The final UFC event of 2018 is going down tonight! UFC 232 will be headlined by former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, as they face off for the vacant light heavyweight title. The co-main event will feature a legitimate super fight in which the world will witness UFC Women's Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg as she squares off against current UFC Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. The night looks to be promising as prospects, legends, and the current cream of the crop will all compete, looking to end their year on a positive note. Unfortunately, many of these potential highlights and great performances will be overshadowed by all of the controversy surrounding this event.
We recently found out that Jon Jones tested positive for a minor amount of Turinabol on December 9th. If that sounds familiar, it's because that is the same substance that earned him a 15 month suspension from USADA in 2017. The amount of Turinabol in Jones' urine sample is allegedly so minute that it wouldn't give him any performing enhancing benefits. Despite this, the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to license Jones. To save the main event, UFC president Dana White decided to move the entire card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to the Forum in Inglewood, California. Fans and fighters alike have voiced their displeasure in reaction to this surprising move and it has become a frantic scramble as everyone attempts to maneuver through this logistical nightmare. Putting the controversy aside, we still have two stellar matchups that will be sure to end the year with an emphatic bang.
The Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson bout is a rematch that has been five years in the making. When these two met in 2013, they delivered an instant classic that has come to be viewed as one of the greatest title fights in the history of the sport. Gustafsson gave Jones his toughest fight to date and for the first time we saw Superman look momentarily mortal. While Jones left that fight victorious, Gustafsson proved his worth as one of the elite fighters in the light heavyweight division.
In the five years since, Gustafsson has seen his share of ups and downs. Multiple injuries have kept him on the sideline and when he finally earned his second title shot, he came up short to Daniel Cormier in 2016 via split decision. Since the Cormier fight we've only seen Gustafsson fight sparingly, but in those two performances, Gustafsson has shown major improvements in his game. Against Jan Blachowicz he showed the ability to adapt, as he executed numerous take downs and was able to assert top pressure to earn a victory. In his 2017 return fight against Glover Teixeira, he showed improved movement and footwork. His striking took a step forward, as did his jab which was more crisp and effective. Capitalizing on his effective jab, Gustafsson repeatedly followed with a right uppercut, which proved crucial in his finishing sequence that shut the lights off for Teixeira. While I still have concerns of Gustafsson's striking defense, I can see a man who has the tools the beat Jon Jones. He seems confident and unafraid of the big moment but to win he has to be perfect. One mistake could prove to be the deciding factor in this fight.
On the other side of the cage is former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It is unfortunate that repeated drug violations will taint his career but make no mistake, when Jones is in the cage he is a marvel to watch. He steps into the cage with an aura of brash confidence. In his mind he's already decided that he's the greatest fighter to ever walk this earth and when viewing his prior performances, there's no question as to why he can boldly make that claim.
Jones is a freakishly gifted fighter who knows how to properly use his tools to their best capabilities. He can keep you at range with oblique or front kicks. On top of his striking and great ability to control range, if he utilizes his wrestling prowess and manages to get top pressure, it can make for a long night for his foes. Luckily for Gustafsson, he shares a similar physical frame as Jones and he's shown the ability to not only defend against Jones' takedowns, but execute his own. But unlike Gustafsson, Jones doesn't have mental lapses. He rarely puts himself in bad positions, leaving very few opportunities to expose any holes in his game.
Controversy aside, this fight has the makings of another classic. We'll either get to see Jones continue his streak of dominance or witness Gustafsson put on the performance of a lifetime and avenge his 2013 defeat. No matter what happens, I'll be front and center in front of a TV watching.
Amanda Nunes faces the daunting task of challenging and overthrowing Cris Cyborg, a feat that no one has been able to accomplish since 2005. Personally, I believe Nunes' accomplishments have been overlooked in her UFC tenure. With wins over Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and two wins over Valentina Shevchenko already, adding Cris Cyborg to that list would boast undeniably impressive resume that could rival any champion in this sport.
Nunes's current victory run dates back to 2015. She has overwhelmed opponents with pressure, accuracy and brutal power that none of her opponents have been able to overcome. In her last outing, Nunes mauled title challenger Raquel Pennington in a fight that was so lopsided it became uncomfortable to watch before ending in a fifth round TKO. With a lack of current exciting match ups at bantamweight, it was inevitable that Nunes would move up in weight and attempt to gain another belt. Nunes has a chance to accomplish a rare feet and put herself in exceptional company if she's able to defeat Cyborg. One could argue that with this victory she might be able to stake claim of being the greatest women's MMA fighter in history. Anything is possible in this sport but if we're being honest, the odds are anything but stacked in her favor.
Cyborg as been a wrecking ball of destruction ever since she's put on a pair of gloves. Cyborg fights with a ruthless aggression and hits with the kind of power that's almost frightening to watch. Aside from her unbelievable strength, I don't believe that Cyborg is given the credit of how well rounded she is as a fighter. Cyborg's strength also aides in her effective use of grappling and Jiu Jitsu if she chooses to use it. Compared to her prior years Cyborg has found an even balance between patience and pressure. The new found patience has made Cyborg even scarier. She knows when to go for blood and how to pick her spots effectively. Cardio is also on Cyborg's side, which is one hole that Nunes has shown can be exploited in her game. Cyborg heads into this fight being able to do everything Nunes can but with additional physicality, size and cardio. If Cyborg leaves the night victorious, she will have accomplished all of the feats in MMA that she possibly can with the options available to her. We could very well see Cyborg move onto boxing which she has expressed interest in. Beating Nunes will add an impressive additional notch on her belt, and possibly her MMA career altogether.
With clouds of controversy, rising prospects, former legends and landmark title fights, UFC 232 embodies everything we've grown to love and hate about this sport. It's eerily poetic that a card like this would close out the year but it's also very fitting. There will be something on this card for everyone to watch from main card and even down to the preliminary fights. Be sure to give UFC 232 a watch, this year is going to close out on a wildly entertaining note, and you'll want to be there for it.
Fight Pass Prelims: 6:30 PM On UFC Fight Pass
Preliminary Card: 8:00 PM On Fox Sports 1
Main Card : 10:00 PM On PPV
Michael "CerealSensei" Williams is the host of the Dojo Talk Podcast. He is an avid fight fan, author, hip hop enthusiast, and part-time gamer. You can find him roaming the Twitter streets at @CerealSensei and you can listen to the Dojo Talk Podcast on Soundcloud.