Jon ‘Bones' Jones has basically firmly implanted his name in talks of the top fighters in the light heavyweight division. Not only in the UFC but worldwide. Now, with his impressive victory over a game Brandon Vera, there's no looking back for Jones. He will no longer have the luxury of being ‘built up' in the UFC as he has passed their initial tests with flying colors and now he'll be thrown in with the wolves. Here is where I pick apart the top 5 UFC light heavyweights and how well Jon Jones matches up with them.
5 - Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Lil' Nog burst onto the UFC scene with a spectacular knockout of heralded striker Luiz Cane. He now has cemented his place among the top fighters in the light heavyweight division. Against Jones, Lil' Nog would offer a very stern test. His crisp, heavy handed boxing mixed with his world renowned grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu would no doubt equal Jones' most complete competition. The one thing about Lil Nog along with his brother is his knack for taking more punishment than he should throughout a fight and even with his great BJJ, he leaves his chin wide open off his back for ground and pound and as we've seen in his last few efforts, Jones is nasty with his GnP. One of the holes in Jones' offense that I have seen is that as unorthodox and explosive as he is, he leaves his chin wide open to attack, as we saw when he fought Jake O'Brien. Against Lil' Nog, any minor slip up and a counter will no doubt come his way in the form of a heavy shot. For this reason, I'd give the edge ever so slightly to Nog outpointing Jones in a three round affair. I think the Greco-Roman aspect of Jones' wrestling would be problematic for Nog, but the fact he would have to be extra cautious in his top control leads me to believe he'd be less likely to fully engage Lil Nog while in a top position and with that said, he would more than likely try to lay and pray, which would lead to them being stood back up and Jones taking more shots to the cranium. However, with the way Jones has matured so quickly in the cage, this one could actually end up being a toss up in the end.
Continued after the Jump:
4 - Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson
You know what's funny. My dad was there this weekend and we watched the fight and when Jones came out he said he thought Jon Jones would destroy Rampage and I said there's no way he could. Fast forward to Brandon Vera being laid out holding his skull and for some reason my dad had a change of heart and said he doesn't think Jones would be ready while I after watching that fight had a change of heart as well. The only area I believe Jon Jones would have difficulty with Rampage is in the clinch and in close quarters. I highly doubt he'd be able to outmuscle Rampage in the clinch and simply toss him to the ground like he did Vera, Bonnar, and Hamill; and even if he were able to, we've seen Olympic level wrestlers have trouble keeping Rampage down. The thing that I see from Jones that would make him a good match up for Rampage is that he, for the most part, knows how to use his length and range to set up important strikes or takedowns. We saw how off balance the unorthodox striking of Keith Jardine had Rampage and Jones' quickness coupled with his unpredictability would most likely have Rampage frustrated and simply in stalk mode the entire fight. The one thing that Rampage has though is power in his strikes. You rarely see Rampage throw simply to score points these days and every swing would be to behead Jones in the process. Jones would have to particularly careful in his clinching and close exchanges and Rampage loves to sneak in brutal uppercuts and quick elbows when available. So with Greg Jackson's gameplanning and the speed advantage, I see Rampage on the wrong end of a decision, especially in a three round affair.
3 - Rashad Evans
I highly doubt this fight would come to fruition since both guys are members of Greg Jackson's camp but in the unlikely event of Rashad recapturing the UFC light heavyweight title or Zuffa desperately needing a title eliminator, then this would be an intriguing match up. I do believe that Rashad's speed is on par with Jones', so he'd negate that. The striking? Both guys are very sloppy in that aspect and I'd actually lean more towards Rashad in those regards, however, Rashad kinda just throws his punches and rushes in for a takedown in most of his fights. The few times where he actually tries to throw hands with an opponent he probably has about a 15% accuracy rate. This is where Jones could capitalize and use his unorthodox spinning kicks and/or spinning elbows to counter Rashad's wild loopy punches. Of course a better way to do that would be a straight punch, but it doesn't seem to me that Jones has incorporated that into his arsenal yet. This is another fight where he'd have a huge reach advantage over his opponent and with that, keeping Rashad at bay would only give Jones more ways to frustrate and hit ‘Suga'. In the end, I can't see Rashad's wrestling stifling Jones for three rounds and I also cannot see Rashad being able to not get hit over and over during the duration of a three round fight, so once again I'd give the edge to Jones in taking a close but decisive decision.
2 - Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua
I think I read on the Sherdog forums that most people think Shogun would be a nightmare match up for Jon Jones. I say...yes and no. Yes, because Jones lately seems to be focusing more on his wrestling than his stand up and feels the need to clinch, throw/trip, and ground and pound. Against Shogun, that would be his undoing as Shogun's guard would not allow him to get in much offense on the ground and Shogun's quick transitions off his back would probably throw Jones for a loop. That is where Shogun would be a nightmare in this match up. However, I say no, in that Shogun's stand up is still not good. Most people take from the Lyoto Machida match up that Shogun has this impeccable striking when he simply had a great gameplan and was able to time his kicks enough to frustrate Machida. Against Jones, he'd be fighting a guy that is as aggressive as he is and at the same time is way quicker, has a longer reach, and would more than likely threaten a takedown whenever Shogun would try to kick. His wrestling and wide base is good enough to keep him from being dragged to the mat like Shogun loves to do. In the clinch (and I hate to keep using this term) but his crazy explosive hips that he pops out and just tosses guys to the mat would probably come in to play and send Shogun for a ride. As long as Jones didn't play into Shogun's game and sit around in his guard (like he did with Vera) he could easily frustrate the Brazilian. On the other hand, Shogun's ever growing patience since his Mark Coleman debacle could be nightmare-ish for Jones as Shogun could get in his patented leg kicks and take the footing from under Jones as the fight progresses. With that said, I see this one ending with Shogun's arm raised but people giving Jones a moral victory. I'd say it either ends in a third round submission or a decision.
1 - Lyoto Machida
A lot of people were saying that Jones had the skillset to beat Machida, even before Shogun mildly exposed the karate-based light heavyweight champion. I tend to disagree. Right now, I don't think Jones uses his kicks effectively enough to get in the type of damage on Machida that is needed to penetrate his defense. His spinning style would also not do him much justice as Machida's the type to stay far away enough from his opponents where they do not have the luxury of just lunging in quickly for a quick shot. The other problem is if his striking isn't working, he would not have the luxury of simply using his reach to close the gap and clinch and toss Machida down. We've seen countless times that when guys try to initiate a clinch with Machida he simply shrugs them off. Yet, I do think Jones possess the right body type to beat Machida in that he has long legs and if he could incorporate leg kicks and get the timing of Machida (ala Shogun) he could potentially set himself up to land one of his unorthodox spinning kicks or spinning elbows and possibly stun or hurt Machida. But, as of right now, I don't see that happening but with a few tough match ups with some of the aforementioned light heavies to give him some much needed experience, I see Jones being the champion in about two years. But for now, I'd pick Machida to accumulate a lot of damage on Jones en route to an eventual stoppage or some sort of submission victory.
Let me know what you think, is my analysis way off or do you agree?