Any dialogue in regards to the biggest blended martial artists in historical past should embody Jon Jones.
Jones has terrorized the sunshine heavyweight division since becoming a member of the UFC in 2008, along with his lone loss coming by questionable disqualification in opposition to Matt Hamill in 2009. Jones gained the sunshine heavyweight championship in March 2011 and solely ever misplaced management of the championship due to his — admittedly lengthy — record of authorized troubles and drug take a look at failures.
Throughout his reign atop the 205-pound division, the concept of a transfer to the heavyweight division was continuously in play, nevertheless it wasn’t till May 2020 when Jones vacated the sunshine heavyweight championship and determined the time had come to check the waters of UFC’s heaviest division.
On Saturday, Jones will probably be seeking to construct on his case for being the “G.O.A.T.” when he lastly completes a long-awaited transfer to the heavyweight division to face Ciryl Gane for the vacant championship in the primary occasion of UFC 285.
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While there’s loads of pleasure and intrigue surrounding Jones’ heavyweight debut, there are additionally causes to surprise if he’ll be capable to replicate the identical sort of dominance he displayed at gentle heavyweight. Let’s check out a number of the largest components that might result in a disappointing heavyweight debut for one in all MMA’s all-time greats.
Three years out of competitors
Jones’ final combat was on Feb. 8, 2020. He defeated Dominick Reyes by successful an extremely-controversial determination to attain the third profitable title protection of his second run with the sunshine heavyweight title. By that May, Jones was discussing a transfer to heavyweight to face Francis Ngannou, however the state of affairs devolved right into a nasty spat between Jones and UFC president Dana White over his pay. White claimed Jones needed “Deontay Wilder cash,” a suggestion that arguably the best fighter in UFC historical past was unfit of the sort of pay Wilder made that February in his rematch with Tyson Fury for the WBC heavyweight title.
Jones gave up his gentle heavyweight title in response, tweeting “I harm myself each time I stroll on the market and take a punch to the pinnacle and never really feel my pay is price it anymore.”
While Jones finally started getting ready for his heavyweight transfer, the contract state of affairs in early 2020 was the beginning of a prolonged stretch during which Jones has been inactive. He has lengthy acknowledged that he would take a heavyweight transfer significantly and would need to take the time to bulk up in preparation, which he has achieved. But fighters combat and going from greater than three years out of motion to going through possibly the highest heavyweight on the UFC roster in Gane is a problem, to make sure.
“I ended finding out footage as a lot, I began simply trying ahead to a different day on the workplace,” Jones informed Jimmy Smith on “Unlocking the Cage.” “The worry was gone, I did not actually worry these guys. I wasn’t proud of my pay, both. I used to be beginning to combat guys like Reyes who had been dreaming of preventing me since faculty and he was simply comparatively unknown to most people,” Jones admitted. “So I simply needed extra. I needed to be nervous once more. I needed to have worry once more. I believe worry is wholesome and now we’re on this place.”
There are restricted examples of fighters who have been out of motion for years whereas nonetheless among the many sport’s elite solely to return to once more face top-tier opposition. Georges St-Pierre is probably probably the most well-known, retiring as a dominant welterweight champion solely to return 4 years later to win the middleweight championship from Michael Bisping. TJ Dillashaw was out for over two years on account of drug take a look at failures, dropping the bantamweight championship consequently, and returned to take a hard-fought break up determination over Cory Sandhagen earlier than repeatedly dislocating his shoulder in a bid to regain the title from new champion Aljamain Sterling. Dominick Cruz was out for greater than three years earlier than making a return to the Octagon, struggling a TKO loss to Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title in his return.
Simply being out of the cage has not confirmed predictive of efficiency for different greats of the game, nevertheless it definitely is one thing to bear in mind with a 35-year-old fighter.
Jones’ gentle heavyweight dominance was already fading
Jones final two journeys to the Octagon have been a uncommon dip in his efficiency in opposition to the remainder of the sunshine heavyweight discipline. In July 2019, Jones defended his title in opposition to Thiago Santo, however Santos put up an amazing combat earlier than dropping by break up determination. That combat marked the primary time Jones had misplaced an official scorecard in his profession.
He adopted that combat up along with his title protection in opposition to Reyes. While Jones gained that combat by unanimous determination, Reyes deserved the win way over Santos the combat prior. The majority of media scores for the combat have been in favor of Reyes. While a Reyes rematch might have made sense, Jones as a substitute engaged in his feud with White, vacated his belt and set off towards heavyweight.
While he gained each fights, cracks have been displaying in Jones’ armor in methods they by no means had earlier than. Since preventing Jones, Santos — who additionally suffered two badly broken knees within the combat — has gone 1-4. Reyes misplaced his subsequent three outings, all by knockout. While there are numerous components that might lead these males to go from difficult the best gentle heavyweight ever to terrible stretches of failure, it is considerably regarding that two males who clearly should not a part of the 205-pound elite have been in a position to push Jones to the restrict.
It can be price noting that there could also be advantage to Jones’ statements that he’d merely gotten bored competing in a division he’d dominated for thus lengthy and stopped getting ready as he had up to now.
A totally reworked physique
During his three years of preparation for the transfer to heavyweight, Jones has massively bulked up his body. At gentle heavyweight, he was sturdy nevertheless it was his size, velocity and number of assaults that made him a particular expertise. Now, he has bulked as much as almost the heavyweight restrict.
There’s little doubt that placing on that sort of measurement will have an effect on Jones’ velocity. But it may additionally affect the supply of strikes in addition to having an enormous potential affect on his cardio.
There are only a few notable blended martial artists who started their profession as gentle heavyweights who’ve moved to heavyweight and ranked among the many greatest on this planet, and many of the ones who did, did so pretty early into their profession.
These are all hypotheticals however at 35 years previous, three years out of motion and with a totally new physique, there are many causes to think about that Jones’ transition to heavyweight might not go easily. Or, possibly Jones at heavyweight would be the unbelievable success many have hoped to see for a decade.
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