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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 21 April 2021
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Uncaged: Jones looking to keep Gustafsson at arm’s length

Brian Kirk runs the rule over the main events at UFC 165 in Toronto.

Jones: can he stand up to a bigger man in Gustafsson?
Jones: can he stand up to a bigger man in Gustafsson?
Image: Gregory Payan/AP/Press Association Images

JON JONES HAS his eye on another record at UFC 165 in Toronto, Canada, this weekend as he looks to defend his light heavyweight crown for a sixth time.

The 6ft 4in powerhouse has blasted through everyone he has faced in his UFC career so far but in Alexander Gustafsson he faces a fighter who many believe possesses most of the tools needed to end Jones’ winning run.

The co-main event of the evening also boasts a title defence, this time for the interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao as Eddie Wineland finally gets his crack at UFC gold.

Former TUF contestants Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione get to throw down after a build-up filled with ill-feeling and back and forth verbal jibes, while Costa Philippou versus Francis Carmont and Pat Healy versus Khabib Nurmagomedov make up the main card.

Gustafsson to look Jones right in the eye

For the first time in his UFC career Jon Jones will be the one looking up to his opponent across the cage. It may only be an inch and Jones still holds that all important reach advantage over his opponent but “The Mauler” is seen as the best man to test Jones at this time.

His last two opponents moved up from middleweight to no avail so could finally taking on someone his own size lead to Jones’ downfall? In all honestly, probably not.

As per usual when it comes to a Jon Jones fight, he is superior in almost every department compared to his opponent and possesses much stronger wrestling skills than Gustafsson which he will no doubt use to take him down if and when he sees fit.

The Swede has a very slick and varied stand-up game that will take some figuring out but if Jones can unlock Lyoto Machida inside two rounds then he should overcome Gustafsson. Failing that, he will revert to his unrivalled wrestling base to take him down before grounding and pounding his way to another record-breaking victory.

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Barao wants to be true champion

Renan Barao has every right to feel a little bit aggrieved as he continues to be lumbered with the ‘interim’ before his bantamweight champion status. As the UFC patiently waits for Dominick Cruz to get back on his feet, Barao has been making waves in the division seeing off all who have challenged him.

The Brazilian is 5-0 in his UFC career, beating the likes of Urijah Faber and Brad Pickett and hasn’t tasted defeat since April 2005, 30 fights ago. His opponent Eddie Wineland is a hard-hitting durable type who impressed last time out as he became the first man the stop Scott Jorgensen via strikes.

Barao comes into this fight as strong favourite due to the fact that he is a very solid all-rounder where Wineland’s only chance seems to be if he catches him with one of his trademark right hands. This will be a tough and gruelling fight for the Brazilian but he is adept at seeing out fights so expect another decision victory for him here.

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Best of the rest

Matt Mitrione and Bendan Schaub have been embroiled in a war of words in the build-up to this fight, showing both men harbour genuine ill will towards each other. Both looked to be progressing well after their disappointing stint in TUF before both suffered losses that seem to knock them back to square one.

Schaub’s questionable chin was clipped by both Ben Rothwell and Antonio Nogueira before he rebounded with win over Lavar Johnson by utilizing a smart gameplan. Mitrione went 5-0 after TUF but then suffered back-to-back losses before knocking out Phil De Fries in just 19 seconds in April.

There is no doubt Schaub is more athletic and well-rounded than “Meathead” but the question marks over his ability to take a punch mean that Mitrione has every chance to cause an upset here and draw a line under their feud.

Francis Carmont and Costa Philippou are both on the crest of five-fight UFC win streaks and a win here for either would propel them up the middleweight ladder. Philippou is notoriously difficult to take to the ground so Carmont needs to stick and move if he wants to win this one.

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Brian Kirk

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