Whoever is fighting Jon Jones next, take one step forward. Not so fast Alexander Gustafsson.
Well, I can’t say I’m not disappointed, and it does come off as a bit of a surprise given the overwhelming positive response to their initial match up, but word broke overnight from Brett Okamoto that Jon Jones’ next opponent will be Glover Teixeira and not a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.
Jones was heard to have said after their match at UFC 165 that Gustafsson deserved a rematch. However, he then said he watched the fight “over 10 times” and feels that he won decisively and is ready to move on.
Because it’s Jones, and his ego and attitude, it’s easy to say that this is him ducking a fight against an opponent who finally has his number. However, to Jones’ credit, the guy has never backed down from an opponent put in front of him (except for that time with Chael Sonnen, but those were under truly unusual circumstances). And, it can be argued he’s had a far tougher test in his title defenses than just about any other UFC champ in the company’s history.
I would have doled out another $60 to see a rematch between Jones and Gustafsson, so as a consumer, it’s disappointing these two won’t be locking horns. However, I’m torn because what do you do with Glover if Jones and Gustafsson have the rematch? Glover has earned his shot. Should he be asked to wait or fight someone else until these two settle things once and for all? For all of the critics who balk at “undeserved” title shots (like Chael and Vitor getting shots against Jones at 205), do they now stick to the guns and back the decision to give Glover a shot despite the fact that Jones/Gustafsson is widely thought of as fight of the year and despite the fact that many are clamoring for a rematch?
I think Gustafsson may be more hurt than what has been reported and needs a little time to recover. I also think the UFC didn’t expect much from Gustafsson. Now that it has a potential rivalry on its hands, it can take its time, build it up, and promote it to squeeze every dollar out of it. Have Jones fight Teixeira. Have Gustafsson fight Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, or Phil Davis. Then, start to craft the narrative for the rematch over the course of the next 6-8 months.
Of course, it’s all a crap shoot. Jones could lose. Gustafsson could lose. Suddenly, the shine is off the rematch if there is no title at stake. The only real winner is the UFC. If Jones continues his winning streak, he is labeled P4P best and continues to sell PPVs, Gatorade, and Nikes. If he loses, the company would likely make the rematch with Gustafsson sooner so as to not lose any more money. Or, it starts to craft the narrative around a friend versus friend match with Phil Davis and Gustafsson going head-to-head.
What this does bring into stark contrast is the lack of depth in the 205 top 10: Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Phil Davis, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Gegard Mousasi , and Mauricio Rua.
Jones has beaten half of the fighters on that list. Four of the fighters on that list (Sonnen, Evans, Machida, and Mousasi) are having dalliances with dropping to 185. Henderson and Nogeueria are injury prone. That leaves Davis and Teixeira as the only real contenders for Jones.
From there, what does Jones do? His barn burner with Gustafsson shows that he may not be quite ready for a jump to Heavyweight. If anything, what UFC 165 showed me is that Jones may have carved up the 205 division, but he is human. His reign has given time for future contenders to grow and mature, so at the end of the day, maybe moving on to Glover Teixeira is the best move for both Jones and the UFC. And if worse comes to worst, it still has Gustafsson in its back pocket for a rainy day.
- Jones to defend UFC title against Teixeira (espn.go.com)
- UFC 165: The Afterglow (thedonnybrookreport.wordpress.com)