There is the World Series of Fighting this weekend for MMA purists, but this weekend belongs to Boxing as Floyd Mayweather -Saul Alvarez take center stage in ‘Fightland’. Next weekend however, the UFC returns to Ontario, Canada with UFC 165, a card featuring two title defenses as co-main events. Jon Jones defends his Lightheavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson and Bantamweight titlist Renan Barao takes on Eddie Wineland. Going into fight week, the sport books have both champions as massive favorites.
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Jones is a (-800) favorite over Gustafsson, who returns at (+550). The fight will probably be more competitive than the line indicates. Gustafsson is a solid fighter who has won six fights in a row to earn his title shot. His competition level is lower than Jones, with his best wins over James Te Huna and a fading ‘Shogun’ Rua. The lines do have it right, in that it is almost inevitable that Jones will have his hand raised at the end. What separates Jones from Gustafsson is athleticism, and if the champion gets off on offense first, it could be over fast. The real threat to Jones is how he continues to adjust to becoming a major star, and does his head get too Anderson-like?
At Bantamweight, Eddie Wineland is a (+500) underdog, with Barao sitting as a Jon Jones-like favorite at (-700). The match is similar to the Jones fight in that Wineland is a sturdy, working class fighter who fights with guts and leaves it in the ring, but he is facing a superior athlete who is also ahead of the curve when it comes to overall technique.
For both Gustafsson and Wineland, their best shot is to open fast and try to end the fight early. They both need to land a punch that is a fight changer, on that shakes up the opponent. Both Barao and Jones are both aggressive and precise, but they both have rarely fought hurt. Gustafsson and Wineland have to hurt the champions, and they have to be prepared to not let up and let them off the hook. They need to finish the fights fast, because both champions will prove to be too much over a twenty five minute match, the challengers just can’t win that way.