UFC 165: The Championship Rounds with Ryan Frederick

UFC 165 finally takes place tonight, and with much anticipation, the current best fighter in the world steps into the Octagon, and a week after seeing the best boxer in the world fight, it’s the chance for the best MMA fighter to score an impressive win. Jon Jones will defend the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in the main event against Alexander Gustafsson. A lot of talk this week has been about Jones looking to set the UFC record for most title defenses at 205 pounds, and what could be next for him, and Gustafsson has been overlooked just a little bit. Can Gustafsson score the win? We will find out tonight, but that question is one I will tackle along with four other interesting storylines to look out for tonight. Come inside as we head into The Championship Rounds.

1. Can Alexander Gustafsson be the man who finally defeats Jon Jones?

In a short word, I say the answer is no. It is a fight, and anything can happen in a fight, but I don’t think he matches up all that well with Jones. Nine months ago I honestly thought he had a shot, but it seems as though the more time that passes where Gustafsson has been inactive, the more I begin to sour on his chances. I was really looking forward to seeing Gustafsson fight Gegard Mousasi, and I thought it was a fight he needed to compete in and win to truly get himself ready for Jones. His win over Shogun Rua was solid enough, but still showed some holes he needed to work on, and not having another fight since then leaves some questions unanswered. He is certainly capable of defeating Jones, and has a better shot than almost anyone, which is really a testament to how great Jones is more than how good Gustafsson is. Don’t get me wrong- he’s good and in a non-Jones UFC Light Heavyweight division, he could easily be the champion. His best way to win is to keep Jones off-balance with his striking, but Jones is every bit of an athlete that a fighter can and should be. Unfortunately for Gustafsson, everything adds up for a probable loss when the two men step inside the Octagon tonight.

2. Is this the last we see of the Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship?

I 100% believe so. Dominick Cruz is either getting ready to finally return next year, or he is preparing to be stripped of the UFC Bantamweight Championship which would make either Renan Barao or Eddie Wineland the champion depending on who wins tonight. That being said, we will probably see Barao retaining the interim belt and either fighting Cruz next or becoming the undisputed champion. Personally, I really hope that Cruz is ready to return as I would love to see a fight between him and Barao, and there isn’t a lot of contenders left for Barao. He’s already beaten Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett, and I think Wineland has less of a chance to beat Barao than Alexander Gustafsson has of beating Jon Jones. Either way, the Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship is on the line tonight for the last time.

3. Who needs a win more- Brendan Schaub or Matt Mitrione?

They both need a win in the worst kind of way on Saturday, but I sense that Schaub needs it more. Yes, they both won their last fight, but Schaub’s last win was an ungodly bad decision win over Lavar Johnson. It was a channel-change fight for sure, and he needs to get back to showing he is capable of knocking guys out. He played it safe to get the win whereas Mitrione goes for the finish. Mitrione scored a quick knockout win over Phil De Fries in April and has the power in his hands to finish fights. Schaub has a suspect chin which leaves him more open for being knocked out, so he may look to go the safe route and use takedowns to win it. Hey, go for any way you can win it, and I’m not against playing it safe if you really need that win. You gotta do what you gotta do to keep your roster spot and advance your career. Mitrione has a weird charisma that makes him a little bit of a star, and it will help him stay on the roster whether he wins or loses. I actually think Mitrione wins this fight which makes Schaub needing it way, way worse.

4. Who establishes themselves most as a contender tonight- Costa Philippou, Francis Carmont, Pat Healy or Khabib Nurmagomedov?

Khabib Nurmagomedov. He has a nice set of tools and his grappling skills are among the best in the UFC’s lightweight division. His record of being undefeated in 20 fights in extremely impressive, and his four UFC wins have featured a little bit of everything. From submission wins to quick knockout wins to dominating with his wrestling and even beating a veteran in a very tough fight, Nurmagomedov has shown he has what it takes to potentially compete for the UFC Lightweight Championship. All of the other three fighters I mentioned are in good position to make themselves contenders tonight with a win. Pat Healy by all means should have seven straight wins and he looked very good when he submitted Jim Miller in his UFC return. He just made the mental gaff of not being able to pass his drug test, and while it hurt his immediate standing, a win over Nurmagomedov would put him back on the path to a title shot. Philippou and Carmont both have five-fight UFC win streaks, but there is more upside for Philippou as he has left no doubt about those five wins. Carmont could have easily lost his last two fights, and I personally thought he did lose, but he has the chance to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind and establish himself as a top-ten fighter with a win over Philippou.

5. Which of tonight’s preliminary card bouts will bring the most entertainment?

This is a solid undercard on UFC 165 even if some of the names might not be as recognizable to casual fans as a lot of other undercards coming up are. With the event being in Toronto, it is filled with a lot of Canadians. John Makdessi is on the Facebook portion of the card, which says a lot about the depth of this card, as he is very talented and has a lot of upside and usually delivers fun fights that deserve to be on television. Stephen Thompson is a big prospect who looks for another solid win when he fights Chris Clements. Ivan Menjivar vs. Wilson Reis is a high-level bantamweight bout and Reis finally gets to step into the Octagon after years of fighting in several solid promotions. But the undercard fight I’m really looking forward to is the top preliminary card fight between Mike Ricci and Myles Jury. Ricci has good tools and comes from the Tristar Camp and has what it takes to make himself a contender. Jury is undefeated and has looked very, very good in the UFC. His big knockout win over Ramsey Nijem showed he has excellent power, and his dominant win over Michael Johnson proved he has the wrestling to go with that power. These two have the makings of an entertaining bout despite the fact that Ricci’s two UFC fights have been rather dull. I don’t expect that to be the case this time.

Tune into UFC 165 tonight on pay-per-view and see how it all plays out.

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