A rematch between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson has officially been placed on hold. The next time Jones enters the Octagon he will defend his belt against hard-hitting Glover Teixeira.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the news Wednesday night to ESPN.com.
While many fans will frown at this decision -- understandably so, considering the memorable performance Jones and Gustafsson put on at UFC 165 in Toronto -- it’s the right one.
Though a large number of fans are sure to accuse Jones of ducking Gustafsson, the criticism will rapidly diminish should both survive their next opponents. Afterward, the highly anticipated rematch will immediately get placed on UFC’s fight docket; Jones, more than Gustafsson, will demand it.
“I said before the [Gustafsson] fight my sights were set on breaking the record,” Jones said, referring to the UFC mark he set for consecutive successful light heavyweight title defenses, which currently sits at six. “I want to crush the record. I want to beat the record so bad it can never be broken [again].
“I’m going to fight Glover and I will answer all critics about the Gustafsson fight. I will fight Gustafsson after I fight Glover. I won the fight but I look at it as a blemish on my record because some people think I didn't. I promise you, he will be next.”
Jones doesn’t have much of a choice but to fight Gustafsson, should he get past Teixeira. No matter how impressive a performance he puts on, it won’t erase the image of him nearly losing his title to the Swedish striker.
Jones won the fight against Gustafsson and all three judges scored it in his favor, as did a majority of eyewitnesses. But he looked vulnerable during a bout for the first time. Before facing Gustafsson, most viewed Jones as unbeatable at light heavyweight. That vision has since evaporated.
Make no mistake, Jones would love to recapture that aura of invincibility, but the only way to do that is with an impressive win over Gustafsson. Jones needs this fight, and he wants it.
There is, however, a huge risk in foregoing an immediate rematch: Teixeira is no pushover. He will be an underdog against Jones, but has the punching power and submission skills to pose a serious threat.
A Teixeira upset will suck the energy out of Jones-Gustafsson II. Even a Teixeira-Jones rematch would lack the prefight punch Jones-Gustafsson II presently enjoys.
Also keep in mind that Gustafsson is slated to fight at least once before getting a second shot at the 205-pound title. UFC officials have yet to determine who Gustafsson will face next, but it is reasonable to assume that a top-10 contender is in order.
And just like Jones, a Gustafsson victory isn't guaranteed. Putting Jones-Gustafsson II on hold is a huge risk, but it could prove well worth taking; the financial rewards are potentially too great.
If all goes accordingly, Jones and Gustafsson will get through their respective bouts victorious and unscathed, then the rematch is set. UFC can then begin promoting what should turn out to be its most lucrative pay-per-view event in history.