UFC 140 Preview Part Three: Jon Jones vs Lyoto Machida

In the main event of the evening, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones (14-1, 1 DQ) will face Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (17-2), whilst aiming to successfully defend his title and defeat his third former UFC light heavyweight champion in a row.

Jones was originally scheduled to face his former training partner and long time nemesis Rashad Evans but in typical fashion, injury once again struck the former champ which resulted in Machida being installed as his next challenger.

Jones’ rise has been nothing less than stratospheric. Since his UFC debut back in 2008 he has literally tossed aside all who stood before him, sending opponents into orbit with incredible suplexes and razor sharp striking that has left seasoned fighters like Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko look positively ordinary. Jones has been cast as the future of MMA and with his unique blend of raw athleticism and dynamic striking few could argue with that hypothesis. But it was not so long ago that another man was being venerated as a near invincible champion.

Lyoto Machida was a conundrum that appeared to be beyond anyone’s reach, displaying a style of fighting that had never been before seen in the octagon. Many fighters began their training in traditional martial arts but ‘The Dragon’ has weaved his way to the top of this full contact sport without sacrificing, but embracing his Karate roots. Since his MMA debut back in 2003 he has quietly set about dispatching opponents with a more conservative and less eye catching but equally cerebral approach as the incumbent champion. What makes Machida so unique is his mercurial ability to move in and out of range, leaving experienced former champions such as Rich Franklin and Tito Ortiz exacerbated and left chasing shadows.

Throughout Jones’s short but incredible career he has shown no real sign of weakness, despite the steady rise in competition that he has faced. In fact, if anything his level of performance has only inspired him to reach greater heights. After carving his way through the division he was matched with the unbeaten Ryan Bader who many thought would end the Jon Jones hype train. But the New York native had other ideas, thoroughly dominating the TUF 8 winner en route to a punishing submission victory. It was then that he was granted a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and he has never looked back, destroying the PRIDE legend in three rounds before dismissing another star name, Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, to establish his reign as the UFC light heavyweight champion.

Machida has endured a spectacular fall from grace since tasting defeat for the first time in his career. Before facing “Shogun” he had appeared to be untouchable, displaying movement and timing that no one could match nor effectively counter. But since their rematch, which resulted in the brutal loss of his title he has become yesterday’s man, cast aside for the brand new model that is Jon Jones. Machida returned against “Rampage”, appearing tentative and lacking in confidence, before losing a marginal split decision that polarized opinion. It was not until his last contest with Randy Couture at UFC 128 that he looked somewhere back to his best, bewitching the long time legend with his trademark movement, before knocking “The Natural” out with a flying front kick that reignited the “The Dragon’s” career.

It is testament to Jones’s ability that despite facing some of the best in the business his chin still remains largely untested and although Machida lacks the raw power of a “Rampage”, he does have the ability to deliver multiple strikes in quick succession that could put Jones on the back foot for the first time in his career. The problem for Machida is that in order for that to happen he must master the distance between them. An unenviable task when facing an opponent who has a ten inch reach advantage.

I expect Jones to utilise his heavy leg kicks in order to stunt Machida’s movement, before pouring on the pressure in the later stages, resulting in a stoppage victory.

Jones by TKO, round four.

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