MMA: Alexander Gustafsson
In related news, he believes he is two wins away from a move to the heavyweight division.
The UFC light heavyweight champion has teased a jump in weight class before, but there was something different about him doing so again on Monday. For one, he sounded believable.
Jones, 27, has been asked about the topic for years, and his responses have varied. One month, he's seriously eyeing it. A few months later, he has no interest.
On Monday, he described two fights -- Daniel Cormier on Jan. 3 and a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson -- as "the race" he needs to finish. At that point, Jones says, he will have cleaned out the division, and it's difficult to argue his logic.
"I'm right around the corner," Jones said. "I need to finish the race, and the race, for me, is [Cormier] and Alexander.
"As far as being the greatest of all time, I think me beating Gustafsson and DC -- how do you argue that? The argument is just gone, you know what I mean? I do believe I have the best résumé in the sport's history. I don't think anyone has beaten as many [former] champions as I have. To go on what I've already done and beat DC and Gustafsson? I just think no matter who your favorite is, you can't deny I'm the best in the game."
Jones (20-1), whose eighth title defense against Cormier will headline UFC 182 in Las Vegas, admitted there will always be another challenge waiting in the wings but basically said anything at 205 beyond Cormier and Gustafsson would be unnecessary. Cormier (15-0) is undefeated, and Gustafsson (16-2) gave him his toughest fight in September 2013. Jones won via unanimous decision.
There's always going to be a new guy, right? You beat [Daniel Cormier], [Alexander] Gustafsson -- now there's Anthony [Johnson]. Everybody wants to see me against Anthony. But I mean, after those two [Cormier and Gustafsson], I would consider the division cleared."” -- UFC light heavyweight champion
"I consider [the Gustafsson] fight a win, but it's not a win to others. Me beating Gustafsson and DC would be, 'OK, this dude beat the baddest dudes of the last 10 years. He's beat them all.'
"There's always going to be a new guy, right? You beat DC, Gustafsson -- now there's Anthony [Johnson]. Everybody wants to see me against Anthony. But I mean, after those two [Cormier and Gustafsson], I would consider the division cleared."
Gustafsson is scheduled to face Johnson (18-4) on Jan. 24 in Sweden. Jones acknowledged Gustafsson would have to win that fight for a rematch to mean as much.
Should Jones' plan come to fruition and he win those two fights, he says a superfight against heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez would be a "fight of his life."
"Those two fights and I would consider the division cleared and that's when you entertain superfights," Jones said. "I've been training with heavyweights for years now. I know I would do really good against them, and that would be the next chapter."
Jones, who walks around between fights near 230 pounds, said he would look to bulk up to a "strong" 235 pounds as a heavyweight.
One superfight Jones said he has no interest in is a bout against former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva (33-6), who is scheduled to return from a gruesome leg injury in January. The Brazilian will fight Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
A little more than one year ago, Jones vs. Silva was considered a marquee superfight, but that changed when Silva, 39, suffered back-to-back losses in 2013 to current champion Chris Weidman.
"I would never want to fight Anderson," Jones said. "I just don't want to fight the guy. I look up to him so much. I wouldn't want to be the guy to beat him, even though it's happened already. I wouldn't want to lose to him, and I wouldn't want to beat him.
"[Velasquez] would be a hell of a fight, man. It would be a fight of my life. That's what it's about, though. I've been in one of those fights where I'm bleeding and I'm exhausted and it's not fun to be a part of. The Gustafsson fight -- [that isn't] not fun. I'd be willing to do that for the right champion, though, and the fans."
And headed into a much-anticipated lightweight bout against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178 next weekend in Las Vegas, Cerrone (24-6) is starting to see a title shot. "Cowboy" has won (and finished) his past four fights.
Cerrone, 31, is known for his desire to fight as much as possible, with the shortest break possible in between. Usually, title shots in the UFC change things, though. Should Cerrone get past Alvarez, it's reasonable to think he might take a minute off, cheat a day on his diet and gear up for the winner of a UFC lightweight title fight between Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez on Dec. 6.
That's not Cerrone, though.
"If I beat Eddie Alvarez, do I get a No. 1 contender spot? More than likely," Cerrone told ESPN.com. "Especially if I finish Eddie, the UFC is probably going to give me a title shot.
"Now, Pettis and Melendez don't fight until December -- which means they won't be ready to defend their belt until March or April. That is a long time away for a guy like me. I don't like to sit and wait, so what's probably going to happen is I'll take my No. 1 contender spot and throw it in to the air and take another fight. Is this a No. 1 contender fight? Yes. Will I wait for a title shot if I win? Probably not."
Cerrone knows his way of thinking is rare within the sport, but says it's not changing anytime soon. When asked why he would risk a shot at a UFC title by taking another fight, he responds, "because I don't give a s---."
"I just want to fight," Cerrone said. "That is my true, deep-hearted answer. I'm not going to be like [light heavyweight Alexander] Gustafsson. What did he say? He'd wait two years for a shot if he has to? What? No. Sorry. Pettis has had a year off. I don't know how these guys live or what they do but I can't do that. I'm going to fight and then I want to fight again December, January, February -- let's go. Bring them on."
The Gustafsson statement is in reference to a recent comment the Swedish fighter reportedly made when discussing the possibility of fighting for a title in Stockholm.
Whether the UFC would ask Cerrone to wait for his title shot or insert him immediately into another fight is unknown and things change constantly in the fight game. Cerrone remains unconcerned with the details. His focus is to do what he's been doing -- win a fight next weekend against Alvarez (25-3), a former Bellator MMA lightweight champion, get paid, throw his name back into the UFC hat and fight again as soon as possible.
"I feel like I'm at a high place in my career and it feels good but I'm not really concerned about that," Cerrone said. "I wish I could explain how I feel but I just don't give a s---. That is honestly my overall opinion.
"I'm excited to go in and fight. Other than that, thinking about my future, none of that matters to me. What I've got going on at the ranch, building my new gym, wakeboarding -- that's what matters to me. Fighting is just something I do and enjoy."
SAN JOSE -- Daniel Cormier will challenge Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 178 on Sept. 27 with a "technically" injured right knee. There is no hiding that.
Following a third-round submission win over Dan Henderson in May, Cormier (15-0) revealed he went into the fight with a torn LCL. Additionally, physicians informed Cormier he had a partially torn ACL, a previous injury he had been unaware of.
Cormier considered undergoing surgery to repair the ACL, but ultimately decided to forgo it. He says he had already made that decision before receiving an offer to face Jones, in place of the recently injured Alexander Gustafsson.
The 35-year-old former heavyweight says he’s not concerned with the knee heading into a fight against Jones, who will obviously be aware of it. Cormier says the reason is that he’s fought with the partially torn ligament unknowingly before and it never affected him.
“With time, the LCL is supposed to heal,” Cormier told ESPN.com. “There’s nothing you can really do for it. I never felt the ACL. It wasn’t the ACL that was bothering me, so as soon as the LCL stopped hurting, I told myself I didn’t need surgery.
“You have to realize the position I’m in. I went in there with the same knee against [Antonio] Silva. I had the same knee against Josh Barnett. I went in with everybody in the same situation. It’s no different. It’s just something I know about now.”
Is he concerned Jones (20-1) will target the knee with kicks, as he’s been known to do anyway against previous opponents? The answer is Cormier isn’t concerned with a single thing Jones does. He’s felt that way for a long time.
“I’ll put my bank account [on me to win],” Cormier said. “I’m very confident.
“This is no gamesmanship: I don’t know if I can beat Rashad Evans. I don’t really know if I can beat Glover Teixeira. But I know, without question, I can beat Jon Jones. It’s just the way we match up. It’s his mentality and my mentality. Everything about Jon makes me think there is no way he can beat me.”
The two have a history, which dates back to what's sort of become a folk story from 2011. There was a (non-violent) "altercation" in Las Vegas. Cormier was still fighting in the heavyweight division at the time.
Both fighters have acknowledged a rift exists, while generally steering away from going into detail. After the fight was announced on Wednesday, Jones privately messaged Cormier on social media, “I hope you’re ready to come to daddy.”
Cormier publicly posted a screenshot of the message. He attempted to respond but couldn’t, as Jones doesn’t follow his account.
“That’s just how he is,” Cormier said. “He’s kind of protecting an image that’s not real anymore because people have seen through it. It’s sort of passive-aggressive, from putting up tweets and deleting them to sending messages to my coaches.
“Is this fight personal? Jon and I have some things outside of the cage that don’t allow us to be friends. We’ll never be friends. But when that cage door closes, it’s business. I don’t let my emotions carry me into a fight.”
Jackson, Jones' longtime head trainer, is fairly certain, however, that "being scared" isn't one of them.
Jones (20-1) is reportedly scheduled to meet with UFC officials this week to discuss terms for his next light heavyweight title defense. The promotion is looking to book Jones to a rematch against Gustafsson, possibly on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas.
On Monday, UFC president Dana White revealed Jones has asked to fight Cormier in his next bout. Jones basically confirmed as much in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
Jones' preference has prompted accusations that he is "ducking" Gustafsson, whom he narrowly defeated via unanimous decision at UFC 165 in September. Jackson doesn't see it that way.
"Everybody is looking for a chink in his armor and they are desperate for it," Jackson told ESPN.com. "They are desperate, like, 'Please let us find something wrong with the guy.'
"I've never heard him say, 'I'll never fight Gustafsson again. I'm scared.' I've never seen that from him at all. I don't really think courage is a problem for Jon Jones. He goes up against the best guys in the division."
As for Jones' reasoning for wanting Cormier (15-0), Jackson speculated it might have something to do with elevating his legacy. Cormier represents a new challenge.
Jones, 26, often talks about leaving a mark in the sport.
"It might be a career move," Jackson said. "He already beat Gustafsson. Maybe he's looking for a challenge and doesn't feel that Gustafsson is the challenge everybody else thinks he is. I honestly don't know, but it could be that Cormier would escalate his greatness more than someone he has already beaten."
A rematch between Jones and Gustafsson (16-2) has seemed inevitable since the first meeting, but according to Jackson, he and Jones have spoken very little about it.
The UFC has taken a hard stance recently that Gustafsson would be next for Jones, but Jackson said he rarely discusses or strategizes for a fight before it's announced.
"That's kind of how a fan would think about the sport," Jackson said. "I'm a fan, too, but I don't have that luxury. If I'm in a camp for [Glover] Teixeira and I'm talking about Gustafsson, that doesn't make any sense. I don't say that, 'This fight is inevitable,' because I don't know. I have no idea. There are things I thought for sure would happen that didn't come to pass and the other way around.
"If we fight Cormier, he's super tough. Gustafsson is super tough. Wherever the coin lands on that, it doesn't really matter to me."
As of Tuesday afternoon, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had not agreed to a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas.
He hadn’t turned it down, either -- which actually adds to the problem as far as the UFC is concerned.
Jones, 26, is entering perhaps the prime of his athletic career at the same time the UFC is looking to extend his contract. Back-and-forth negotiations might be inevitable.
The issue right now, however, is that no negotiations are taking place. According to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, Jones and his management have been unresponsive since the UFC offered Jones the Gustafsson rematch early last week.
That might have had something to do with the UFC’s decision to uncharacteristically announce the Jones-Gustafsson fight on Saturday, before Jones agreed to it. Get it out in the public, get Jones to respond, hopefully get the ball moving a bit.
The announcement, coupled with Gustafsson’s verbal commitment to the fight, has apparently had little effect on Jones, however. When asked if the fighter or his management had reached out to the UFC since Saturday, Fertitta simply answered, “Nothing.”
Jones’ team also has not responded to ESPN.com’s requests for comment.
Ideally, the situation will be sorted out in time for the rematch to headline UFC 177 on Labor Day weekend. The UFC already has secured the Aug. 30 date at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and a Jones headliner would fit well into its schedule.
If negotiations stall, the UFC might consider a September date, possibly in Sweden, although that likely wouldn’t be the promotion's -- or the champion’s (when you consider fighting in Sweden) -- first choice.
UFC president Dana White has gone on record saying the rematch could produce a 50,000-seat sellout in Stockholm. The UFC would want to announce an event of that size soon though, with plenty of time to market it and work out logistics.
“Two things go into having a stadium show,” Fertitta told ESPN.com. “It has to be the right fight and you have to have time to get behind the promotion of it.
“One thing about stadium shows, you get the benefit of the fact the show gets bigger. People talk about it. It becomes more of a spectacle. You sell more tickets, but the cost to set the thing up almost takes away that additional revenue.
“If we did that fight in Sweden, we would probably do it early in the morning. We’d have to deal with, is public transportation open? Are services, fire, police available at three or four in the morning? It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Let’s do a stadium show in Sweden.’ There is a lot we would have to figure out.”
Jones (20-1), despite all the veteran names on his resume, is looking at arguably the most challenging year of his career.
He dominated a durable, athletic opponent in Glover Teixeira last month at UFC 172. A rematch against Gustafsson (16-2), who took him to the brink of defeat at UFC 165 in August, and (if timing allows) a fight against an undefeated former heavyweight in Daniel Cormier (15-0) would make for an exceptional year.
Of course, Jones’ critics have attributed his silence on the Gustafsson rematch to fear -- and it is fair to note Jones has never appeared delighted when speaking about a second fight against Gustafsson.
In reality, however, the holdup is most likely connected to Jones’ contract extension and, at least for now, his current silence during the negotiation of it.
Daniel Cormier’s run at a UFC light heavyweight title might soon be less about weight and more about a wait.
Cormier (14-0) will look to improve to 2-0 in the UFC’s 205-pound division when he meets Dan Henderson at UFC 173 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Already ranked No. 4 in the division by ESPN.com, Cormier, a former heavyweight, says he’s content to sit on the sideline and wait for a title shot should he beat Henderson -- even though that might mean he wouldn’t fight the rest of the year.
Would two wins at light heavyweight really justify that type of layoff? And what are his thoughts on the upcoming fight with an accomplished veteran like Henderson (30-11)? Cormier answered those questions and more ahead of UFC 173.
ESPN: Everyone knows the issues you’ve gone through with weight cutting in the past, but at this point is your cut to 205 pretty much a non-topic?
Cormier: I don’t think it’s an issue. Cutting weight is always pretty tough. It’s not like it’s ever going to be easy. I think if I do the right things and not let it worry me, where I’m on the scale every 30 minutes, it’ll be fine.
ESPN: If you remove Henderson’s right hand from this fight, do you basically take away his only chance at beating you?
Cormier: I’ve been lucky enough to call his last four fights [as a television analyst]. I had to watch him a lot closer than I would have normally. The thing about Dan is he doesn’t wrestle anymore, which is great for me because I’m going to wrestle. If I take away the right hand, it really does limit him. He’s a tough, gritty, durable guy.
One thing I’ve taken from Dan in these fights is that Rashad [Evans] and Lyoto [Machida] actually fought him very conservative. Vitor [Belfort] went after him and finished him. [Mauricio Rua] went after him and hurt him very bad. So, what I took away is that I have to get after this guy. I’ll just make it look like his right hand is tied behind his back.
ESPN: You’ve said if you win this fight, you’d wait for a title shot. In that scenario, your record at 205 would be 2-0 with a win over Patrick Cummins on short notice and Dan Henderson, who would be 1-4 in his last five fights. Is that really enough to make you a title contender?
Cormier: Just because I fought at heavyweight, that stuff doesn’t go out the window. I was scheduled to fight Rashad Evans at UFC 170. The UFC wasn’t trying to give me an easy fight. I was scheduled to fight Rashad up until 10 days before that event. It’s not my fault [he had to pull out with injury]. I still fought and held up my end of the deal.
You look at my resume. I’ll put it next to anybody’s. Alexander Gustafsson beat [Rua], who is a former champion. I beat Josh Barnett and Frank Mir, that’s two. Two is better than one. Glover Teixeira, before he got his title shot, he beat Ryan Bader, Kyle Kingsbury, Fabio Maldonado and James Te Huna. That guy [Teixeira] got a title shot. My resume would include Henderson, Mir, Barnett, [Antonio] Silva and Roy Nelson. I think me getting a title shot is only fair.
ESPN: What if you go and knock out Henderson in the first round this weekend? You would be looking at a situation where your last two fights ended quickly and then you sit out the rest of the year.
Cormier: That won’t happen. With Dan Henderson, it will be a 15-minute battle. He’s too tough to let anybody walk out there and finish him that fast. I know Vitor did it, but Vitor did that to everybody last year.
ESPN: If you win and decide to wait for a title shot, could that negatively affect your weight at all? Is it a benefit to remain active since you’re cutting to 205?
Cormier: I would have to be very disciplined, but in that time off I would get better. There are a lot of things that can come up in a year. When is Jon [Jones] going to fight Gustafsson? That plays a factor. Dana [White] says I like to stay busy, which is true. That’s how you make money. I’m 35 years old so I like to fight. But I just think at some point you’ve got to say, "What if I get past Henderson and the next guy puts me in a war and I’m out for a long time?" Then I don’t get my title shot.
A lot can happen. Am I completely opposed to fighting a non-title fight before I get a title shot? No. I’m not afraid to earn a shot. I just think I already have.
Cormier: You watch the Klitschko brothers fight and they always do that. That’s how they find their range. Tall guys do that and there are things you can do to actually make them stop. I’m not opposed to doing them. I’ll punch him in the elbow or I’ll wrench his arm like he did to Glover in that fight.
ESPN: Pretty quick turnaround for you here, as you just fought on Feb. 22. How did camp feel and are you fully prepared for this fight?
Cormier: I’m getting to fight a guy who I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s a legend. It takes hard work to beat a legend. I’ve worked my tail off for this fight. I’m pretty thorough in my approach. This is a little shorter notice than I like, but after the UFC found me a coffee guy [Cummins] to fight on 10 days' notice, they can ask me for a favor this time.
LAS VEGAS -- On Thursday, UFC president Dana White clarified his stance regarding Jon Jones’ eye pokes in his title defense against Glover Teixeira on Saturday.
Jones (20-1) recorded his seventh consecutive light heavyweight title defense over Teixeira at UFC 172 via dominant unanimous decision.
In the second round, referee Dan Miragliotta warned Jones for poking Teixeira in the eye. Despite the warning, Jones continued to open his hand and place it on Teixeira’s forehead. Miragliotta never warned Jones again and did not deduct a point.
Immediately after the bout, White said in an interview with Fox Sports, “We’ve got to stop that stuff -- opening of the hands and putting hands on the face.”
On Thursday, White told ESPN.com that while Jones’ foul in the second round made him cringe, he thought the referee handled it well and didn’t mind Jones’ tactics the rest of the fight.
“He stopped,” White said. “I think what Jones is trying to do is, he’s got that range against a hard puncher. So, he’s trying to push him off. It’s no different than what [Muhammad] Ali used to do.
“A lot of guys [open their hands] when they block punches. You have to close your hands. I hate that. It’s very dangerous. Trust me, when Jones did it the first few times I was like, ‘Oh my god, don’t make this fight stop on an eye poke.’
“But that’s what the referee is there for and he handled it. That was it. People will nitpick Jones for anything he does. The guy puts on the sickest performance. He put on a flawless performance.”
Jones, 26, posted a video on Instagram this week in which he mocked his critics by pretending to cry and say, “Jones put his finger in his eye. Dirtiest fighter in MMA.” He has since deleted it from his account.
It was the second consecutive fight in which a Jones opponent complained of an eye poke. Jones caught Alexander Gustafsson in the eye in the first round of a title fight at UFC 165 in September.
Jones is set to face Gustafsson in a rematch of that September fight later this year. White has said the UFC is considering hosting it in the challenger’s backyard, at Friends Arena near Stockholm, Sweden.
White said he plans to speak to Jones in two weeks.
“I’m about two weeks away from talking to him,” White said. “Forty thousand seats. That will sell out like that. I was just talking to AEG [Anschutz Entertainment Group] guys and it’s 40,000. We’ll sell out.”
Yes, Glover Teixeira is 34 years old.
At a time when UFC fighters generally begin their decent into physical and skill-set mediocrity, Teixeira has only now risen to his peak.
Teixeira (22-2) hasn’t lost since 2005 and is 5-0 since coming to the UFC in 2012. In his last fight, against Ryan Bader in September, Teixeira dismantled Bader via first-round TKO. However, against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 172 on Saturday, Teixeira gives away 8 inches of reach and about eight years in age to the 26-year-old Jones.
But consider age a state of mind. Just don’t call Teixeira old. Sure, it took him a while just to get to the UFC, but with the quick work he made of his opponents, a title shot in the UFC never seemed far off.
“Well, I had trouble with my visa and I was stuck in Brazil, so I couldn’t get into the UFC,” Teixeira said. “But some things happen for a reason. So during that time I was able to get more experience. It worked out good for me in the end.”
Indeed, that experience will have to take him far against Jones, who says he was renewed and invigorated in this fight camp after what he viewed as his lackluster performance against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 in September. Gustafsson went the distance with Jones, who broke a toe in the process. Jones said he had the “worst camp of his career” in preparing for Gustafsson, but the champ said he's completely prepared this time.
Teixeira doesn’t seem to care. And why should he? Teixeira hasn’t lost in nine years. He only knows how to win.
He admits he had some butterflies before his first UFC fight against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC 146; it was a happy nervous that he was finally fighting in the UFC. Now, against Jones, there might be some of that in fighting for a title. But it’s not because of Jones.
Teixeira attributes this to the support he’s received at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. He’s sparring with champions and All-Americans every day. So to him, Jones is just another guy.
“At ATT, I have great coaches and training partners. Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu champions, K-1 champions. They also brought John Hackleman down to train with, and Steve Mocco is one of the best wrestlers in U.S. history. I trained with him for my last three fights. King Mo [Muhammed Lawal] was there for half the camp. There’s so much talent and experience to learn from. Jones is the champ and he is great, but right now he’s just another guy in front of me.”
Teixeira’s wins in the UFC have dispelled the notion that his competition outside the league was substandard. There was some lack of name recognition, both from his previous opponents and for himself. Mauricio Rua reportedly declined to fight Teixeira for UFC 149, citing Teixeira’s then-lack of ranking within the light heavyweight division. UFC boss Dana White was not happy. But Teixeira couldn’t be mad at his fellow countryman.
“I don’t think what he did was cool, but I don’t like, how do you say it -- holding a grudge,” Teixeira said. “That was only a year and a half ago, maybe. And now I’m fighting for the title. So what do I have to be mad about?”
And you can bet Rua would take a fight with Teixeira now.
It is this easygoing, nice-guy demeanor that makes it seem as if Teixeira is still flying under the radar. Certainly, after he got to the UFC, it didn’t take long for him to run through anyone the UFC put in front of him. And calling Jones “just another guy” doesn’t come off as bravado. Rather, it seems simply more like a serendipitous perspective. Whatever comes his way, he’ll take it on. He doesn’t overly self-promote despite a healthy 57,000 Twitter followers. There just isn’t a lot of show.
“I’ll fight anyone who the UFC asks me to fight,” Teixeira said. “It doesn’t matter; I’m just glad to be fighting in the UFC and I want that belt.”
He’ll have to figure out a way to close the distance between him and Jones (that is, Jones' massive reach advantage). To be sure, Teixeira’s chin has yet to be tested.
But he’s confident in both phases of his game: “Since I came to the UFC, I’ve improved everything in my game. My wrestling, my striking and having more overall experience. My coaches have made a good strategy for me so now it’s time for me to do it in the Octagon and take that belt.”
Sounds like Teixeira is just getting started. Not bad for an "old" guy.
He was at a London fairground, in front of an electronic punching bag game.
“We used to go to the fairground [funfair], and there’s that punchable thing that measures your power,” Manuwa told ESPN.com. “It was from one of those that I knew I could punch. My friends would come around, and we’d have competitions.
“I broke my hand on them. A couple times.”
Manuwa, 34, is an undefeated UFC light heavyweight with serious marketability -- but he’s only been training in mixed martial arts since 2008. He’s 3-0 in the UFC but hasn’t faced anyone in the upper echelon of his division.
On paper, Manuwa (14-0) should not defeat Alexander Gustafsson this weekend at UFC Fight Night 37 in London. It’s not a knock on Manuwa, who is headlining his first UFC event -- it’s just a fair assessment of the fight.
In interviews, current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has called this weekend an “easy path” back to a title shot for Gustafsson. Jones defeated the Swede via unanimous decision in a close fight at UFC 165 in September.
The thing Manuwa has going for him, though -- and everyone seems willing to agree on this -- is that he possesses devastating, can’t-be-taught, either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t knockout power.
It’s “God-given,” as Manuwa puts it. When asked if a specific moment stands out when he really knew he had shook someone, Manuwa replied, “I have 14 stoppages. There are a lot of those moments.”
Manuwa has put together one of the most peculiar runs in UFC history. He’s finished three consecutive fights -- all of which were accompanied by unusual circumstances.
His UFC debut in September 2012 ended after the second round when a ringside doctor declared Kyle Kingsbury could no longer see out of a battered left eye. In February 2013, Manuwa earned a TKO when Cyrille Diabate didn’t answer the bell for the second round due to an Achilles injury.
And in his most recent appearance at UFC Fight Night 30 in October, Manuwa kept the weird streak alive when he defeated Ryan Jimmo -- after Jimmo suffered an awkward-looking leg injury in the second round.
Manuwa says you’d have to ask his opponents why they keep “quitting” on him during fights, but he guesses it has something to do with the pressure he applies.
“It’s a bit less satisfying when that happens, but I’ll take the win,” Manuwa said. “They all probably know deep down in their heads they lost those fights.”
It is unlikely Gustafsson (15-2) will fall apart on Manuwa. The 27-year-old is built as durable as they come, but of course even he is susceptible to a big hit.
Gustafsson believes he beat Jones when the two fought for the title in Toronto, but he admits the entire complexion of that bout changed when Jones landed a spinning back elbow with less than one minute remaining in the fourth round.
It took him the entire fifth to recover from the shot.
“It was the elbow that changed that fight,” Gustafsson said. “The whole fifth round I was trying to recover from that elbow. I saw three of him out there and I couldn’t attack. I was just defending and trying to recover.
“When I finally did recover, the fight was over.”
The fact that Jones, perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, hurt Gustafsson once doesn’t mean Manuwa will do it on Saturday at the O2 Arena. Oddsmakers have booked Gustafsson at a near 4-to-1 favorite.
Manuwa doesn’t mind the odds. In fact, he says plenty of friends and family have taken advantage of them and will cash in should he earn win No. 15.
“My technique has come along by leaps and bounds,” Manuwa said. “I throw some of the hardest kicks now; those are some of my main weapons. My punches are harder and faster. I’m just a wrecking machine at the moment.”
Oddsmakers saw it as a mismatch, pegging Jones about an 8-to-1 betting favorite. The UFC's marketing strategy heading into the fight basically consisted of telling everyone how long Gustafsson's limbs were.
Jones, in one of the more ironic moves of the year, walked to the Octagon on Sept. 21 in a shirt that read "Not quite human." Looking back now, of course, maybe Jones was tempting the Fight Gods with that one, but at the time it felt pretty much true.
That's one reason this is, easily, the right choice for ESPN.com's fight of the year. So is the fact that somebody finally made Jones, the UFC's light heavyweight champion, look human in 2013.
It's not as if Jones' career had been nothing but uncontested layups to that point -- he just made plenty of his fights look that way. It was great to see the 26-year-old tested over the course of a full five rounds.
That's not the only reason, though. Some suggested that because the expectation was for Jones to run through Gustafsson, when it didn't happen we were so shocked. Everybody kind of freaked out a little bit.
There might be some truth to that, but at the end of the day this was just an incredible fight. Regardless of who was involved or who we thought would win, the fight itself was competitive, technical, back-and-forth and contested for a world title.
Was it the best fight in UFC history? That's a near-impossible question to answer, even though plenty of observers called it that immediately after. It's far easier to call it the best fight of 2013, which it undoubtedly was.
No. 2: Gilbert Melendez UD Diego Sanchez, UFC 166
UFC president Dana White was so excited about this lightweight fight, he got out of his seat and literally ran around the cage. That happened.
No. 3: Mark Hunt NC Antonio Silva, UFC Fight Night 33
A post-fight failed drug test by Silva puts a sour aftertaste on this heavyweight bout (originally ruled a majority draw), but you still have to admire what these two gave in this one -- everything they had.
No. 4: Eddie Alvarez SD Michael Chandler, Bellator 106
The rematch was just as good as the first meeting, setting up what will surely be a highly anticipated trilogy bout. These two were made for each other.
No. 5: Dennis Bermudez SD Matt Grice, UFC 157
Voted the fight of the midyear by ESPN.com, Bermudez went back and forth for three rounds and nearly stole the show on a historic night for the UFC -- the debut of Ronda Rousey.
ESPN Stats & Information
At UFC 167, many felt that Johny Hendricks did enough damage against Georges St-Pierre to become the new UFC welterweight champion. On Glenn Trowbridge’s scorecard, Hendricks did just that. The other two judges (Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks) saw the first round for the champion, giving him the 48-47 decision and the victory for St-Pierre’s UFC record-breaking 19th win inside the Octagon.
While the decision can be argued for both fighters, it marks just another recent example of champions barely leaving the Octagon with their titles.
UFC 165 - Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
In September of this year, Jon Jones made the sixth defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against his toughest challenger to date, Alexander Gustafsson. While Jones outstruck the challenger 28-19 in significant strikes in the opening round, Gustafsson scored a takedown while Jones was stuffed on all three of his attempts.
Gustafsson won Round 1 on all three scorecards. Rounds 2 and 3 are where things got tricky with the judging. Neither man gained a takedown (Jones 0-for-3, Gustafsson 0-for-2), but Jones held the striking advantage in Round 2 26-15 and Round 3 29-26.
Jones won four of the six cards in those two rounds. Round 4 was again close in significant strikes (27-26 Jones), but the champion did more damage, winning all three scorecards.
Round 5 was again close, with the significant strikes even at 24 for both fighters and Jones landing a takedown while stuffing all four Gustafsson attempts.
When the final scorecards were read, Jones was ahead on all cards, earning the unanimous decision.
UFC on FOX 7 – Benson Henderson defeats Gilbert Melendez (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Benson Henderson made the third defense of his UFC lightweight title in April 2013, defeating former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Round 1 went to the challenger despite landing fewer significant strikes 9-7. Melendez did land his only takedown of the fight and landed the better strikes in the eyes of the judges.
Round 2 was again close, with the champion holding a 15-13 significant strikes advantage. Both fighters landed hard shots in the cage, but Henderson won the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards. Henderson responded with his best round of the fight, landing 15 of 29 significant strikes (52 percent) and landed two leg kicks during the round that knocked Melendez off balance.
Rounds 4 and 5 were virtually even on the cards despite Henderson outlanding Melendez 29-16 in significant strikes. Henderson landed 12 leg kicks to help him win Round 4 on two of the three cards.
In the final round, Melendez won two of three cards despite landing only 15 percent of his significant strikes. Melendez won the fight 48-47 according to the first card, but Henderson won 48-47 on the other two cards, retaining his title.
UFC 125 – Frankie Edgar draws with Gray Maynard (48-46, 46-48, 47-47)
Frankie Edgar held onto his UFC lightweight title after a very tough fight with the only man to beat him, Gray Maynard, to start the fight calendar in 2011.
The first round of the 2011 Fight of the Year was its most memorable, with Maynard knocking the champ down three times and furiously landing punches to the head. Maynard would win the round 10-8 on all cards, outstriking Edgar 47-10, with 25 of those deemed significant.
Edgar would rebound in Round 2, outstriking a hesitant Maynard 21-6 to win the round as well as landing the slam that you see in the UFC PPV entrance video today.
Round 3 was the closest round of the fight, with Edgar holding a 21-17 significant strike advantage, but Maynard landed two takedowns.
Round 4 went to Edgar across the board as he landed 52 percent of his significant strikes, the highest in any round. Edgar also landed two takedowns.
With the fight on the line, Round 5 was a 20-16 advantage to Edgar with neither man gaining a takedown (Edgar 0-for-3, Maynard 0-for-7).
Maynard would win on two of three judges’ scorecards to close out the fight. The first announced card of Glenn Trowbridge (only one to pick Hendricks) was 48-46 Maynard, while Edgar won a card 48-46 and the final judge scored the bout 47-47 for a split decision draw.
UFC 104 – Lyoto Machida defeats Mauricio Rua (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
In October 2009, Lyoto Machida made the first and only defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rua came out the gates with his best statistical round, landing 70 percent of his significant strikes (19 of 27).
Machida landed nine significant strikes and stopped Rua’s lone takedown attempt, winning the round on two of three judges’ scorecards. Machida unanimously won Rounds 2 and 3 on the scorecards, but was outstruck 40-16 in significant strikes. Machida did stop each of Rua’s takedown attempts in the rounds and quality kicks the body and legs to win each of the rounds.
The fourth round was a 10-1 striking advantage to Shogun, and he won on two of the three cards. Round 5 was unanimous to the challenger, who mixed in 11 significant strikes to the head and legs while the champion Machida landed six.
In total, Rua outlanded Machida 80-38, with a 49-4 advantage in strikes to the legs. Machida did his damage with punches and kicks to the body, holding a 24-16 advantage. When the scorecards were read, Lyoto Machida won all three cards with identical 48-47 scores to retain his UFC light heavyweight title.
In the UFC’s 20-year history, only one champion has ever lost his title by way of split decision (Kevin Randleman to Bas Rutten at UFC 20). Whether it’s intended to be or not, the words of the famous wrestler Ric Flair come to mind: “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” In the world of the UFC, most of us are still wondering if there’s an exact definition to what that means.
In the week leading up to Jon Jones’ sixth UFC title defense last month, how many of you would have traded in Alexander Gustafsson for Daniel Cormier?
Fifty percent? Higher than that. Sixty percent? Seventy?
Despite being told about 7,849 times how tall and long-armed Gustafsson was, few predicted he would give Jones all he could handle through five rounds in Toronto. If you did predict it, a sincere congratulations. And safe flight back to Sweden.
Cormier, though -- he’s an unflattering 0-0 at 205 pounds, but many had pegged the undefeated heavyweight as the most intriguing challenge to Jones’ title reign.
At least, up until that Gustafsson performance. As much as Cormier enjoyed watching UFC 165 as a fan, the light heavyweight contender inside him knew what the close fight meant: He is most likely no longer the most attractive Jones opponent.
“You know what, man, after the way Gustafsson fought him, I think the interest has gone down a little bit,” Cormier said, on a potential title fight against Jones.
“I think it’s all a matter of who can challenge Jon. When a guy looks so dominant, people look for a guy who can challenge him. I was that guy. Now Gustafsson is that guy.”
Nevertheless, Cormier (12-0) is headed to Jones’ light-heavyweight world regardless of what happens in his next fight, a heavyweight tilt against Roy Nelson at UFC 166 this weekend.
As popular as Cormier has become, and in such meteoric fashion, he doesn't fit the description of a fighter who needs a dominant performance, but that’s kind of the case here, considering Cormier's title aspirations.
Fact is, he’s not a shoe-in to just immediately face Jones at light heavyweight anymore. On top of that, his UFC debut against Frank Mir earlier this year was, although one-sided, a little disappointing to Cormier and his fans.
“I could use an impressive fight,” Cormier said. “For me, it would be great to go out and have the type of performance I expect out of myself.
“If I have the type of performance I hope to have next week, I’m going to get up there and ask for (a title shot) again. I’m going to continue knocking on that door and hopefully someone answers it. If not, I’m going to ask for a real important fight in the 205-pound division.”
As a 5-to-1 favorite, Cormier is widely expected to get a win over Nelson (19-8) -- but making a huge statement against him becomes more difficult.
It’s hard to say whose highlight DVD would sell better: Nelson’s right hand’s or his chin’s.
He’s only been knocked out once (and never in the UFC), a crazy feat considering the following: In Nelson’s last fight, Stipe Miocic landed 106 strikes on him. The year before that, Fabricio Werdum tagged him 91 times. Prior to that, Junior dos Santos hit this man an astounding 130 times.
Cormier says he’s mentally prepared to deal with an opponent who refuses to go down, but he also says a good chin is like a carton of milk. It eventually goes bad.
“Every person, every tough guy you’ve ever seen fight, whether it’s in boxing or martial arts who is known for having a great chin -- there’s an expiration date on that,” Cormier said.
“There’s a number these guys can take. What if the last one from Stipe Miocic was the one that was one too many? Maybe the expiration date on Roy’s chin was up in Canada [Miocic fight]. Maybe mine are the ones he can’t take.”
A rematch between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson has officially been placed on hold. The next time Jones enters the Octagon he will defend his belt against hard-hitting Glover Teixeira.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the news Wednesday night to ESPN.com.
While many fans will frown at this decision -- understandably so, considering the memorable performance Jones and Gustafsson put on at UFC 165 in Toronto -- it’s the right one.
Though a large number of fans are sure to accuse Jones of ducking Gustafsson, the criticism will rapidly diminish should both survive their next opponents. Afterward, the highly anticipated rematch will immediately get placed on UFC’s fight docket; Jones, more than Gustafsson, will demand it.
“I said before the [Gustafsson] fight my sights were set on breaking the record,” Jones said, referring to the UFC mark he set for consecutive successful light heavyweight title defenses, which currently sits at six. “I want to crush the record. I want to beat the record so bad it can never be broken [again].
“I’m going to fight Glover and I will answer all critics about the Gustafsson fight. I will fight Gustafsson after I fight Glover. I won the fight but I look at it as a blemish on my record because some people think I didn't. I promise you, he will be next.”
Jones doesn’t have much of a choice but to fight Gustafsson, should he get past Teixeira. No matter how impressive a performance he puts on, it won’t erase the image of him nearly losing his title to the Swedish striker.
Jones won the fight against Gustafsson and all three judges scored it in his favor, as did a majority of eyewitnesses. But he looked vulnerable during a bout for the first time. Before facing Gustafsson, most viewed Jones as unbeatable at light heavyweight. That vision has since evaporated.
Make no mistake, Jones would love to recapture that aura of invincibility, but the only way to do that is with an impressive win over Gustafsson. Jones needs this fight, and he wants it.
There is, however, a huge risk in foregoing an immediate rematch: Teixeira is no pushover. He will be an underdog against Jones, but has the punching power and submission skills to pose a serious threat.
A Teixeira upset will suck the energy out of Jones-Gustafsson II. Even a Teixeira-Jones rematch would lack the prefight punch Jones-Gustafsson II presently enjoys.
Also keep in mind that Gustafsson is slated to fight at least once before getting a second shot at the 205-pound title. UFC officials have yet to determine who Gustafsson will face next, but it is reasonable to assume that a top-10 contender is in order.
And just like Jones, a Gustafsson victory isn't guaranteed. Putting Jones-Gustafsson II on hold is a huge risk, but it could prove well worth taking; the financial rewards are potentially too great.
If all goes accordingly, Jones and Gustafsson will get through their respective bouts victorious and unscathed, then the rematch is set. UFC can then begin promoting what should turn out to be its most lucrative pay-per-view event in history.
TORONTO -- Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones asked for an opponent who could push him to the limit. Jones got what he asked for Saturday night at UFC 165 in Alexander Gustafsson.
And it was exactly the type of fight Jones needed.
The Swedish contender, who very few thought had a chance against the world’s most dominant mixed martial arts champion, gave Jones all he could handle and more. Gustafsson punched Jones in the face, he kicked him in the stomach, hit him with reverse elbows and uppercuts and even tossed him to the ground. No one had done that before.
By the time they had concluded their five-round title affair, Jones looked like the character from the old Jim Croce’s song, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." He looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces missing. He left the Octagon with a bloodied, swollen right eye, a swollen lip and could barely walk on his own.
Jones was so badly beaten that he could not attend the postfight news conference. He was immediately taken to a local hospital for evaluation, according to UFC president Dana White. Matter-of-factly, neither did Gustafsson -- he too was taken to a local hospital.
But despite the beating he took, Jones refused to let Gustafsson take his light heavyweight title belt. While Jones was brutally punished, he dished it out just the same. And that says more about who the champion Jones is than any of his previous title defense walkovers.
“I know there are a lot of people who don’t like Jones and boo him for whatever the reason is," White said. "Everybody has a different reason for why they are not a fan of Jones, but I don’t care if you like him or don’t like him. You’ve got to respect him, man. Even today with breaking the record [most successful light heavyweight title defense, his sixth] he went through murderers’ row, Jon did.
“The guy’s got heart, a chin. To get busted up in those first two rounds and to come on the way he did at the end of the fight, he’s a special fighter. He’s a special fighter.”
Of course, some will say that the fight with Gustafsson proves Jones has benefited from being taller, longer and stronger than the average 205-pound fighter. And because Gustafsson is slightly taller than Jones and equally as strong, that's the reason he came so close to taking his title.
But a less biased observer is likely to conclude that a major part of Jones’ success is that he utilizes his advantages better than everyone else. The difference Saturday night between Jones and Gustafsson is that the champ refused to lose. When he realized his title was slipping away, he dug deep and willed himself to victory.
Before the fight, Gustafsson said he would win because he was hungrier than Jones. That proved not to be the case.
Jones fought for his legacy Saturday night. He also fought to maintain his quest to become the greatest mixed martial artist ever.
We all knew he was a exceptionally gifted fighter. But he taught everyone that he also possesses the will and heart of a champion.
Gustafsson gave Jones everything he could handle, plus some. And it is very likely they will meet again in the not-too-distant future. But after this close call, expect Jones to be a much better champion the next time around.
It’s going to get a lot harder to take that belt from Jones. Every light heavyweight hopeful can thank Gustafsson for that.
ESPN Statistics & Analysis
The champion was more accurate with his strikes (62 percent landed to Gustafsson’s 38 percent), but landed just 24 more than the challenger over the course of five rounds.
Jones has not been outstruck in a round since January 2009 when he fought Stephan Bonnar, a span of 31 consecutive rounds.
While Jones held the striking advantage in Round 1, Gustafsson was able to do what no other man has done against Jones inside the UFC Octagon: score a takedown. It would turn out to be the challenger’s only takedown of the fight, going 1-for-8. Jones was 1-for-11 in takedowns, far below his average over his past three fights when he scored five takedowns in nine attempts.
As the fight unfolded, Jones used leg kicks to attack Gustafsson, both to his foe’s legs and head. Jones landed 53 strikes to Gustafsson’s legs, his most against any UFC opponent. Jones also mixed in 53 significant strikes to the head from both punches and leg kicks, totaling 134 significant strikes landed over five rounds. Jones 5.4 significant strikes per minute were 1.5 strikes more than his normal average of 3.9. Gustafsson was also above his average of 3.9, landing 4.4 significant strikes per minute.
Gustafsson was seeking to become the first Swedish champion in UFC history, but fell short on the judge’s scorecards. It is his first ever loss by decision, and his second career loss (15-2). The Swede came into the fight on a six-fight win streak.
With Jones’ victory, he breaks a tie with Tito Ortiz for the most UFC light heavyweight title defenses with six (all consecutive). UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre is the only UFC fighter with an active record longer than Jones’, with eight. Jones also moves to 3-0 inside the Air Canada Centre, defending his title against Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 and Vitor Belfort at UFC 152.
There have been 15 UFC title fights that have taken place in Canada, with only two men being able to dethrone the champion (Mauricio Rua at UFC 113 and Georges St-Pierre at UFC 83).