With one event left on the calendar for 2018, the UFC® is saving its best for last. On December 29 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a returning Jon Jones will face Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 232.
The event is highlighted by the return of Jon Jones, who will be stepping into the cage for the first time since July 29, 2017 after a 15-month suspension from the US Anti-Doping Agency. Jones, the most dominant light heavyweight in the history of the sport, will make a splash throughout the entire promotion upon his return, but it's also important to look at the man who was chosen to stand across the mat from him.
While many clamored for Jones to fight longtime rival Daniel Cormier in his return bout, the UFC had other plans. They decided to give Jones a familiar opponent, and one he has a win over, but in the form of Alexander Gustafsson instead of Cormier.
Jones vs. Gustafsson II is a rematch of what is hailed as one of the greatest fights in UFC history, and is regarded as the best title fight in the history of the light heavyweight division.
So, only one question remains. For the uninitiated, or those new to the sport, who exactly is the man who gets to welcome Jones back to the UFC. Who is Alexander Gustafsson?
The Mauler Makes a Statement
Alexander Gustafsson entered the UFC in 2009 with a strong reputation as one of the most promising prospects to come out of Europe. The Swede made his UFC debut at UFC 105, silencing his opponent Jared Hamman in 41 seconds with a knockout victory.
The Mauler's next opponent was Phil Davis, who handed the then-undefeated Gustafsson his first career loss. Davis flattened the taller opponent with elbow shots and locked in the anaconda choke for a submission win.
With the taste of defeat fresh in his mouth, Gustafsson licked his wounds and went on a momentous run through the light heavyweight division for the next two years. From October 2010 through December 2012, Gustafsson rattled off six straight victories, with the last coming against division standout Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua.
With the winning streak in hand, and a 7-1 record in the UFC, Gustafsson was awarded a title fight against Jon Jones at UFC 165 September 21, 2013.
UFC 165: The First Fight
In the 25 years of the UFC, we've seen a handful of fights that can hold a candle to the first bout between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
In 50 years, that sentiment should remain. That's how epic of an encounter these two put together the first time they stepped into The Octagon®.
This fight was the definition of a five-round war, with Gustafsson challenging Jones like none other had before. The Swede took the champion down for the first time in his career, and bombarded Jones with a barrage of jabs and uppercuts.
But as the fight went deeper, Jones took advantage of the "championship rounds". Thought to be losing the fight through three rounds, Jones turned it to another gear in the fourth and fifth. He rocked Gustafsson with a spinning back elbow in the fourth round that changed the course of the bout.
The two went the full five rounds, with the decision being uncertain when the final bell rang.
With both men raising their hands it victory, it truly was a toss up for the onlookers on who would walk away with the belt.
The judges ruled Jones the victor by unanimous decision, but Gustafsson walked away as the man who brought the champion closest to the brink.
With a star making performance under his belt, but no title to show for it, Gustafsson continued on in hopes of getting another shot at Jones. He defeated Jimi Manuwa in his return bout on March 8, 2014, and was rewarded a title eliminator fight against Anthony Johnson.
Gustafsson lost to Johnson via TKO, seemingly eliminating him from title contention for the near future. However, due to a serious of unordinary events, the Swedish striker was given a title fight against new champion Daniel Cormier, who won the belt after Jones was forced to vacate it, at UFC 192.
He came close to the mountaintop once again, but ultimately fell to Cormier by a split decision ruling.
After his second championship defeat, Gustafsson put together two consecutive wins against Jan Blachowicz and Glover Texeira and was once again in title talks in a relatively thin light heavyweight division.
After a layoff of over year, Gustafsson was scheduled to face Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 227, but the Swiss opponent pulled out of the fight due to a broken nose.
With the fight against Volkan cancelled, and a bit of news arising from a former champion in the division, The Mauler set his eyes on his next prey....
The Fight He Begged For
Social media is a powerful tool to get your point across, and Gustafsson used it to his full advantage when campaigning for a rematch with Jones after Jones was retroactively given a 15-month suspension by USADA on September 18.
Two days after the news dropped, Gustafsson started the fire with a post directly calling out the man he almost usurped five years prior.
See Jones vs. Gustafsson II
Two of the greatest light heavyweights in UFC history are running it back and you can be there with an Official Ticket Package from the UFC VIP Experience. As a VIP, you get access to the weigh-ins, fighter meet & greets, our hospitality area and much more!