December 27, 2018

UFC 232: Controversy Aside, Still the Best Card of the Year (On Paper)

By Adam Martin

Despite your personal opinions on UFC 232 moving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (and you can see what I think about that in my article this week), you have to admit that, at least on paper, this is the card of the year. From top to bottom the card is littered with important fights, big names, and exciting young prospects. From the first bout on Fight Pass to the last bout on pay-per-view, this might be the strongest collection of 13 bouts the UFC has ever put together.

The most important fight on the card, and the bout that is generating the most controversy, is the main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. The bout is a rematch of the pair's first fight back at UFC 165 in 2013 that is widely considered to be one of the greatest MMA fights of all time. This rematch should be something everyone is looking forward to, as it pits two of the best 205-pounders of all time against each other for a second time. Of course, the bout is not without controversy, as a recent failed test by Jones forced the UFC to move the card from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Morally, a lot of fans and media don't agree with the UFC's decision to still have this fight happen. But as far as a stylistic matchup goes, there aren't many more intriguing or enthralling fights you could book than Jones vs. Gustafsson 2, as Jones is still the GOAT in the eyes of many, and Gustafsson is the only man who gave him a legitimate challenge. It's just very unfortunate that this fight is marred with controversy.

The co-main event is also an extremely intriguing fight, and a rare true superfight in the realm of women's MMA, as UFC Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg puts her belt on the line against UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes. Cyborg hasn't lost since her MMA debut back in 2005 and has been the most dominant female fighter in the sport in the 13 years since then. She has looked amazing since coming to the UFC, but so has Nunes, who is 9-1 in the UFC and who is one of the few female fighters with the knockout power to give Cyborg a run for her money. As dominant as Cyborg has been at 145 lbs, Nunes has arguably been just as dominant at 135, and Nunes has been fighting a higher level of competition. It's hard to go against Cyborg considering she hasn't lost in forever, but it's possible this could be a passing of the torch situation, with Nunes taking Cyborg's title as the most dominant female MMA fighter we've ever seen. On paper, this is probably the single greatest women's MMA fight ever booked.

The rest of the main card can't top the two title fights at the top of the bill, but there are still some quality fights. In welterweight action, former interim champ Carlos Condit takes on Michael Chiesa, who is moving up to 170 lbs after flaming out at 155 lbs. Condit is on a four-fight losing skid and could be eyeing retirement with another loss, but Chiesa and all his question marks might be the perfect matchup for Condit to get back on track. In light heavyweight action, top-10-ranked Ilir Latifi and Corey Anderson go head-to-head, with the winner being potentially one fight away from getting a shot at the title. This bout is also the de facto backup plan in case something happens to either Jones or Gustafsson. And opening up the pay-per-view is a brilliant featherweight bout between longtime contender Chad Mendes and rising star Alexander Volkanovski. Mendes recently returned from a two-year PED suspension to knock out Myles Jury, while Volkanovski is on a 15-fight win streak and has won all five of his UFC bouts. With UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway potentially moving up to lightweight in 2019, the winner of Mendes vs. Volkanovski will be in a great position to challenge for a vacant belt next year.

Where UFC 232 really shines, though, is the preliminary card. Most PPV cards are solid, and UFC 232 has one of the better five-card main cards of any PPV this year, but the rest of the card might be the most loaded we've ever seen from a UFC preliminary offering. There are eight fights on the prelims, and some of the most important are: a women's featherweight bout between Cat Zingano and Megan Anderson that could potentially earn the winner a title shot; the legend BJ Penn returning to lightweight to take on TUF winner Ryan Hall; matchups involving top bantamweight prospects Petr Yan, Andre Ewell, and Nathaniel Wood; a middleweight slugfest between Uriah Hall and Bevon Lewis; and an intriguing welterweight bout between red-hot Curtis Millender and Siyar Bahadurzada. Most of these fights would easily be main card bouts for any other card besides UFC 232, so the fact that these fights are being offered on the prelims speaks to the depth and quality of this event. It's also worth mentioning that this is the last time the UFC will have its prelims on FS1, so it's almost a sign of goodwill that the promotion gave FOX some great fights for its last prelim card on that network.


Overall, UFC 232 is a brilliant card featuring a number of amazing bouts. Of course, the talking point all week has been Jones and his most recent drug test, and it's hard to totally ignore that. But as fans, we can't control what Jones or any fighter does, nor can we control what promotions do. So if we're going to watch the event, we should try and enjoy the card for what it is. Of course, the story isn't over yet, and the Jones drug test is going to be something everyone is talking about in the new year, especially if he wins. But for now, let's just focus on the slate of 13 terrific fights. UFC 232 is the best card of 2019 on paper, so now let's see if it can live up to the hype.

UFC 232
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 2 (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)


UFC 232
Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino vs. Amanda Nunes (UFC Women's Featherweight Championship)



UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 takes place December 29, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, California (formerly T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada).

Click HERE for more UFC 232 Pre-Fight Analysis