Jon “Bones” Jones makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 232 on December 29 at The Forum in Inglewood, CA to face Alexander Gustaffsson in a rematch of their first scrap back at UFC 165 in 2013.
After fighting only once in 2015, 2016, and 2017, Jones will fight for the first time in 2018 after returning from another suspension, just the latest in his long history of suspensions. Jones seems to be back in control of his life and career, which is great for him, the fans, and the UFC. There was controversy yet again which forced the card from Las Vegas to Inglewood last minute, but that is a topic for later discussion, the fight is happening, and the hype is high.
The co-main event, Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes, is a true superfight and the best female MMA fight in history. Cyborg only averages 2 fights per years, which is partially due to a lack of fighters in the women’s featherweight division. Nunes has a similar problem, there’s no viable challengers in her division. Nunes now has the opportunity to hold both belts simultaneously, which has only been done by Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier in UFC history. However, she has to take it from the most dominant female fighter on the planet.
UFC 232 looks to end the year with a night of great fights. See our staff’s predictions below.
Chad Mendes (#5) vs Alexander Volkanovski (#10) (Featherweight)
Connor: This could be a great matchup to start out the main card. Chad Mendes recently made his return to the UFC in KO fashion, and is on a collision course with Alexander Volkanovski who is riding a 15-fight win streak. This will by far be the biggest test of Volkanovski’s career, Mendes is a next-level type of wrestler with KO power in every punch. Volkanovski likes to take the fight to the ground, but as we have seen in the past, when the fight is on the ground it is because Mendes wants it to be.
Chad Mendes wins via TKO in round 2.
Hiram: I feel styles make fights and Chad will utilize that amazing double-leg he has. Mendes is the more experienced and complete fighter.
Chad Mendes wins via unanimous decision.
Ilir Latifi (#5) vs Corey Anderson (#9) (Light Heavyweight)
Connor: This fight features fighters on a two-fight win streak, trying to prove they deserve a shot at the light heavyweight title. I think this one is quick, just like Latifi’s last fight. Anderson likes to use takedowns to control the fight on the ground and use his wrestling, what he should do is try to use his 5.5-inch reach advantage to keep Latifi away from him. Latifi has one-punch KO power, and is more than capable of forcing an opponent to tap out. Anderson will try to take the fight to the ground at one point or another, and try to test the takedown defense of the stout Ilir Latifi. Latifi will stuff a takedown attempt from Anderson, find the mistake, and capitalize to end the fight.
Ilir Latifi wins via submission in round 2.
Hiram: This was a hard choice due to the amount of improvements both these fighters have made. But I have to go with Anderson. His striking has only been getting better and his wrestling is one of the best, besides Daniel Cormier in that light heavyweight division. I feel he will grind out a good hard fought decision.
Corey Anderson wins via unienmus decision.
Carlos Condit vs Michael Chiesa (#10) (Welterweight)
Connor: After having a hard time with the weight cut down to lightweight, Michael Chiesa makes his way up to the welterweight division to meet up with Carlos Condit, a fighter he grew up watching. Both fighters are coming off losses and will be trying to make a statement. Condit hopes to re-establish relevance in the welterweight division, Chiesa to show that he belongs in the UFC and in this division where he should be healthier and able to show off his full skill set to his full potential. Both fighters’ matchup well on the ground, but Chiesa likes to go there more often. Condit has the skills on the ground but likes to use his kicks to attack at all levels while standing. Chiesa will probably look to control most of the fight on the ground and look for a submission without giving Condit the opportunity to submit him.
Michael Chiesa wins via unanimous decision.
Hiram: Pretty simple for me – Condit wins by decision since he is more of a natural welterweight. Chiesa has not improved in his last few fights and even though Condit is a bit older, I believe he has enough in the tank to take out Chiesa.
Carlos Condit wins via unanimous decision.
Cris Cyborg (C) vs Amanda Nunes (C-Bantamweight) (Featherweight)
Connor: Cyborg does not fight very often, but that’s not her fault at all. Cyborg, who hasn’t lost since 2005, wants to fight more but it’s hard to make that happen. What Nunes represents is a fighter who is on a 7-fight win streak, and has run through the bantamweight division in dominant fashion. Nunes moves up to featherweight and seems to match Cyborg in stature or at least closer than anyone else has ever looked. She also has a slight one-inch reach advantage.
And Still, Cris Cyborg wins via TKO in round 3.
Hiram: This was pretty simple for me. Cyborg is always improving and although Amanda likes to pressure her opponents, she does not do well off the back foot. I feel Cyborg will find her weak spots and wear her down to finish her late in the third round.
And Still, Cris Cyborg wins via TKO in round 3.
Dreux: I’m picking Amanda Nunes, that simple. Cyborg is a killer on paper and has proved to be arguably the greatest women’s fighter of all-time. However, she’s hardly been tested her entire career. I feel comfortable saying that Nunes is better than Cyborg at her own game and Cyborg certainly has never seen an opponent who can match her aggressiveness and raw power. Likewise, Nunes arguably lost the Valentina Schevchenko fight, which was contested mostly on the feet. Shevchenko is a but more unorthodox in that department but still, Nunes will also enjoy a far less stressful weight cut which could prove critical to her if the fight reaches the championship rounds. I see this being a wild slugfest, one that Nunes catches Cyborg and lays the long-time overlord of Women’s MMA to sleep in the early rounds. This sounds crazy to most, but The Lioness is here.
And New, Amanda Nunes wins via KO in round 2.
Jon Jones (#1) vs Alexander Gustafsson (#2) (Light Heavyweight)
Connor: Neither of these fighters have been active in the past few years. Jones has fought three times since 2015, and Gustafsson has fought four times in that same time span. The last time these two faced off was in 2013, it has been quite some time, but there still seems to be a fire and a true mutual dislike between these two. The long lay off might have Jones off to a slow start to try and find his rhythm, but it should not take long for him to try and put a stamp on his return. Both of these guys like to stand and throw, and both have the ability to keep the fight standing.
And New, Jon Jones wins via TKO in round 4.
Hiram: This one was a hard one for me. I’ve been going back and fourth but I have to go with Jones, even though he has had some long layoffs. Jon was ahead of the game at one point and every time the man steps in the cage he shows something new. Although I don’t think it will be easy and anything can happen I have Jon pulling out a close decision.
And New, Jon Jones wins via split-decision.
Dreux: A rematch from one of the greatest title fights in UFC history and though I’ve went back and forth in deciding how this fight will end, I think the end result will be the same: And Once Again. This time though, I believe Jones gets it done before the final bell. Gustafsson has been more busy as of late, but has more miles on him. The Daniel Cormier fight, the AJ KO, and of course the first Jones fight. With that being said, Gustafsson looked like a killer against Glover Texeira. Texeira, however, is not Jon Jones. If we learned anything about Jon Jones it’s that he will figure you out in a rematch, steroids or not. The head kick that sent DC backpedaling into the third row was not a “tainted supplement” induced blow, it was calculated and precise. I expect Gustafsson to find success in the early part of round 1 and maybe even 2 before succumbing to strikes and realigning Jones for a superfight with DC at heavyweight.
And New, Jon Jones wins via TKO in round 3.
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Follow our writers Connor Rogowsky (@rogowskyc), Hiram Alvarado (@hiramwritesmma), and Dreux Stamford (@FinallyDreux).