The injury bug has struck again in professional mixed martial arts with Alexander Gustafsson suffering an injury in training this week that has taken him out of a scheduled UFC light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones.
The bout would have been a rematch of 2013’s fight of the year, but now it will be Daniel Cormier that challenges Jones at UFC 178 on September 27.
The card will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and also features the return of Dominick Cruz, fighting for the first time in nearly three years, when he takes on Takeya Mizugaki, Connor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero, and Amanda Nunes vs. Cat Zingano.
Cormier has been campaigning for a bout against Jones since entering the light heavyweight division and his dominant wins over Patrick Cummins and Dan Henderson have given UFC fans an appetite for a Jones/Cormier bout.
The proverbial feast such fans so desire is now around two months away and there’s no doubt that the anticipation and hype surrounding this bout will be intense. Not to mention the likelihood of trash talk among the combatants.
While Cormier made his smooth, efficient and loud transition from heavyweight to light heavyweight, Jones has continued to mow through the light heavyweight division with a unanimous decision win over Glover Teixeira that was a forgone conclusion to many the moment the bout was announced.
Debate among MMA fans has been rampant for the last few months about who was the better challenger for Jones.
The common argument for Gustafsson was that he gave Jones easily the toughest test of his MMA career and there are plenty of people who believe Gustafsson beat Jones last year.
The argument for Cormier was that Gustafsson had his shot and a new challenger should get the shot over someone who already had their turn, especially when it’s against a dominant and long-reigning champion.
Also, Cormier’s undefeated record makes for a very good piece of promotional material when going into a bout against a man who is virtually undefeated and heralded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
Jones’ only career loss was a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in 2009 due to illegal use of elbows thanks to a rule that most, including myself, see as stupid in practice.
Personally, I can see both sides, though I believe Jones won last year against Gustafsson.
The fact that Jones/Gustafsson was the fight of the year practically begs for a rematch. But Cormier has made quite an impression in his first two bouts at light heavyweight, not to mention that his heavyweight dominance mustn’t be forgotten when weighing whether he or Gustafsson would be a more worthy challenger for Jones.
It’s kind of ironic that this turn of events came about because it could end up giving both sides of the Cormier/Gustafsson argument what they want.
Depending on how long he’s out, Gustafsson could be fighting Jones for the title once he is able to return. If Cormier were to win the title from Jones, then Jones/Gustafsson II is all but assured to happen when Gustafsson returns to action.
However, it’s far more likely that Gustafsson will now have to fight for a shot at the title no matter who is champion when he fights again.
Why? Because if Anthony Johnson beats Antonio Rogerio Nogueira this Saturday, he could make a case that he should be in the light heavyweight title chase as much as Gustafsson is.
This is a tough break for Gustafsson, but it’s a tough break that happens to champions and challengers alike throughout UFC in recent years with Dominick Cruz and most recently Jose Aldo proving that even champions are not immune from MMA’s injury bug.