UFC 165 boasts two undefeated fighters in the form of Dustin Kimura (10-0), Myles Jury (12-0), and Khabib Nurmagomedov (20-0). All three are in tough fights, drawing Mitch Gagnon (9-2), Mike Ricci (8-3), and Pat Healy (29-16) respectively. Though it might appear that one of the three is destined to taste defeat, the skill shown by the trio of talented competitors precludes the possibility of counting any of them out. Nurmagomedov has wins over Gleison Tibau/Thiago Tavares in the Octagon, Jury is 3-0 since TUF 15 with victories over Michael Johnson/Ramsey Nijem, and Kimura is one of the most brilliant young grapplers to come along in some time. While Brendan Schaub (9-3) and Matt Mitrione (6-2) aren’t the only UFC stars arguably in “must win” positions they’re two of the biggest…literally. The heavyweights have struggled to win with consistency in the Octagon and aren’t getting any younger. Mitrione has also upset his bosses with behavior outside of the ring, adding further likelihood to the 35-year old getting axed if he can’t handle “The Hybrid”. A lot of fans complained about the decision to give Eddie Wineland (20-8-1) a title-shot after only stringing together two wins on the heels of back-to-back losses, one of which came to current flyweight Joseph Benavidez. Wineland can prove their collective concern to be unfounded by looking sharp for at least a few rounds against brilliant Brazilian Renan Barao even if he ultimately ends up losing. Otherwise, it will mark a forgettable defense for the interim champion and in some ways tarnish the belt. While plenty of people are breaking down the way light heavyweight champ Jon Jones matches up with challenger Alexander Gustafsson from a stylistic standpoint, a whole other group of folks are interested in how a different factor will affect their main event match-up. Jones’ reach is on par with the best in the business at 84.5 inches. Though it’s still superior to Gustafsson’s dimensions, the Swede’s reach is 81.2 inches so he’ll be able to land shots Jones’ past opponents were not. After all, just consider that Jones had more than 8 inches on Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort. Without a similar advantage against “The Mauler” it should be extremely interesting to see how Jones fares on his feet. 205-pound king Jon Jones will be looking for his sixth straight instance of success with the title in tow when he takes on Alexander Gustafsson in the evening’s headliner. If he comes away from the bout with his hand raised, Jones will break Tito Ortiz’s record for consecutive title-defenses at light heavyweight and move into the #3 spot on the UFC’s all-time list. Doing so would simply be one more reason to start considering “Bones” amongst the best fighters the sport has ever seen.
Every fight has story behind it even if the tilt’s tale is as simple as two athletes looking to incapacitate the other and bring home a win. However, digging deeper reveals additional angles worth considering when it comes to a particular pairing. The lineup for
is no different in that regard with more than one match-up involving intrigue outside of the basics. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC 165