Jon Jones will face Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant light-heavyweight championship at UFC 232 in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve weekend.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reports that former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones will meet perennial title challenger Alexander Gustaffson for the vacant championship at UFC 232 in Las Vegas on December 29. Current light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will be stripped of the belt at the beginning of the contest so that both men will be fighting for the official title. The fight is a rematch of their bout in 2013 in which the two competed in a five round classic that is considered one of the best fights in the history of the sport.
It was recently announced that Jones’ USADA suspension would be up in late October. That was stemming from a positive test last July for his fight against Daniel Cormier. He was given a 15 month suspension to be served retroactively after it was ruled through an arbitrator that he did not knowingly take the banned substance. It was widely speculated that Jones may return to headline UFC 230 in his native New York, but those talks were quickly shot down by Dana White and rumors then pointed toward a New Year’s Eve return.
Jones, 31, is undefeated since 2009 with his lone loss coming by means of disqualification against Matt Hamill. He holds the current record for title defenses in the light-heavyweight division with eight, not including his original victory for the vacant championship in 2011 and winning the interim title in 2016. Jones did briefly reclaim the undisputed championship by defeating Daniel Cormier last July before the decision was overturned due to failing the aforementioned drug test.
Alexander Gustafsson is a perennial top-five contender in the UFC with victories over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Jimi Manuwa, and Glover Teixeira to his credit. This will be his third attempt to win the light-heavyweight championship, his first being the fight with Jones in 2013 and his second being another five round effort against Cormier in 2015. With talk of Cormier looking to retire following the planned bout with Brock Lesnar in March, it was speculated that Gustafsson may compete for an interim title that would become undisputed should Cormier walk away from competition before defending the 205 pound title again.
Yesterday, it was announced that dual champion Daniel Cormier would be putting his heavyweight championship on the line to face Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC 230 in November. It is a bout he is heavily favored to win and it is assumed that the UFC still hopes to have him compete against Lesnar in early 2019. However, that would leave the light-heavyweight belt inactive since this past January. Cormier went on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show to say that the UFC had been looking to strip him of the title so that it could be on the line for the possible bout with Jones and Gustafsson. Cormier stated that while he understood the business decision of stripping the light-heavyweight title under the circumstances, he took issue with the fact that Jones would be allowed to compete for it as he was coming off a failed test that cost him the title in the first place.
The original bout between Jones and Gustaffson is regarded as one of the best fights in the history of the UFC and arguably the greatest bout in which the championship was on the line. At the time, Jones had dominated the competition for several years but was pushed to the limit by Gustafsson whom several felt could have been awarded the decision that night in 2013. During the UFC’s special of their 25 greatest fights to celebrate their 25th anniversary this year, Jones vs Gustafsson came in at number seven.
UFC 232 is also scheduled to feature the champion vs champion super fight between featherweight powerhouse Cris Cyborg and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.