UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 will be held on December 29, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Gustafsson is riding a two-fight winning streak heading into this contest. He last fought in May 2017. He knocked out Glover Teixeira in an impressive manner. Here is the ending combination of the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) December 28, 2018
UFC 232 marks the first fight for Jones since he was suspended for 15 months by USADA for a failed drug test.
Their first fight was a breathtaking 25-minute war, which left both fighters in hospital and everyone pretty much hoping for more of the same. However Jon decided to move on and the rematch never happened,
Without exaggerating, this first fight between the two is one of the most exciting in UFC history. For 25 minutes, the two men traded punches and kicks, elbows and knees with reckless abandon.
Gustafsson became the first man to take Jones down to the ground but in the end the judges returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Jones. I personally had Gus winning the first three rounds. The fight pushed Jon to his limits forcing him to dig deep in order to win the last rounds.
Gus’s nickname is the “Mauler” for a reason. He often exhibits glimpses of strategic brilliance but he also gets carried away in brutal exchanges. We will examine here Gus’s successful counters against Jon Jones from their first fight. Most of these counters were posted in my articles Defeating the G.O.A.T: How to beat Jon Jones pt. 1 and pt 2. This series is a great resource in studying Jon Jones so please give it a look.
Gus has a solid chin but was dropped by Anthony “Rumble” Johnson back in UFC on FOX 14. “Rumble” unleashed a brutal beating on Gustafsson scoring a TKO victory at 2:15 of the opening round.
Gustafsson insists he was dropped by a headbutt and I tend to agree although the punch also seemed to connect behind the ear.
Here is a screencap:
In the first Jon Jones fight, Gus was following a great gameplan until he was hit by a brutal spinning elbow and follow up knees from the clinch. That being said, Alex was in the fight the whole time. We will examine below some of Gus’ key moves during that first fight.
Countering the sidekick to the knee
Jon Jones is famous for his sidekicks to the knee. In the sequence above Alex gets hit with the kick but is able to deliver his own right low kick when Jones’ foot lands on the ground.
Gus would also just pull his foot back, as in the sequence above. A Thai stylist would just follow up with a left middle or high kick. Alex’s stance is loaded as this is in essence a kick-like switch.
Jones’ speed and athleticism make countering him a difficult task. However Jones goes for this kick mostly from orthodox stance so opponents can anticipate it coming.
Countering the oblique kick
The oblique kick also targets an opponent’s knee and was made famous by Bruce Lee in his movie fight against Chuck Norris. It’s a good technique against a boxer but a powerful wrestler should be able to grab the foot and start driving for a takedown. Frankie Edgar would likely grab the foot and start running. From a Muay Thai perspective fighters can punish someone using this kick by kicking the supporting leg or the kicking leg or both.
In the clip below Gus counters the kick by charging in with a right cross and a jab/hook hybrid (gif).
Countering Jones’ spinning back kick against a retreating opponent
If an opponent is running backwards towards his right side, with their back against the cage and Jones is in a southpaw stance, Jon will often attack with a left foot spinning back kick. This is a predictable pattern. In photos 1-3 it happened vs Gus, in photos 3-6 it’s Gus again and in 7-12 Rashad made him miss and went for an unsuccessful takedown. There are so many clips of this happening again and again but Gus was not able to exploit this predictable pattern.
Predictable patterns like these need to be exploited consistently in order for a fighter to have a chance of defeating Jon Jones. “Making them pay for missing” is a always a good strategy.
Hand to the face/eye jab
I believe that the eye jabs are a bad habit from Jones’ wrestling days. However, he does this consistently and fighters need to address it immediately. They should not play tough and endure the pokes. Instead they should complain to the referee immediately. Mentioning it in pre-fight meetings, press conferences and interviews could also help.
Jones usually extends his arm while touching his opponent’s forehead or face. He does this to measure distance or to keep opponents away. This has been very effective for shorter opponents but it did not work with Alexander Gustafsson as you can see below, Gus had the necessary reach to jab him so Jones had to retreat:
Technically, the best way for a fighter to deal with the extended arm is to realize Jones’ ribs are exposed when he does that. This is great opportunity for body punching. We will analyze below some of Gus’ attacks to the body.
It is evident fighters can land on “Bones” after blocking or evading his kicks. They should attack with punches and kicks.
Below, Alexander gets hit with an inside low kick and comes back with a kick of his own which lands with ease.
Gus should really go after Jon Jones when he kicks as he is (relatively) easy to hit and when he misses gets out of position by turning his back. Below you can see Jones missing with a high kick and completely turning his back running away.
He does this often, both against kicks and punches.
Finally, as I note below, the best way to land punches on Jon Jones is not to target the head but the body. Here is Alex landing a jab to the body after blocking a kick:
My favorite kick counter is to block a left high kick and attack with a liver punch. This works because most fighters expect a left hook as counter punch. Body punches play a major role in defeating Jon Jones as they open unexpected opportunities.
With proper punishment delivered to the legs and enough body punches Jones will eventually lower his hands and start crouching to defend his ribs and solar plexus. He will also become hesitant in leaning back to slip punches. Body attacks may take time to produce results but are difficult to recover from. Especially liver shots. If fighters commit to attacking the body they will notice the head will be easier to reach. Here are some nice combos of Gus employing body shots:
Left jab to the solar plexus to jab (gif)
Fake jab to the body to right cross (gif)
Jon goes for the face palm, Gus throws a left jab to the body to a jab and finally a right cross to the body (gif)
Here is a jab to the body to right cross to jab/left hook:
Gus is a pretty good boxer and was able to connect on Jon’s head several times. Alex is also a great counter-puncher. Below Jones attacks with a lead left hook and pays by getting hit with a left hook/forearm strike by Alex:
Disengaging from Jon’s clinch
In order to avoid counter attacks, Jones keeps his distance when fighters pull back and disengage from the clinch. Below Alex successfully pushes the underhook down and disengages. Jones does not try to go after him or land a kick:
By disengaging Jones’ clinch, fighters take away one of his biggest strengths as the clinch is his base and he is very dominant in using it. However, it does not look good in the eyes of the judges and the fans who assume that Gus is running. Here is another clip of Gus just pulling away
Jon “Bones” Jones
If you follow my work, you know by now that I am a fan of Jon Jones. Make no mistake about it, Jon Jones is a phenom unlike any other our young sport has ever seen. Sure, “Bones‘ has made several mistakes in his personal life but when that cage door closes, Jon is in command of the fighting arena. He is a student of the game and as such he reminds me of a young Bruce Lee.
In regards to the first fight Jon noted: “I didn’t train very hard for that fight, I’m not making excuses, but this is just the truth, I could have given it a lot more effort, I got fatigued after the first two rounds, which is something that never normally happens in my fights, so I feel like the next time I fight him, I will finish him.”
Jon’s tactics and counters to these tactics have been covered extensively in my previous posts. Here is an excerpt describing Jon’s game and his overall tactics:
Jones has great cardio and is a five round fighter. He looks like a point fighter, but as is said in boxing, he makes the investments in the early rounds and collects the interest later. His low side kicks and oblique kicks take their toll on opponents over time and so do his body punches. Usually if the fight makes it to the last round Jones’ opponents are exhausted from carrying his weight, can barely use footwork from the kicks and are hesitant to engage due to the eye pokes (unintentional or not).
In every fight Jon Jones gets busy early to:
- Use kicks to the knees and other long range strikes in order to compromise the opponent’s mobility in later rounds from an accumulation of damage.
- Win every round on the scorecards using high volume striking.
- Be the fresher fighter at the beginning of the last round by controlling the pace of the fight.
- Try to finish the fight at every given opportunity while continuing to collect points in case of a failed attempt at a finish.
- Ensure complete and utter dominance.
The problem for his opponents is he goes from point collecting mode to fight ending mode in an unexpected fashion. An opponent may be trying to match him strike for strike, like a point fighting match, then without warning, Jon may go for a takedown and end the fight with brutal elbows.
The key round for Jon Jones is the fifth round. His opponent’s knees and thighs are usually in bad shape, making it difficult to move, they’re out of gas from strikes to the body and the sheer volume of strikes, and probably have impaired vision from the blood running all over his face due to Jones’ brutal elbows. Jon Jones will take opponents to a dark place during the championship rounds if they let him
To help readers appreciate Jon’s height and size advantage I created a group photo in Photoshop where I included his recent opponents. I scaled each fighter’s figure in proportion based on their official height. This was created before the OSP fight. Here it is:
Jon Jones’ Moves
It is time to examine how Jon was able to turn the tables and get back into the fight in his first encounter against Alex.
Spinning back elbow
This spinning elbow and knees had a devastating effect on Gus. Alex was going for his usual crouching jabs to the body when Jon started spinning.
This shocked Alex. He was not the same fighter after this move. One of Jon’s main strengths is his unpredictability. Moves like this are difficult to predict and counter.
During the fight, Gus was constantly going for uppercuts and Jon was going for lead elbows. Here is such a case. All these elbows eventually had an effect on Gustafsson and he eventually started slowing down.
Jon was taken down by Gus early in the fight and then tried relentlessly to get his own takedowns. He was able to get this one below but was not able to capitalize on it. Successful takedowns are important in the eyes of the judges and can demoralize opponents.
Both fighters are unorthodox and unpredictable but Jon Jones takes this unpredictability to another level. Here Gus grabbed his leg and Jon escaped by performing a somersault. Bones was still able to get back up and go for a takedown.
Jon Jones’s left kicks from a southpaw stance were his best weapon. Gus must make sure to have his hand on his chin at all times in this upcoming fight.
- Both fighters have not been competing a lot lately and cage rust is real. Both are 31 years old and this is an age when fighters starts to slow down.
- Gus is the better boxer and Jon the better kicker but Jon’s cardio is better that Alex’s.
- Gus is also fighting hard at all times, spends too much energy and his defense is often lacking. The problem is that Alex believes he was robbed last time so he may try to force the knockout. This is not a good strategy against Jon.
- This time around I believe that Jon will try to force the takedowns and use spinning attacks and sidekicks to the knee more often.
- Both fighters have a great chin but Jon, in my opinion, recovers better.
I have been going back an forth for this fight so here is my prediction. Early stoppage win for Gus or decision win for Jon. My pick is 55% Gus and 45% Jon. It will be a hard fight and I am also rooting for a trilogy. May the best fighter win.
For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).
About the author