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UFC 159 might be on paper one of the biggest mismatches in UFC light heavyweight history since Tito Ortiz took on Patrick Cote. Cote’s a great fighter but taking Tito in his prime on extremely short notice isn’t a receipt for success in any time period. Chael Sonnen was the only man willing to take on Jon Jones with eight days notice at UFC 151 and wound up talking his way into a gig on “The Ultimate Fighter” and a title shot because he said yes. Sonnen reinvented himself from a pretty affable guy with a grinding style in the run up to his first fight with Anderson Silva into this bombastic, old school pro wrestling heel … with a grinding style. And he never dropped it, either, as he’s elevated his profile into shockingly high terms by being this over the top personality in public.
For a guy who was rejected by the WCW run Power Plant eons ago one wonders if Vince McMahon could ever convince him to become a real tough guy among the fake ones on Monday Night Raw.
Unfortunately for all the talk and all the hype Sonnen won’t be walking out of UFC 159 as the new light heavyweight champion. I could give you a hundred reasons, really, but five will do.
1. In Fight Adjustments
No one is better at adjusting during a fight than Jon Jones. It’s something that rarely gets mentioned but Jones is the best among the elite fighters in adjusting his game plan to what his opponent is doing. I’m always fascinated during his fights because Jones has a fight IQ that is off the charts; no matter what happens he adjusts and keeps his edge. He’s exceptionally prepared for every fight since he moved to Jackson’s, of course, but his ability to adjust on the fly is remarkable.
2. Takedown defense
Every time people expect Jon Jones to be taken down by someone with a pedigreed wrestling background it doesn’t happen. A lot of the guys who couldn’t take Jones down have fairly extensive wrestling resumes: Brandon Vera wrestled at Old Dominion, Vladimir Matyushenko was a Soviet National Champion, Ryan Bader an All-American at Arizona State and Matt Hamill is a Deaf Wrestling Legend. Throw in Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who had fairly strong amateur careers of their own, and the fact that Jones has yet to be taken down is pretty extraordinary.
All of these guys were supposed to take Jones down and all “Bones” did was ragdoll them around like it was child’s play. Sonnen may have better MMA wrestling than them but I’m not sure if he can be the first to crack the riddle that is Jones’s TDD.
Jon Jones uses his natural length better than anyone in MMA and Sonnen is going to have to eat a lot of punishment to get inside for a takedown. Chael’s remarkably durable but Jones throw an elbow like a jab with shockingly effective results. He also uses his leverage and length exceptionally well when it comes to submissions, being able to pull off a guillotine from near impossible angles because of how long his arms are.
Jon Jones is a freak athlete unlike any we’ve seen in MMA. Chael Sonnen has maximized every physical talent he’s ever been given. It’s something to commend in Sonnen; he’s a guy who’s pushed himself so hard that he’s gotten to the top on work ethic more than anything else. He’s a good athlete, as you don’t survive on the international scene in Greco without it, but he doesn’t possess the sort of world-class athletic ability that Jones has. If all things are equal eventually Jones will be able to at a minimum out-athlete Chael.
5. Killer instinct
In his last 10 fights Jon Jones has eight finishes en route to going 9-1. And even the 1 can be disputed because Matt Hamill got a win via disqualification after dislocating his shoulder on an unrelated motion as Jones was throwing a couple of elbows that were illegal. I like to think of it as 10 wins with nine finishes, the non finish being Rashad Evans (who’s only been finished once in three career losses). Look at who he has finished, too: Vitor Belfort, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida are among his victims. NO ONE has finished guys like Jones does; when he smells the finish he takes it. Sonnen is tough to finish but who’d have thought Jones would wreck Rua and make him tap by strikes? Jones isn’t a fan of Sonnen so if the opportunity to finish him comes up he’ll take it and then some.
Tags: jon jones, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 159