MMA Review: #668: UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson II

-This was initially set to be one of the year’s biggest shows with two major title fights including a champion vs. champion match between Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes….but things then got weird when Jon Jones apparently tested positive for steroids – kind of – and rather than just can the guy the UFC MOVED THE WHOLE SHOW from Vegas to LA claiming that the positive test was caused by Jones’ previous positive test in 2017. Who the fuck knows really. It was dirty stuff to me so I was just hoping he’d lose.

UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2

12/29/18
Los Angeles, California

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz.

Featherweight Fight: Alexander Volkanovski vs Chad Mendes

Mendes had come back from a steroid suspension of his own to smash Myles Jury in the summer of 2018, while this was a big step up for Volkanovski as his best win to this point had been Darren Elkins, a solid guy but not on Mendes’ level. I worried for the Aussie here against Mendes’ wrestling and so I took the Team Alpha Male standout to win.

Pre-fight Volkanovski walks out to the GAME OF THRONES THEME meaning he’s AWESOME.

Fight begins and they’re almost mirror images in that they’re both short, hench dudes with cool beards. Mendes pushes forward early on and has Volkanovski backing up, but the Aussie soon turns the tables and begins to force Mendes back instead. No big strikes from either guy thus far. Combo finally lands for Mendes with about two minutes gone. Uppercut from Mendes leads to a flurry but Volkanovski is fine. Takedown attempt from Mendes is blocked. Volkanovski keeps pressuring Mendes and he lands with a nice right hand as both men throw out a lot of feints. Less than a minute to go and Mendes hits a double leg, but Volkanovski pops up instantly. Exchange continues to end the round. Probably 10-9 Volkanovski for the very slightly better shots but it was close.

Into the 2nd and Volkanovski presses forward again, backing Mendes up with some glancing kicks. Flying knee misses for Mendes. Good right hand from Volkanovski and he avoids one in return from Mendes. Right hand counter does land for Mendes though and the Aussie has to back up. Another one drops him and Mendes looks to swarm as Volkanovski backs up. Left hand lands for Volkanovski to slow him down a little though but Mendes comes back with a combo. These guys are really swinging now. Left-right combo has Mendes backing up and some more big punches seem to have him hurt. He comes back with a beautiful takedown though and plants the Aussie on his back. Good job from Volkanovski to pop up though and he stalks some more with his jab. Jab continues to land and Mendes suddenly looks exhausted. Big combo has him in trouble and Volkanovski is picking him apart. Single leg changes it up for Mendes and he manages to take the back, but Volkanovski wriggles free and explodes up again. Big body kick from the Aussie and he opens up with a combo and Mendes is hurt. Nice clinch strikes follow and Mendes looks like he’s on the ropes here. Big left to the body and a right hook to the head sends Mendes DOWN and the ref stops it there. Damn.

Amazing performance from Alexander Volkanovski as he took the best Mendes had to offer both in his strikes and takedowns, stayed calm under fire and just destroyed the guy with his strikes. Unbelievable stuff and somehow he’s since picked up an even BIGGER win, but that’s another show. Mendes ended up retiring after this one which shocked me but to be fair he was at the top of the WEC in like 2010 so he has been around a long time. This fight was awesome.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Corey Anderson vs Ilir Latifi

These two guys were looking to gain potential title shots in 2019, as they’d both won their last two fights and Anderson had even beaten Glover Teixeira. Due to Anderson’s striking looking really good in that fight I was leaning towards him to win, although Latifi’s power made him a dangerous fight.

Round One begins and they circle with Anderson looking to use his reach advantage to keep Latifi at a distance. Low kick from Latifi almost takes Anderson off his feet. Another one lands hard and it looks like Anderson’s hurt. He comes in with a flying knee, but Latifi catches his leg and tries a slam. Good job from Anderson to avoid it though and he escapes free. Wild counter uppercut stuns Anderson and Latifi throws him down, but he pops right back up. Couple of kicks glance for Anderson and he shoots, but Latifi avoids it well. Left hand has Anderson hurt again but he recovers quickly. Striking exchange continues and Latifi again lands a strong left. Decent right from Anderson as he pushes forward and he follows with a clinch. Latifi breaks with some wild punches and that’s it. 10-9 Latifi.

Round Two and Anderson uses some body kicks to keep Latifi at distance. Hard right lands for Latifi in an exchange. Clinch from Anderson and Latifi goes for the takedown, but Anderson defends well as they jockey for position. They break off and Latifi looks tired suddenly. Takedown attempt from Anderson is blocked but Latifi’s breathing really heavily. Beautiful right to the body from Anderson and he follows with a high kick. More kicks to the body from Anderson and he’s really got Latifi backing up. Wild flurry misses for Latifi and Anderson is far fresher and closes him down with more strikes of his own. Clinch is shrugged off by Anderson and he absorbs a left hand and lands some more shots back. Round end shortly after. Big round for Anderson, 10-9.

Round Three and again it’s Anderson with all the forward motion. He keeps on picking at Latifi from the outside although he does take a nasty low leg kick again. More of the same follows as Anderson continues to pick at him while Latifi does the odd explosion of power but little else. It’s getting a bit dull actually. Flying knee sets up a solid right hand for Anderson but his takedown attempt gets shrugged off. No matter as he’s still the one pushing the action. Wild wheel kick glances for Latifi. Anderson quickly comes back with a couple of kicks of his own and keeps on pressing the action until the round ends. 10-9 Anderson for a 29-28 in my book.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Corey Anderson, no surprise there. Fight was okay if a little dull towards the end as Latifi started fast but just ran out of steam and Anderson basically picked him apart from there albeit in a very careful and methodical manner. Neither man’s fought since though meaning a lot of the momentum that Anderson gained here has been lost, but ah well.

Welterweight Fight: Michael Chiesa vs Carlos Condit

This was Chiesa’s first fight up at 170lbs after losing to Anthony Pettis at UFC 226, while Condit’s last fight had seen him choked out by Alex Oliveira, and he hadn’t actually won since 2015. Despite Condit’s legend status I couldn’t see him winning as he’d looked pretty bad since returning at UFC 219 and went with Chiesa.

First round begins and to be fair Condit looks to be in serious shape. Both men come out swinging and Condit puts together a couple of glancing combos, but Chiesa clinches and looks to move him into the fence. Outside trip plants Condit on his back in guard. Armbar attempt from Condit is avoided and Chiesa uses it to almost take the back. Condit avoids and goes for a leglock, and uses that to get back up to his feet. Another takedown follows for Chiesa and he works to keep Condit grounded this time. Not much damage being done by Chiesa but he is at least holding Condit down. Armbar attempt from Condit and it looks pretty deep, but Chiesa manages to slip free and both men come to their feet. Clinch again from Chiesa and he lands another takedown into side mount this time. Scramble from Condit allows him to drop for a heel hook, but Chiesa rolls with it and they trade shots from the 50/50 position. Round ends with Condit going for a reverse triangle. 10-9 Chiesa for the takedowns although Condit kept it interesting on the ground for sure.

Second round and they trade some punches with Chiesa doing well actually. Condit shrugs off a clinch but Chiesa stays on him and tackles him again, and this time he works to isolate the left arm from half-guard. Condit looks stuck here and Chiesa ends up extending the arm at a SICK-ANGLE with one hand to force the tapout. Looked like Condit’s arm might’ve been injured there.

Big win for Chiesa to debut at 170lbs with but it must be said, this was a perfect style match for him as Condit’s always had trouble with takedown guys and his submission defence has been lacking for the last couple of year too. He hasn’t retired yet but probably should, to be fair. Chiesa’s fighting Diego Sanchez this weekend and of course I’m hoping he’ll lose! Fun fight overall.

UFC Women’s World Featherweight Title: Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes

I’m not usually a fan of ‘superfights’ between champions in different weight classes just because they tend to hold up the title picture for more deserving contenders, but in this case I was actually fine with it as neither Nunes or Cyborg had a clear-cut top contender lined up and Nunes had pretty much beaten anyone close at 135lbs anyway. I was taking Cyborg feeling that both women had similar styles but Cyborg was bigger and more powerful and I questioned whether Nunes had the power to stop her.

Fight begins and the crowd are notably far more into Cyborg as a big star than Nunes. No massive size difference although Cyborg looks leaner. They circle and suddenly start to trade right away, with Cyborg swinging some wild power shots. Big leg kick lands for Nunes and Cyborg comes wading in with some haymakers, only to get DROPPED BY A RIGHT HAND COUNTER! Holy shit. Cyborg shoots for a takedown but Nunes stuffs it and Cyborg’s clearly in trouble, wobbly as hell as she tries to fire back. HUGE RIGHT HAND sends Cyborg crashing down face-first, and when she gets up Nunes just DESTROYS HER WITH PUNCHES until a big right hand puts her DOWN AND OUT FOR GOOD!~!

Post-fight the fans finally buy into Nunes as a superstar – whether this is a rare instance of one fighter absorbing the star power of another one they beat is still a question mark, we’ll probably see when she fights this weekend, but hopefully that’s the case as Nunes is a cool personality. Amazing, amazing upset at any rate – basically Cyborg had always been able to overwhelm her previous opponents with her ferocity and power, but it turned out she bit off more than she could chew here as not only was Nunes quicker and a cleaner striker, but more importantly she was both calm under fire and actually had the punching power to take Cyborg out, two things that’d never happened before. This was probably one of the best moments of 2018 in fact and it’s a pity that the UFC didn’t just can the Jones fight and main event with this because it would’ve been an all-time classic if they had.

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson

Interesting circumstances to set this one up then – even prior to the weird stuff the week before the show – as Jones had defeated Daniel Cormier to regain the Light-Heavyweight title back in July 2017, but then tested positive for steroids and was stripped with the title going back to Cormier. Then of course Cormier won the Heavyweight title too and decided to relinquish the 205lbs belt, and so the UFC put Jones into the fight for the vacant title – which made sense – but then made Gustafsson his opponent despite the Swede not having fought since May 2017, largely because their first fight was excellent and Gus had pushed Jones like nobody else had.

Basically then it should’ve been a huge deal given their first fight was one of the best fights of 2013, but then we got all the controversy with the positive test and the “pulsing” and whatever else that I can’t be bothered to go into detail about. For me it just left a sour taste around Jones full stop – like the UFC and USADA were willing to excuse his cheating – and so I was pulling for Gus in the knowledge that he’d probably lose and it’d stink a bit.

Round One gets underway and Jones goes for a takedown from the off, but Gustafsson avoids it and eats a knee on his way out. Another is avoided but this time Jones lands a low blow and the ref has to call time. They restart pretty instantly and exchange from distance, with both men scoring with decent low kicks. Step-in elbow and a front kick land for Jones. Gustafsson’s having a hard time landing anything right now. He does defend a takedown well again though. Less than a minute to go and Gustafsson’s still struggling to find his range. Crowd begin to boo Jones for backpedalling in the final seconds, but he ends the round with a body kick. 10-9 Jones.

Round Two and Jones stings the Swede with some strikes from distance while using his movement to prevent Gustafsson from getting into range. Left hand does glance for Gustafsson but Jones fires back with a body kick. Takedown attempt is again stuffed well by Gustafsson. Nice body kick connects for Jones. Accidental eye poke follows for Gus and the ref has to call time to let Jones recover. Action restarts and Gustafsson comes forward with a combo, but quickly gets forced back with another kick to the body. Couple of leg kicks land too for Jones. Gustafsson still can’t seem to get into proper range. More of the same follows with Jones sniping at Gustafsson with kicks from distance. Right hook lands well for Gustafsson but Jones is fine. Round ends with more rangy offense from Jones. 10-9 Jones again.

Round Three and Gustafsson still can’t close Jones down to land. Single leg from Jones dumps the Swede onto his back and he begins to land elbows from there, passing into half-guard for good measure. Gustafsson might be in trouble here. He keeps turning to his side, but can’t get up from underneath Jones at all. Jones looks for the mounted crucifix, but can’t quite get that, so he goes to full mount instead and ends up taking the back. HUGE SHOTS begin to get through for Jones from there and the ref has to step in to stop it.

Pretty flawless performance from Jones, drugs or no drugs. The difference here from the first fight seemed to be that he understood Gustafsson’s long reach and negated it by using his kicks and footwork to never really let the Swede get into range, and that seemed to break Gustafsson’s confidence. From there once Jones got him to the ground, it was basically over. I don’t see anyone stopping Jones any time soon at 205lbs but a man can hope right? I still can’t bring myself to admire a guy who’s essentially a blatant drug cheat, sorry. This fight wasn’t close to the quality of their first meeting and while it was perfectly acceptable and a good main event, it still left a bad taste due to the circumstances around Jones.

-Show ends with a discussion about what’s next for Jones and Nunes, with Dominick Cruz playing up a Jones vs. Cormier fight while also pretty much saying Brock Lesnar is on steroids which is HILARIOUS.

Final Thoughts….

This was a pretty awesome show to close out 2018 with. Sure, the main event left a bit of a bad taste given Jones’ issues, but outside of that, Nunes/Cyborg was an all-time great moment, Volkanovski/Mendes was an awesome opener, Chiesa/Condit was fun and Anderson/Latifi was a decent fight too. Thumbs way up for one of the best UFC PPVs in recent memory.

Best Fight: Volkanovski vs. Mendes
Worst Fight: Anderson vs. Latifi

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com