2014 certainly won’t be an easy year for UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“Bones” is currently set to take on Brazil’s Glover Teixeira next on April 26 at UFC 172. If he gets past Glover, he’ll likely have to deal with Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson at some point in the year.
That’s because Gustafsson gave Jones his toughest test to date during his last outing, a fight a decent amount of MMA fans scored in the former’s favor (I scored the fight 48-47 Bones). It was a very competitive battle that earned both men “Fight of the Night” and “Fight of the Year” honors, and it pretty much guaranteed Gustafsson a future date with Bones.
Cormier is the only other legitimate contender in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division right now, given his impressive accomplishments as a heavyweight, with wins against guys like Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett, and Roy Nelson.
Cormier did exactly what he needed to do during his light-heavyweight debut against newcomer Pat Cummings (who took the fight on 4-day’s notice), winning via TKO a little over a minute into their UFC 170 clash.
Despite Gustafsson’s gutsy performance against Jones, Cormier seems to be the most dangerous matchup for the champ in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light-heavyweight ranks at the moment.
He’s arguable a better wrestler Jones, and he’s one of the most underrated strikers in the UFC, averaging 4.13 strikes landed per minute (landing 49 percent of his strikes), while only absorbing 1.41 per minute (per FightMetric). Impressive numbers, especially, when compared to Gustafsson’s average of 4.11 strikes landed per minute (landing 37 percent of his strikes) and 3.21 strikes absorbed per minute since most MMA fans view the Swede as one of the best strikers in the light-heavyweight division.
Thus, it’s not surprising Jones doesn’t seem particularly interested in trading blows with Cormier anytime soon.
“I’m really happy for him to lose that weight. I think his weight loss is going to be an inspiration to a lot of people,” Jones said during an interview with USA Today Sports. “It’s hard to say — skill wise — where he’s at considering the fact Patrick didn’t have much experience. Watching Patrick throw punches, he was very off-balanced. You could just tell he wasn’t even comfortable striking yet. You give any decent athlete competition like that and I’d expect a dominant performance.”
While I agree with Jones that a win against an opponent like Cummings shouldn’t be enough to earn one a title shot, I’m willing to make DC an exception. Cormier was set to face Rashad Evans at UFC 170 before an injury forced the latter to pull out; a fight a decent amount of MMA fans expected the Strikeforce import to win.
With no other legitimate contender in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division besides DC, I personally don’t have any issues with Cormier’s next fight being a title bout.
Regardless, it’s highly unlikely Jones’ opinion — or mine — will sway UFC matchmakers one way or the other.
Gustafsson’s performance during his next outing against Jimi Manuwa will likely determine who gets the next shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light-heavyweight strap following Teixeira.
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