Jon Jones has worn the bull’s eye well. | Photo: Jay Kopinski/Icon SMI
Combat sports’ pound-for-pound moneymaker, Floyd Mayweather Jr., had his bag filled with gold bullion again, so he is done sucking up all the fight talk, at least for now. It is time to turn our attention to boxing’s younger brother, MMA, and its current pound-for-pound king, Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones.
UFC 165 on Saturday will cost you about $10 less than did watching Mayweather run circles around another opponent, and I know you have the money, since you did not buy UFC 161 (150,000 buys) or UFC 163 (170,000 buys). Count your blessings that you saved some coin, because the rest of this year’s Zuffa calendar is chock full of can’t-miss pay-per-views.
A Real Reach: As the current pound-for-pound king, Jones should be accustomed to being the heavy favorite. Since he savagely beat the belt out of Mauricio Rua at UFC 128, Vegas oddsmakers have never had him as less than a 3-to-1 favorite. That is no small feat considering his list of fallen challengers includes Belfort, Machida, Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson. When compared to this murderer’s row, the still relatively unknown Swede seems bound to eventually become a footnote in Jones’ growing history book. He is a 5-to-1 underdog, so the UFC based its push on Gustafsson’s 6-foot-5 frame and how his long limbs could hold the secret to dethroning “Bones.” Gustafsson’s reach is listed at 76.5 inches, though he claims it is actually 81.2 inches. Jones’ reach is a promotional-best 84.5 inches. Reach is a simple term even novice fight fans can grasp. I understand the approach, but when the UFC’s best pitch for its challenger is the length of his arms -- in a fight in which he will be at a reach disadvantage -- the idea cupboards in the marketing team’s office have to be pretty bare.
Useless Fact: UFC 165 will be the first time the Ultimate Fighting Championship has had two belts on the line at the same event since UFC 152. Jones headlined that one, too, also in Toronto. No one can say the fine people of Ontario, Canada, do not get meaningful scraps when the Octagon comes to town.
Awards Watch: Lightweights Pat Healy and Khabib Nurmagomedov have the inside track to “Fight of the Night.” Nurmagomedov is 20-0 and ragdolls fighters in a sport where not getting ragdolled is the whole point. Healy is two-dollar-steak tough and fighting better than he has ever fought during his long career ... “Knockout of the Night” is the easiest pick on the card. Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione are two heavyweights featuring kill-or-be-killed styles. Do not let Schaub’s performance against Lavar Johnson at UFC 157 lead you to believe he is a changed fighter ... Five rounds is a long time to be in the cage with Barao, even for someone as gritty as Wineland. “Submission of the Night” goes to the Nova Uniao-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.