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411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson

December 29, 2018 | Posted by Dan Plunkett
UFC 232 Alexander Gustafsson Ryan Hall

WELCOME:
After five years, Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson finally meet again to crown a new light heavyweight champion in the main event of UFC 232! In the co-main event, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes moves up in weight to challenge dominant UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg! At welterweight, Carlos Condit looks to get back on the winning side when he fights Michael Chiesa. Plus, Ilir Latifi faces Corey Anderson, Chad Mendes vs. Alexander Volkanovski, and more!

THE STAFF:

  • He’s 411’s Jack of All Trades, Jeffrey Harris!

  • He’ll lock you in the guillotine, Robert Winfree!

  • And your host, Dan Plunkett!

    THE PRELIMINARY CARD:
    First four prelims on UFC Fight Pass, rest on Fox Sports 1.
    Catchweight (137 lbs.) Bout: Brian Kelleher vs. Montel Jackson

    Jeffrey Harris: Brian Kelleher, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Brian Kelleher, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Kelleher, Decision

    Welterweight Bout: Curtis Millender vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

    Jeffrey Harris: Curtis Millender, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Curtis Millender, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Bahadurzada, TKO, Round 2

    Middleweight Bout: Uriah Hall vs. Bevon Lewis

    Jeffrey Harris: Bevon Lewis, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Uriah Hall, TKO, Round 1
    Dan Plunkett: Hall, TKO, Round 2

    Bantamweight Bout: Andre Ewell vs. Nathaniel Wood

    Jeffrey Harris: Andre Ewell, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Nathaniel Wood, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Wood, Decision

    Lightweight Bout: BJ Penn vs. Ryan Hall

    Jeffrey Harris: Ryan Hall, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Ryan Hall, Submission, Round 3
    Dan Plunkett: Penn, KO, Round 1

    Bantamweight Bout: Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Petr Yan

    Jeffrey Harris: Petr Yan, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Petr Yan, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Yan, Decision

    Featherweight Bout: Cat Zingano vs. Megan Anderson

    Jeffrey Harris: Cat Zingano, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Megan Anderson, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Zingano, Decision

    Heavyweight Bout: Andrei Arlovski vs. Walt Harris

    Jeffrey Harris: Split Draw
    Robert Winfree: Andrei Arlovski, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Harris, KO, Round 2


    THE MAIN CARD:
    Featherweight Bout: Chad Mendes vs. Alexander Volkanovski

    Jeffrey Harris: Chad Mendes is getting put into the Octagon here against a surging, up-and-coming featherweight prospect in Alexander Volkanovsky. Volkanovski is 18-1 and he’s unbeaten in the UFC at 5-0. A win over a former title contender such as Mendes would be a major statement for Volkanovski. It would propel him up the featherweight rankings and put him a lot closer to the title picture. For Mendes, a win over a young, surging and highly touted opponent would prove he’s still a major force in the division. Depending on how things pan out with Max Holloway, a win here puts Mendes in a very good position to perhaps contend for the title again sooner rather than later. I’m mainly leaning toward Mendes here. This is a huge step up in competition for Volkanovski. He hasn’t really faced someone at Mendes’ level or caliber before. Mendes is well rounded, has knockout power, and great wrestling.

    Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision

    Robert Winfree: This is a really solid fight on paper and a good choice to open up the PPV card. I’ve been on the Alexander Volkanovski bandwagon for a bit now, he’s a solid physical specimen with good wrestling, top control, and ground and pound to compliment an improving striking game. Volkanovski’s top control and offense comes more from the Khabib Nurmagomedov school of thought than anything else, so he fights for wrist control, attacks your posts, and punches you the entire time. Unfortunately for Volkanovski I think he’s in a bit over his head here. Chad Mendes is a strong wrestler with powerful punches and a wealth of elite level experience. I’m rooting for Volkanovski but I can’t pick him, this seems just the proverbial bridge too far for him right now.

    Winner: Chad Mendes, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: I really like this one. Mendes didn’t miss a beat returning from his two-year suspension, stopping Myles Jury in the first round in July. At 33, and with two failed title bids on his record, we might be in the midst of his last real push for a championship run. On the other side, Volkanovski has been on a tear, winning his last 15 fights, including 5 in the UFC. This is the first major test for him, and a victory will grab the attention of the rest of the division. I’m intrigued by Volkanovski, but for now, I’m going with the more proven commodity.

    Winner: Mendes, Decision


    Light Heavyweight Bout: Ilir Latifi vs. Corey Anderson

    Jeffrey Harris: I’m not expecting fireworks here. I think Corey Anderson will do what he usually does. He will grind out a relatively boring decision using his wrestling and takedowns. Ilir Latifi is a decent fighter with some power in his hands. He has ways to win, but I see Anderson coming out on top here.

    Winner: Corey Anderson, Decision

    Robert Winfree: Is anyone looking forward to this fight? Anyone? Bueller? Neither guy has really exciting or interesting fights, neither guy has much of a chance at breaking through the malaise that is light heavyweight, and I expect this fight to feature a ton of fence wrestling. As to who wins, isn’t a better question who cares?

    Winner: Ilir Latifi, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: Below Jones, Cormier, and Gustafsson at the top of the division, there is an underwhelming middle-tier at light heavyweight. With the right timing, any of those middle-tier fighters could be in line for a title shot (see Oezdemir, Volkan), but they’ll be an enormous underdog. That is where we stand with both Ilir Latifi and Corey Anderson, each of whom has won his last two fights. Latifi has a compact frame and big power, but I think we’ll see Anderson successfully work the outside on the feet, and work in some wrestling as the fight wears on.

    Winner: Anderson, Decision


    Welterweight Bout: Carlos Condit vs. Michael Chiesa

    Jeffrey Harris: On paper, this looks like a terrible match-up for Carlos Condit. Not to mention, Carlos Condit looks awful lately. He just looks unmotivated. I think he’s just fighting these days to go out, collect a paycheck, and help get seed money for his side businesses selling coffee and medical supplies. In short, Condit has mentally checked out of the sport. Chiesa is a pretty strong grappler, and Condit typically has terrible takedown defense. Condit is going to get submitted again here.

    Winner: Michael Chiesa, Submission, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: I said after Condit’s last fight that I had no interest in seeing him in the cage again, and that’s still true. Condit seems to have at least one foot out the door on fighting, not that I begrudge him any of that but I don’t want to see it. Chiesa is trying his hand at welterweight after the cut to lightweight became too much for him. I think Chiesa takes this, he punches into the clinch, gets a body lock takedown, gets the back, and probably gets the choke.

    Winner: Michael Chiesa, Submission, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: This last six-year stretch of Condit’s career has been puzzling. There was the loss to Georges St-Pierre in 2012, then a close loss to Johny Hendricks in 2013 (since Condit got stronger as the fight wore on, the thinking was that he would have taken it had it been a five-rounder). Then he rebounded against Martin Kampmann (in Kampmann’s last fight), which was followed by a loss to Tyron Woodley. After recovering from a knee injury, he beat Thiago Alves and received a title shot against Robbie Lawler. I scored that fight for Condit, but two judges didn’t and that’s what matters. Condit then went from the cusp of championship greatness into a steep decline. He was only 32, but it appeared that the wars had caught up with him. Demian Maia sliced through him, enabled by an elbow that you’d think wouldn’t have hurt a younger Condit, and Condit considered retirement. He then returned, losing both fights he’s had since that point.

    It’s not at a BJ Penn level yet where you wonder how he’s still being licensed, but next week it will have been three years since Carlos Condit has performed like Carlos Condit. For that reason, I have to pick Michael Chiesa.

    Winner: Chiesa, Decision


    UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship Bout: Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes

    Jeffrey Harris: Amanda Nunes is well-rounded and has improved her game over the years. I can see ways where she can win. However, I don’t think she will. Cyborg will be too much for Nunes standing up. She’s good at setting the pace and working in the clinch. I can see Nunes having a couple good rounds, but Cyborg will ultimately dominate and win this fight.

    Winner: Cris “Cyborg” Justino, Decision

    Robert Winfree: Between Shevchenko vs. Jedrzejczyk and this fight I think we’ll have seen the two best fights possible in women’s MMA right now. Both of these women are powerful strikers, good grapplers, rely on physical strength, and are very nearly at the peak of their abilities right now. Nunes is usually the bigger woman but wont be here, both women throw solid punches and pack power. I just tend to think that Nunes is running into a bigger slightly better version of herself up at featherweight, but I expect a bit of a firefight and with the power both women can bring either of them could take it.

    Winner: Cris Cyborg, TKO, Round 3

    Dan Plunkett: It was 10 years ago that Cris Cyborg first came into the consciousness of the average MMA fan, and she has been dominant for that entire time frame. Nunes is the best fighter Cyborg has ever fought in MMA, and you have to think that at some point, Cyborg has to lose. But she’s extremely skilled and she’ll have size on Nunes. I see the champion retaining.

    Winner: Cyborg, TKO, Round 4


    UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson

    Jeffrey Harris: As of writing this article, this fight is still scheduled to happen this weekend. So, putting all the nonsense surrounding this fight aside, I’m still picking Jon Jones. Alexander Gustafsson just doesn’t seem passionate or motivated about fighting for the title or fighting Jon Jones at all. Gustafsson is a talented fighter, but he’s not good enough to go that extra mile and capture the title. He slowed down against Jones in the later rounds, and he wasn’t able to convincingly beat Daniel Cormier. Both were five-round fights. Gustafsson is one of the few athletes at light heavyweight who is actually taller than Jones, but it won’t make much of a difference. Jones will beat Gustafson up, mix in his takedowns, and eventually finish him in the fourth.

    Winner: Jon Jones, TKO, Round 4

    Robert Winfree: I love their first fight, it’s still the best light heavyweight fight ever from where I sit, and it’s a shame it took this long for a rematch to come about. Between Jones’ issues and Gustafsson’s injuries it just took forever for it to come back around. One of the crazier things about this fight is that Jones fought more recently than Gustafsson. The biggest hurdle Jones had to deal with in the first fight was Gustafsson’s use of lateral movement, which threw off his use of low line side kicks to the leg and forced him to adapt in the later rounds. Jones is a touch slower how but more powerful while Gustafsson still has cardio issues over five rounds when not allowed to completely dictate the pace of a fight. I’m really looking forward to the fight but I think it will likely go in similar fashion to their first fight.

    Winner: Jon Jones, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: It’s basically impossible to pick against Jon Jones at light heavyweight. He has too many weapons and too few holes to be exploited. I fully expect Gustafsson to have success landing on Jones, but Jones might have the best chin in the game and is always there in the fifth round. Meanwhile, Jones can break his opponent down in so many different ways, which pushes the fight more in his favor as it progresses. There is an x-factor here in whether the attention surrounding Jones’s drug test results and the UFC moving the entire event to another city has caused a significant distraction to Jones, but I can’t bet on that. I think he takes a competitive yet clear decision.

    Winner: Jones, Decision


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