Sometimes, it’s fun to root for the bad guy. After being pushed as the face of the UFC, due to recent transgressions Jon Jones has fallen rapidly out of grace with the UFC brass, but sometimes talent trumps all. To close out an extremely pivotal year in the sport of mixed martial arts, let alone the UFC, the widely considered greatest of all time mixed martial artist Jon ‘Bones’ Jones squares off in a sequel against the toughest opponent in his illustrious career, Swedish Kickboxer Alexander Gustafsson.
After much uncertainty regarding Jones availability and the recent controversy in regards to an ‘abnormal’ drug test, Jones was not granted a fighting license under the state of Nevada and on a drop of a dime the UFC decided to move their card from the T- Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to The Forum in Los Angeles, where the California State Athletic Commission has granted Jones the license to fight.
Aside from arguably the most important fight in the history of the Light Heavyweight division, UFC 232 also includes a super fight between two of the most dominant female athletes in MMA history when Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg faces off with Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, with winner attaining the illustrious title of being the greatest female mixed martial artist of all time and also the latest two-division champ in the UFC.
The historical implications of this card are nearly unprecedented, with whispers of Jon Jones moving up to Heavyweight to challenge longtime rival Daniel Cormier for the Heavyweight title and also a potential rumored mega fight with Brock Lesnar, to rumors revolving around the transition to Boxing for Cris Cyborg, who knows what 2019 has in store for us MMA fans. But for now, let’s turn our attention to the final card of the calendar year.
Chad Mendes(#5) vs. Alexander Volkanovski(#10)
UFC 232 kicks off the main card with a featherweight bout between perennial contender Chad Mendes and the scorching-hot prospect Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski has been running through his competition with a 16-fight winning streak and has excelled in the UFC, running through the stiff Featherweight competition with five wins, most recently displaying an exceptional performance on route to a unanimous decision victory in his last outing over Darren Elkins, snapping his own six-fight winning streak.
After a near two and a half year layoff for serving a ban for testing positive for a growth hormone, Mendes returned to action in July this year and regained his footing in the MMA world by starching Myles Jury in the first round to reaffirm his name in the top tier of the talented division. With a win over Volkanovski, Mendes would be on track to be in the discussion to earn another shot at the new king of the division – Max Holloway.
The very least we could expect is a well-rounded display from both men with Volkanovski having the ability to match Mendes in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of MMA. Although Volkanovski is one of the hottest prospects in the business, Mendes has the experience to help him edge out a decision victory to move one step closer to Max Holloway.
prediction: Mendes, Unanimous Decision
Ilir Latifi(#5) vs. Cory Anderson(#10)
Both Latifi and Anderson have a lot riding on this fight, as an impressive win will put them in the best position to be on course for an eventual shot at the light heavyweight title.
Both fighters’ seem to be riding high as one of their two-fight win streaks are destined to come to an end. Ilir Latifi is hot off a decision over Tyson Pedro and a spectacular submission victory of one-time title contender Ovince Saint Preux, whereas Corey Anderson is coming off two decision victories over wrestler Patrick Cummins and wily veteran Glover Teixeira.
Both men rely heavily on their wrestling games to produce the necessary pressure in order to enter the light heavyweight upper echelon, but what separates Latifi and Anderson is Latifi’s underrated knockout power and pure strength. Not only is Latifi a wrestling gold medalist but has never been taken down in any of his UFC bouts.
To me, this bout will be decided on the feet. Cory Anderson has a tendency of becoming one dimensional and flatfooted standing up and Latifi has the technique and power to put Anderson away and a finish may be needed in order for Latifi to secure the victory to avoid and stagnate Anderson’s high volume fighting style of heavy doses of clinches and takedown attempts.
prediction: Latifi, KO, Round 2.
Carlos Condit vs. Micheal Chiesa
Michael Chiesa finally moves up to welterweight, with the weight cut down to lightweight (155) being too grueling to begin with, and has undoubtedly has affected his recent performances. To welcome him to the 170-pound division, he takes on one of the prolific fighters in the welterweight division for nearly a decade in Carlos Condit. Condit’s career seems to be on the line, as he is on the verge of extending his losing streak up to five.
Chiesa is suffering a losing streak of his own after getting submitted by both Kevin Lee(who seems to be on the path to fighting at 170) and Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Chiesa seems destined to take this fight to the ground and look for the finish, but Condit is no cakewalk with 13 submission victories on his resume.
There’s a slight chance that Condit finds the fountain of youth and delivers a throwback performance to out-scramble and outwork the younger, healthier Chiesa, but that version of Condit has been absent for the better part of five years. Condit is as versatile a fighter could be and a legend of the sport, but his career seems to be coming to a close and Chiesa’s game plan of wearing down Condit will pay off with a late submission victory.
prediction: Chiesa, Submission, Round 3.
Cris Cyborg(C) vs. Amanda Nunes
To put this bluntly, if Amanda Nunes doesn’t get the finish within the first three rounds, this fight is Cris Cyborg’s to lose. Cyborg matches up with Nunes in every skill department but with superior strength, cardio and punching power. The path to victory for Nunes comes down to her willingness to stand toe to toe with Nunes and punish Cyborg for her neutral output and attempt to neutralize Cyborg’s devastating right hand. Cyborg seems to excel with opponents who swing for the fences with low volume, thus it’ll be vital that Nunes put the pressure on Cyborg with different looks and pumping out a jab to keep Cyborg on her toes.
An early knockout is the most realistic route to a win for Nunes, but Nunes seems destined to be plagued with her cardio issues in the later round which will lead to Cyborg tagging her with her patented right hand and continuing her dominance as the queen of MMA. Cyborg’s biggest advantage is her game planning and fight IQ, and much like her other fights, she’ll start conservative in the beginning rounds only to slowly ramp up the offense. in the championship rounds and will finish a gassed Nunes in the fifth.
prediction: Cyborg, TKO, Round 5.
Jon Jones(#1) vs Alexander Gustafsson(#2)
In any other sport, Jon Jones would be a dead man walking. But no other sport has a Jon Jones.
Jones has the whole world against him, from his numerous drug infractions and overall inactivity, Jones has to pull of a near miracle to win against a very determined Alexander Gustafsson.
With their first bout claiming the title as the best light heavyweight fight ever, the stakes seem to be at an unprecedented level for either fighter heading into UFC 232. The first fight was the first and last time we have ever seen a hole in Jon Jones game, with Gustafsson’s non-linear boxing style complicating Jones’ counter based fighting style. Gustafsson’s length presented a problem that Jones wasn’t used to, as he was landing shots more consistently than his previous opponents.
As Jon Jones showed holes in his game at UFC 165, Gustafsson has also shown a glaring weakness in his fighting style since then; his inability to deal with pressure of any kind. From Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson to Daniel Cormier, neither had to do much to throw off Gustafsson’s game plan to secure dominant wins over the Swedish kickboxer.
Jones ring IQ is second to none and it’s almost a certainty that Jones comes out with a more aggressive and pressure based game plan. Jones is not a traditional front-foot fighter, but Gustafsson struggles mightily when he’s backpedaling and on the defensive. Gustafsson is no slouch, but it’s going to take real alterations to his fighting style for the Swedish kickboxer to come out on top.
Expect Jones to pressure Gustafsson, making him uncomfortable and beat him up in the clinch and against the cage, on route to get a late finish as Gustafsson can’t find a way to counter the inevitable pressure coming his way.
prediction: Jon Jones, Submission, Round 4.