It's hard to pick apart Jon Jones' game and find a flaw, or a weakness. Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion, is 15-1 and would be 16-0 if not for a disqualification against Matt Hamill that he didn't deserve.
But the one thing Jones hasn't seen in his brief but highly successful mixed martial arts career is someone with knockout power who is also extremely quick. That, though, is what he will face when he meets Rashad Evans for the title Saturday in the main event of UFC 145 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, whom Jones submitted at UFC 135 on Sept. 24, has one-punch knockout power, but lacks top-level speed and quickness. Evans brings both. He's got fast hands and fast feet as well as exceptional power.
"Jones is looking very good, but Rashad is fast, man, and once he hurts you, he's on you," former champion Tito Ortiz said. "I'd like to see Rashad use his wrestling and takedowns and really mix it up."
Jackson, who lost a unanimous decision to Evans at UFC 114 in 2010, concurred. No one has really come close to beating Jones, and Jackson doesn't think Evans will do it, but he concedes that Evans has the style to give Jones fits.
"Rashad has to go for it right from the start, for real," Jackson said. "Rashad can't play on the outside. You can't fight no Jon Jones on the outside, believe me. Rashad is fast and can surprise you. He surprised me by faking a takedown and hitting me with a right hand, which kind of stunned me. I think he can do that to Jon Jones, but he has to do it right away, because the more time you give Jones, the harder it is to set him up for a punch."
• Siyar Bahadurzada's UFC debut Saturday was impressive. A one-punch face plant in just 42 seconds will get attention, but making that knockout doubly remarkable was that it came against Paulo Thiago, a top-quality fighter who hadn't been knocked out in 17 previous bouts.
• Light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson was plenty impressive as well in cruising to a unanimous decision win over Thiago Silva, but Gustafsson still needs to prove he can handle a top-tier wrestler. Phil Davis dominated him in that aspect in 2010, and that's the one hurdle Gustafsson still has to clear.
• Eduardo Dantas won the Bellator bantamweight championship Friday at Bellator 65 by submitting Zach Makovsky. Dantas is clearly the Bellator fighter with the most upside, though he still has work to do to strengthen his game.
• Guys like Chris Tickle, who talk and boast on "The Ultimate Fighter" in the show's early going about how great they are and how much they're going to hurt their opponents almost invariably are knocked out earlier. Previous examples such as Jesse Taylor and Junie Browning, among others, proved that fighting and talking are two different things. It was hardly a surprise to see Joe Proctor defeat Tickle on Friday.
Too soon for Gustafsson to challenge Jones
Alex Gustafsson has many physical tools and, for a 25-year-old, is well on his way. I just don't see a match with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being one he should consider now. Jones hits hard and is faster than Alex, has more diverse striking and is an immeasurably better wrestler. Alex has the tools to become a champ, but he needs another 18-to-24 months of training and time for his man weight/strength to kick in. If they were to be fight now, I see their physical similarities stalemating each other for a boring back and forth with Jones edging it out or Jones taking Alex down via ground-and-pound. In my opinion, it's too soon to be talking about them fighting each other.
Jon, you're right that it's probably too soon for Gustafsson to pursue a match with Jones, but who is there that is ready for Jones if he gets past Rashad Evans on Saturday? Jones is a one-of-a-kind talent. Where he is now sort of reminds me of where Tigers Woods was after winning the Masters in 1997. He's got a lot of great things ahead of him and there aren't too many threats to him in the foreseeable future at light heavyweight. If Jones beats Evans on Saturday, I think his next great challenge will come at heavyweight.
Silva paid a heavy price
I like your articles normally, but I to disagree with your point in the column about Thiago Silva. While I agree the UFC needs better drug testing, pooh-poohing a fine and a one-year suspension, and then equating PED usage to bank robbery, was over-the-top ridiculous. The upper-echelon guys who make the big bucks in MMA may not have been hit too hard with that fine and suspension, but Thiago Silva doesn't make the kind of money that can hold him over for an entire year yet. He's not that good, and he never will be. Does the NFL, NBA, or MLB have one-year suspensions for failing drug tests? No. So if fining somebody a portion of their purse and then telling him he can't make any money in his sport for 365 days (longer considering it's April) is not enough, what then do you think would be an adequate penalty? Oh and by the way, how long could you go without a paycheck?
Thanks, Josh. I understand what you're saying, but I think you misunderstood a few of my points. In my column, I wrote, "The appalling part of this is not that Silva is coming back. He served the time that the Nevada commission gave him for his penalty and he deserves to be able to make a living in his chosen profession." My point is the UFC took no action against him, and it never does. Consider, for a second, what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did last year with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault by a woman, but charges were not even filed by the district attorney, but Goodell still suspended Roethlisberger for what turned out to be four games. The UFC did nothing of the ilk. All I was trying to say there is that he should immediately come back and be thrown into a main event, even if it was a main event on Fuel TV and not the headliner of a card on Fox or pay-per-view. I think he should have started back on the prelim card and been forced to work his way back up. As for the part of the bank, I was saying there that I understood it was a severe penalty, but that when you violate the rules, you have to be willing to accept the consequences. And fighters see what kinds of suspensions the states are handing out for PED abuse. I appreciate your thoughts.
UFC doesn't care about PED abuse
You are absolutely right about the UFC's stance on substance abuse. However, I don't think it is that the UFC doesn't understand the scope as much as they do not care. If acceptable, I truly believe they would allow their fighters to use steroids, either for injury's sake or not. It is a business, after all, and they want to put on the best shows with healthy fighters that can keep the fans coming back. I do not think that they are sincere with any testing. They do just enough to be able to say, "See, we do everything possible and we even caught one!" But what they did with Thiago Silva shows no sincerity on the part of the UFC. It only shows that they are interested in the money. I do not buy a pay-per-view unless I feel it is certainly worth it. I don't think Dana White cares to lose my business since he doesn't get much from people like me, but I think it will catch up with the UFC. Most people want to see a fair fight. It is difficult to view any fighter that has been caught without thinking about past discretions. That is why it sucks being an ex-con.
Dana is certainly ignoring the problem, but I don't think it's because he doesn't care. The one thing about Dana I know for sure is that he cares about his fighters and their well-being. White knows full well the risks an athlete takes by abusing steroids, and I don't think he wants to see that. I think he simply doesn't believe the problem is as widespread as many in the media and some fighters do.
What would have happened to Overeem if he were licensed?
Since Alistair Overeem isn't licensed in Nevada, how would his positive test affect his ability to get his license? If he were licensed and failed, he'd be suspended, no question. But he wasn't licensed and did something on his own time. If he were to have the NSAC test him when he applies and is found to be clean, why wouldn't they license him? I would think that randomly testing somebody who isn't licensed in your state might even be illegal. What if they randomly went into MMA gyms and decided to test people in case one day they decided to apply for a license? I know he submitted to the test (which he probably shouldn't have), but he could claim that he was coerced. Does this mean any person who ever tested positive couldn't apply for a license at a later date? I think the UFC knows this which is why they've pressed on with him applying for his license. I say the MMA world is going to be shocked when Overeem gets his license, so long as he passes a drug test during his application process.
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Dan, as you note, Overeem was not licensed at the time of the test. However, he had a fight announced and was attending a news conference on the day he was tested. Clearly, that made known his intentions to fight in the state. Plus, as part of his condition of being licensed for the Brock Lesnar fight last year, the Nevada commission stipulated he submit to random tests. Because he's not licensed, Nevada can not suspend him. There is no punishment other than that he won't be able to apply for a license in Nevada for 12 calendar months. But he would be free to apply the next day in another state and if that state opted to license him, he could fight. Overeem has hired David Chesnoff, one of the country's best criminal defense lawyers, so that seems to ensure that he'll have a strong and vigorous defense. If I had to bet, though, I'd bet strongly against him getting licensed.
"They are two very smart, strategic athletes. Both of them fight thinking of their opponent's strengths and weaknesses and think about how to fight the best possible [style] to win. But I think Jon Jones has an advantage, since he is very hard to reach. He is not only long-limbed, but also fast and he can react very quickly. I know this. So, I think it's going to be Jones' match." – former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on Saturday's title match at UFC 145 between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.
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