The final UFC event of 2018, UFC 232, looks set to be a classic, with a rematch of one of the greatest title fights in UFC history forming the main event of the evening. Jon Jones and Alex Gustafsson first faced off at UFC 165 in a bout that fans are still talking about to this day, and now the duo are set to go at it again, with the soon-to-be-vacated UFC light-heavyweight title on the line.
Both men have had extended periods away from the octagon. Gustafsson's absence has been for injury reasons, while Jones has been away dealing with an anti-doping case that ultimately cleared him of any wrongdoing. Now both men are back looking to prove a point, looking to capture the title and looking to write a new chapter in their respective careers. Jones took the decision after five hard rounds in the first encounter, and he's the favourite to take the win in the rematch. Betway has "Bones" as the 4/11 favorite as of December 10, with Gustafsson the 2/1 underdog. But "The Mauler" pushed Jones harder than anyone ever managed before or since, and the big Swede will look to do the same in the rematch in a bid to get his hand raised.
Featherweight title also on the line
Also on the card is a champion versus champion battle for the UFC women's featherweight title. It's Brazil versus Brazil as reigning UFC women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes steps up to 145lbs to face all-conquering UFC women's featherweight champ Cris "Cyborg" Justino. The pair have both made their names as powerful, heavy-handed strikers with legitimate grappling chops on the mat, and many believe that Nunes is the only fighter on the women's roster capable of dethroning Justino and ending her reign of dominance. Their fight odds are the same as the Jones versus Gustafsson fight, with defending champion Justino the 4/11 favorite, and challenger Nunes at 2/1 chance.
The fight card also features a trio of former UFC champions. Ex-interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit welcomes longtime lightweight contender Michael Chiesa to the UFC's 170-pound division in a fascinating striker versus grappler matchup on the main card, while former heavyweight world champion Andrei Arlovski takes on hard-hitting prospect and sparring partner of Tyson Fury, Walt Harris in a crossroads fight for both men in the heavyweight division. Former lightweight and welterweight champion and UFC legend BJ Penn is also set for action. The Hawaiian MMA pioneer's return to action has been the topic of some debate, with many longtime pundits and journalists seemingly uneasy about the veteran fighter making a mixed martial arts comeback.
But nonetheless, "The Prodigy" has decided to make a return, and is set to face BJJ ace and winner of The Ultimate Fighter Ryan Hall on the preliminary card in Las Vegas. Also on the card is longtime women's bantamweight contender and former title challenger Cat Zingano, who is looking to make another run at a world title after moving up to featherweight. She will face former Invicta Fighting Championship featherweight champion Megan Anderson on the preliminary card.
Stacked main card promises fireworks
The main card opener should deliver plenty of fireworks, as hard-hitting former interim title challenger Chad "Money" Mendes will take on surging Australian former rugby player Alex Volkanovski in a cracker of a featherweight bout. Mendes returned from a two-year anti-doping suspension with a TKO finish of Myles Jury in July, while Volkanovski extended his winning streak to 15 fights with a notable win over the famously tough Darren Elkins on the same card. After his win, Volkanovski called for a fight against Mendes, and he will get his wish at UFC 232 on December 29.
Zingano was submitted in just 14 seconds by Ronda Rousey in her lone title tilt at UFC 184, with the defeat sending her on a three-fight losing streak. Victory over Marion Reneau in Boise in July righted the ship, and now she's hoping to make a run at the gold after moving up to her more natural weight class of featherweight. Throw into the mix the exciting former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion Nathaniel "The Prospect" Wood from the UK, former TUF star and spectacular striker Uriah Hall and Russian bantamweight wrecking machine Petr Yan and it all adds up to a fight card that should end 2018 with a bang.
It promises to be a spectacular night on December 29 at the T-Mobile Arena. Let's hope everything goes according to plan.