It’s a massive card for the UFC this weekend in Toronto, with TWO titles on the line and another couple of fights which will likely have title implications in the not-too-distant future. We take a look at the stacked main card for UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustaffson.
Have a look at a one-on-one interview with Dana White ahead of UFC 165.
Pat Healy (29-16 1NC) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (20-0)
First up is the grizzled veteran Healy taking on undefeated rising star Nurmagomedov. With the Lightweight title picture opening up following the belt changing hands from Benson Henderson to Anthony Pettis, Russian Nurmagomedov, 24, will know he could be one or two high-profile wins from getting a shot soon. He is 4-0 in the UFC with wins over solid opposition but a win over Healy would be a feather in his cap, or rather his trademark fluffy blonde wig (below).
Nurmagomedov is a tremendous grappler, with his background in Combat Sambo, Judo and Freestyle Wrestling but he also has dangerous striking, as a KO win in the UFC over Thiago Tavares proves.
Pat Healy, 30, will be looking to get back on track after his last fight, an impressive win over the always dangerous Jim Miller, was steeped in controversy after being overturned to a No Contest when Healy tested positive for marijuana. A veteran of 46 career fights, Healy holds wins over top opposition such as Carlos Condit and Dan Hardy so can never be counted out, but we’re going for Nurmagomedov (Odds: 4/9 Paddypower) to TKO Healy (7/4)
Costa Philippou (12-2 1NC) vs Francis Carmont (21-7)
Many believe Frenchman Carmont is extremely lucky to currently be on a 5-fight winning streak in the UFC, as his last two decision wins should most likely have gone to his opponent, especially the split decision win over Tom Lawlor at UFC 154. However, the Tristar Middleweight gets a fight against top-10 opposition in the form of Cypriot Costa Philippou, himself on an impressive 5-fight tear.
A purple belt in BJJ, Costa’s ground game is underrated, but it is on the feet where the former pro-boxer is most dangerous. It’s been a long lay-off for Philippou after his scheduled fight with Nick Ring was pulled due to Ring’s illness but rust shouldn’t be an issue. We expect Philippou (8/15) to stay out of the Frenchman’s kicking range and KO Carmont (6/4).
Brendan Schaub (9-3) vs Matt Mitrione (6-2)
This is tough to call, as the erstwhile friends and housemates on TUF have been known to be heavy-hitters in their time in the UFC. A Gracie BJJ brown belt, Schaub is excellent on the ground, despite his heavily-criticised showing at Jiu-Jitsu showcase Metamoris Pro 2 suggesting otherwise, so Mitrione may want to keep the fight standing and test to see if Schaub’s two recent KO losses to ‘Minotauro’ Noguiera and Ben Rothwell have affected his ability to absorb damage. ‘Meathead’ Mitrione’s last fight was a super-quick, brutal KO win over UK Heavyweight Phil de Fries and we see this one going a similar way, with Mitrione (9/10) with a KO over Schaub (9/10)
Renan Barao *Champion* (30-1 1NC) vs Eddie Wineland (20-8-1)
The first title fight of the card sees the man with possibly the longest winning streak in pro-MMA, Renan Barao, take on former WEC Bantamweight Champion Eddie Wineland. Ultra-tough kickboxer and wrestler Wineland faces the seemingly impossible task of ending the 30-fight rampage Barao has been on since losing his first ever MMA fight back in 2005, but after taking out two of the division’s toughest fighters to get here in Brad Pickett and Scott Jorgensen, he has every reason to believe he can cause the upset.
It’s worth noting that every time Barao has sought to take down and submit his opponent in the UFC, he has done so. It has been suggested that this may be the last time the ‘Interim’ title is contested as current champion Cruz struggles to overcome his injury woes so Barao will be desperate to finally become overall undisputed champion.
Wineland may look to take advantage of Barao’s sometimes vulnerable high chin during exchanges but we expect Barao (1/7) to keep Wineland (9/2) at distance with leg-kicks and eventually get the takedown to finish.
Pick: Barao to defend title
Jon Jones *Champion* (18-1) vs Alexander Gustaffson (15-1)
Anything is possible in MMA- Chris Weidman knocking out the greatest MMA fighter of all time Anderson Silva in his 10th fight is evidence for that. Should Gustaffson stop Jones from breaking Tito Ortiz’s record for most consecutive 205lb title defences, it will be a similarly shocking feat. Jones has looked invincible so far in the UFC as he’s destroyed many legends and former champions on his way to arguably surpassing Chuck Liddell as the division’s greatest ever fighter.
Gustafsson really has to use his excellent footwork and boxing to have any chance of keeping Jones off his game, but with Jones already proving he can take any opponent to the ground and crush them with elbows, that’s easier said than done. Jones is very close to being able to lay claim to the title of the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, possibly of all-time, and we can’t see anything other than a record-breaking win for Jones (1/8) over Gustafsson (5/1) within the distance- most likely with vicious ground ‘n’ pound or submission.
Pick: Jones to defend title