The Five Fighters Who Could Dethrone Jon Jones

With Jon Jones championship victory the young prospect now has the target on his back and the best in the division gunning for him. No matter how brilliant his rapid rise, he’s not a perfect fighter by any means and there’s still holes in his game that a fighter or five could capitalize on to give him his first real defeat. Scott Sawitz looks at the five men who could be king.

5. We don’t know what’ll happen when he gets rocked … and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson could do it

How a fighter recovers from a big shot, when they’re rocked and the legs are wobbling, is the truest test of what a fighter is made of.  We have yet to see Jones walk down Rocked Avenue, looking for a shop that sells that new beverage “Back in the Fight,” and how he reacts will be a sign.  The one thing Rampage does better than most fighters in his division is throw that big right and wobble a guy, using that heavy handed boxing to set up his ground and pound game.  Rampage is known for his slams and his punches but what’s forgotten is that he was an elite level wrestler before fighting.  If he can catch Jones he could knock him into his world and see if he can finish the job.

Jackson probably has the next title shot if he beats Matt Hammill and Jones has five rounds to plan not being slugged by those heavy hands.

4. Jones has never been on his back … and Rashad Evans could take him there

Jones is a top notch wrestler with a wide variety of throws.  He prevented a great wrestler in Ryan Bader from taking him down repeatedly.  That’s a sign of great take down defense but someone is going to get him on his back.  Jones himself has admitted to having a white belt level of jiu-jitsu so one can imagine his bottom game isn’t as developed as his wrestling & top game.  How he handles being on his back and having someone else dictate the pace is something no one knows.  And if any wrestler can get him down in the LHW division its Rashad.

If Rashad can get him on his back and keep him there, Jones is in for a long night.  Can Rashad get him down?  Or, for the matter, can anyone get him down?  It’s always possible and how good his bottom game is has yet to be determined.

3. Jones throws enough combination that a good counter-striker could tee off … and Lyoto Machida could give him fits this way

For all of Jones’ spectacular spinning elbows and that flying knee he hit Shogun with, I’m wondering if a good counter striker could catch him.  Enter the best counter-striker in the division currently, former champion Lyoto Machida.  Machida is a top notch striker and his knockout victories have come by countering.  He also has a style that’ll play into an aggressive attack that Jones likes.

Jones is used to dictating the pace and Machida will let him, but how much will Jones have to spend trying to take him down or trying to hit him before Machida can counter him?

2. Someone will take a Rocky Balboa beating and still keep coming … which Forrest Griffin is known for

One of my favorite films is Rocky and the running joke in the sequels is that Rocky Balboa only has one method of fighting: let the other keep hitting him until Rocky finds the space and hits that one big shot to win it.  It was parodied in The Simpsons when Homer fought hobos in a boxing ring.  What’ll happen when Jones runs into a guy who turns it into a brawl and doesn’t fall down?  That’s the one thing Forrest Griffin is known for; the ability to muddy up a fight and turn it into a slugfest.

Griffin will take a shot to deliver one and Jones is going to have to work on his combinations, etc, to avoid turning this into an ugly boxing match.   Jones didn’t finish Stephan Bonner despite thoroughly dominating him but did finish higher caliber fighters.  Part of me is thinking that a guy like Forrest Griffin, who waged a war with Bonner, could make this into a sloppy brawl that plays into his hands.  What happens when a guy refuses to stay down and keeps coming at Jones?  Can Jones win when the fight turns into a brawl?  That’s something we haven’t seen yet.

1. Someone will be just as good an athlete as he is … and Phil Davis might

The one thing that stands out about Jones more than anything else is that he sometimes just appears to out-athlete someone, i.e. just use his natural athletic talents to get him out of situations skill won’t.  But what happens when he runs into someone who has the same level of athletic ability he does?

Enter Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis.

Davis is the guy everyone is pointing to as the next Jones, mainly because he has the same style and same freakish athletic ability, and this is the matchup that will be interesting.  Davis is a year and probably three-four fights away from being a contender, as he hasn’t had the seasoning or the matchups, but once he’s a legit top five LHW he makes for an intriguing matchup with Jones.  Davis isn’t quite there yet, as he needs some big wins to establish himself in the same way Jones did over the past two years, but all signs point to him being on his way.  When faced with someone as good an athlete as he is, how will Jones react?  When Davis slaps on a submission and Jones just can’t work himself out using his athletic ability, how does he escape?  This is what we don’t know and won’t know until we see someone fight Jones with a comparable level of athletic ability.

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