When Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson meet in the main event of UFC 232 in late December, they will be fighting for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title. News of the bout was recently reported by ESPN.com’s Ariel Helwani. It’s not fair that Daniel Cormier is going to be stripped of his belt, but it’s the right move to do so by UFC president Dana White and co. The rematch between Jones and Gustafsson is a championship-level fight on every level, and there has to be a belt on the line when these two throw down in a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.
When Cormier moved up to heavyweight to challenge Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, he had to know there was the possibility he would be stripped of one of his belts. Just like Conor McGregor did when he won the UFC lightweight title to go along with the UFC featherweight title, the UFC is going to take Cormier’s belt away at no fault of his own. But the promotion needs as many title fights as it can right now, and to have one fighter hold up two divisions just doesn’t make sense in this day and age of the UFC when the company is dead set on having at least one and sometimes two title fights on every card.
It’s clear Cormier is not returning to the light heavyweight division anytime soon, so the belt had to be taken away from him, even though it’s unfair that a clean fighter like Cormier is getting punished so a guy who has been in trouble with USADA in Jones will get a chance to fight for it again. The optics look bad for sure, but the UFC is a business and all they care about is the bottom line. So yes, it’s unfair that Cormier is getting stripped, but at the same time, Jones and Gustafsson’s fight absolutely needs to be for five rounds. I guess the UFC could have introduced an interim title, but there’s little point of that when Cormier likely wasn’t returning to light heavyweight anyways.
We know Cormier is fighting Derrick Lewis for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 230 next month, and if he gets by Lewis he’s primed for a superfight against Brock Lesnar in early 2019. The odds of him going back to light heavyweight seem slim, especially considering how amazing he looked against Miocic in a heavyweight bout. In fact, DC is undefeated in his career as a heavyweight. The only matchup that would have made any sense for DC at light heavyweight would be a trilogy bout against Jones, but DC isn’t interested in fighting Jones again and you can’t blame him. If anything, maybe Jones can go out there and beat Gustafsson and win the light heavyweight belt and then challenge DC for the heavyweight title. That makes a lot more sense than DC fighting Jones for a third time at 205lbs.
The UFC got it right by matching up Jones and Gustafsson for the rematch. The first fight between these two back at UFC 165 in September 2013 was one of the greatest fights in MMA history. Gustafsson gave Jones the toughest fight of his career and though he ultimately came up short and lost a unanimous decision, the rematch is a fight fans have been asking the UFC to see for years.
With Jones getting cleared by USADA to fight again, there was no point of making his return be pushed back to 2019. The UFC needed to get Jones back now, and to make him the main event of UFC 232 in his bid to win his belt back was the right move. All of a sudden, UFC 232 looks like an extremely stacked card with Jones and Gustafsson at the top and Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes in a women’s superfight just underneath it. We often criticize the UFC for making bad decisions and booking fights that leave fans scratching their heads, but in this case the UFC got it right by matching up Jones and Gustafsson. It’s unfortunate that Cormier is being punished in a way by losing his belt, but this is for the greater good of the sport.