed to getting out of precarious situations on the ground. How his recent move to Bellmore Kickboxing Academy affects him -- for better or for worse -- remains to be seen.
Until then, I'm going with "better."
Final prediction: Philippou def. Carmont via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: In June of 2010, I had pretty much written off Pat Healy as a viable lightweight contender. Getting choked out by Josh Thomson marked his sixteenth loss since his combat sports career got underway in late 2001.
That's a lot.
Then out of nowhere, "Bam Bam" went on a torrid seven-fight winning streak, one that saw him crack the top 10 of his division after smoking
weed Jim Miller at UFC 159 back in April. Unfortunately, that victory was overturned because Healy was unable to qualify for the new and improved metabolites guidelines.
But that's water under the
He can make that bad memory go away against who I consider to be the hottest prospect in the division (no homo). Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has caused a great many of wars between my spell check and I, has made a mockery of the 155-pound division.
This is a fight that tells us where both lightweights are at. Like Healy, Nurmagomedov has shown dominance over established veterans, as well as promising up-and-comers. Now it's time to graduate to the next level and start fighting opponents ranked in the top 10.
I believe "The Eagle" has landed.
Healy is a solid fighter with serviceable skills in all areas. Unfortunately, everything he's good at, Nurmagomedov is just a little bit better and with a little more polish. Add to that "Bam Bam's" penchant for being finished and I can't help but think that this night belongs to Mother Russia.
Final prediction: Nurmagomedov def. Healy via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 165 event on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 165 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Jones vs. Gustafsson."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.