In the buildup to next week’s UFC 165, the promotion is selling title challenger Alexander Gustafsson as champ Jon Jones‘ physical equal, if not his combative one.
A promo for the event implies that Gustafsson’s 6-foot-5 stature is key to his credibility as a light heavyweight contender.
What the clip doesn’t reveal is the relative reach of Jones and Gustafsson, which isn’t exactly a useless stat in breaking down the fight. Jones’ wingspan is measured at 84.5 inches (the longest in the UFC), while Gustafsson’s is 76.5. As with most of his fights, it appears the champ could eat a sandwich on one side of the octagon and jab and kick his foe on the other.
But that’s if you believe everything you read on the Internet.
Gustafsson corrected MMAjunkie.com on the figure widely reported to be his reach.
“My reach is not 76.5,” he said during a conference call in support of UFC 165, which takes place Sept. 21 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “It’s 81.2. I just wanted to mention that.”
But regardless of the rogue biographers within the UFC and on Wikipedia, Gustafsson isn’t convinced that a reach disadvantage will play much of a part in the title fight, which headlines the event’s pay-per-view card.
“It’s not always about reach,” he said. “It’s about footwork. It’s about being fast, getting in and out. I’m really making sure I’ve done my homework there. I’m super motivated.”
Reach, however, isn’t the only deficit Gustafsson (14-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is running against Jones (18-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC). According to FightMetric, the UFC’s official statistics providers, he is a less accurate striker, landing 36 percent to Jones’ 53. He also absorbs more strikes per minute than Jones (2.29 to 1.44).
On the other hand, the challenger lands a fraction more significant strikes per minute than the champ (3.98 to 3.94).
Asked about the necessity of closing the distance to score, Gustafsson simply said, “I will win this fight by staying on the outside.”
But that’s Jones’ idea, too.
“I just believe that I use my reach better,” he said. “If you watch my fights and you watch Alexander’s fights, he gets hit a lot with a lot of different punches.
“With me, I’ve gone through some fights where fighters have only punched me once. I mean, I fought (Quinton) ‘Rampage’ Jackson, and he hit me, like, twice in the whole fight. Lyoto Machida was able to touch my face twice in the whole fight.
“(I’m) fighting against the best guys in the world, and a lot of them never even get a chance to punch me in the face throughout the fight. So I just believe I use my timing, my rhythm, my distance a lot better than him. I think the proof is in the pudding.”
For more on UFC 165, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Alexander Gustafsson)