Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight rivals Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson squared off for a second time last night (Dec. 29, 2018) at UFC 232 inside The Forum in Inglewood, California (watch highlights).
The final full week of 2018 proved an interesting one. In the lead up to Saturday’s events, Jones’ questionable urine samples sparked a great deal of outrage, shifted an event from one state to another for the first time in UFC history, and had us all visualizing swimming pools and salt in one of the least helpful metaphors of all time.
Luckily, all the hoopla was not without reason. After over five years of delay due to injury and ill circumstance (read: drug tests), Jones and Gustafsson finally stepped into the cage for the second time last night. Whether you were hoping for a dominant finish from one side or another in a classic war of attrition, there was much to be excited about in UFC 232’s main event.
Jones came out looking to wrestle, using takedowns to land himself in the clinch. The Swede was able to defend those exchanges, though, resulting in lots of strikes in the pocket from both men. Gustafasson doubled up on jabs quite a bit, whereas Jones was stabbing at the leg consistently and shooting kicks up the middle. Though it was a close round, Jones was the more active and accurate man. It was not dominant, but “Bones” simply landed the hardest shots, most notably an elbow as Gustafsson pushed forward.
In the latter half of the first and into the second, Jones was less willing to trade with Gustafsson in the pocket, choosing instead to hang back maintain range. Jones’ left body kick was a seriously effective weapon, halting Gustafsson’s forward advance. Nevertheless, Gustafsson did find his moments to land, suddenly closing the distance with punches. As a result, Gustafsson was the advancing party, but he ran into a variety of low kicks as a result. His leg probably didn’t feel great, but Gustasfsson did land the hardest head strikes of the second frame.
It still wasn’t enough to win the round.
Jones began the third round with his first successful shot of the night. After a few elbows from half guard, Jones advanced into side control and began working toward the back mount. Gustafsson tried to fight hooks, but immediately wound up in the worst possible position: flattened out back mount. Gustafsson was stuck, and Jones hammered him to a third-round knockout win.
Jones’ technique is — as usual — brilliant. At range, he was incredibly varied, attacking Gustafsson with a mix of elbows and kicks. The body work of Jones was incredibly effective, as he repeatedly jammed teeps into Gustafsson’s belly. That teep, in addition to the Southpaw left kick, made it very difficult for Gustafsson to push forward into the pocket.
I was surprised when Jones tried so hard in the first to score a takedown, but the results once he actually got Gustafsson down clarified things. Jones’ control was brilliant, as he masterfully transitioned from half guard to side control, threatened the crucifix, and basically forced Gustafsson to give him an amazingly dominant position.
It was very clear to me that Jones rehearsed that sequence dozens of times ahead of this fight specifically, because it was perfect.
Gustafsson lost because he never managed to find his range, largely because Jones made it impossibly difficult for him. Gustafsson made his own life more difficult by not taking advantage of the few times he did close the distance, looking for the perfect punch rather than throwing combinations and targeting the body. I don’t know that the end result would’ve changed, but it is the biggest critique I have for the Swede.
Last night, Jon Jones dismantled his opponent with a perfectly executed strategy. Who will Jones face next?
For complete UFC 232: “Jones Vs. Gustafsson 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!