Ten Thoughts on UFC 159 (Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen)

Great card last night, although it was filled with nasty injury stoppages and controversy.  Check out 10 Thoughts on UFC 159:

1. Jon Jones has a chance to go down as the greatest of all time (GOAT). By a landslide. The GOAT moniker is interesting in MMA because in other fields, even though “greatest” is a superlative, it frequently applies to more than one person. For instance, in basketball, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell are both regularly referred to as the GOAT. But in MMA, that title can (through argument and analysis) be narrowed down to one person. Most would agree that Anderson Silva currently has the claim to that title and before the arrival of Jones, it looked like Silva would keep it long after his inevitable retirement.

But here’s the thing: Jon Jones can actually fight Anderson Silva. These two could meet in the Octagon and all of the hypothetical talk and speculation could be laid to rest. Jones or Silva could show us who is better. The clash between these two seems more likely than the superfight between GSP and Silva. GSP was long the #2 P4P guy behind The Spider, but Jones has beaten former champions left and right in devastating fashion. GSP hasn’t finished anyone since 2009 when BJ Penn’s corner threw in the towel. Jones has fought 8 times since 2009 and he’s earned a finish in all but one fight. GSP is also reluctant to make the move up to middleweight, while we all know Silva can fight at LHW and has done so before. There’s no guarantee that Jones and Silva will fight, and no guarantee Jones will win, but he’s got a chance to go down in history as the best mixed martial artist that’s ever lived. An opportunity like this is literally once in a lifetime. The stars are lining up for something epic in the future.

2. Jones/GOAT part 2. Even if Jones doesn’t fight Silva, he’s still well on his way to taking over that #1 P4P spot. He just tied Tito Ortiz’ record of consecutive title defenses and did it easily. Silva needed two rounds to finish Sonnen, Jones did it in one. And he did it using Sonnen’s greatest strength: wrestling. That was supposed to be Sonnen’s advantage and Jones absolutely dominated him at his own game. From the opening bell, we saw that Sonnen didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

As mentioned already, Jones finishes opponents. In 18 wins, only 3 have gone to decision and those have all been unanimous. The next challenger to the title (Lyoto Machida if you can believe Dana White) is someone Jones already defeated in under two rounds. At this point, there are three other guys in the LHW division who could pose a new threat to Jones: Alexander Gustafsson, Dan Henderson and Glover Teixeira. Jones would be a favorite in all of those fights and if he performs as he usually does, he would win. He’s mirroring Anderson Silva by thoroughly eliminating all comers and he’s only 25 years old. He’s already the most dominant LHW champion we’ve ever seen and he’s still got his best years ahead of him. His reign is just beginning.

3. Bisping is back … right? Wrong. Call me when Michael Bisping wins a title eliminator. Although the Belcher win was slightly marred by that nasty eye-poke (and let’s hope Belcher is okay), Bisping was clearly the better fighter. But Bisping was supposed to win that fight. He did what he usually does and he beat yet another fighter on the rise outside of the top five. So what’s next for Michael Bisping now? He’s going to get another top ten guy, maybe the winner of Belfort vs. Rockhold and he’s looking at yet another possible title eliminator situation. That’s the fight he hasn’t been able to win and until he does, he’s more pretender than contender.

4. Roy Nelson can KO anyone. Can doesn’t mean he will, but Nelson can knock out anyone on a given night. He’s still absurdly overweight and fluffy for an elite fighter in the UFC, but his hands are nothing to joke about. He didn’t even connect flush against Kongo. As Rogan stated, it looked more like a ridge hand, something that might be done when breaking boards or bricks in a demo. And it was still enough to put the mighty Kongo down. If he’s that dangerous now, imagine Nelson if he reshaped his diet and physique with 100% effort and commitment. That’s a scary thought.

5. Well-rounded tends to beat one-dimensional. Phil Davis showed that good stand-up and take down defense is still better than just having a good ground game. Davis was sticking and jabbing all night against Magalhaes, who might have had a stronger BJJ skillset, but wasn’t at the same level in the stand up.

The days of one-dimensional fighters succeeding in the UFC are long, long gone. Even Roy Nelson, who is most known for his one punch KO power, loses to guys who are able to nullify that. Magalhaes invited Davis to tangle with him on the ground when Davis was clearly winning in the stand-up. I hope at some point someone told Magalhaes it’s a fight, not a friendly jiu-jitsu exhibition match. If jiu-jitsu guys want to do the ground dance, they have to be able to take a guy down when they want to, not hope their opponent will be willing to humor them. Davis was exposed in his fight against Rashad Evans, so what did he do? He worked to address his weaknesses. It’s surprising how many fighters, even elite fighters, don’t do the same.

6. There should be a “Comeback of the Night” bonus for every card, if it’s applicable. Pat Healy would have won for UFC 159. How close was that fight to being stopped at the end of Round 1? Healy came out in Round 2 like it never even happened and Miller had a hard time adjusting. Next thing you know, Healy locks in a rear-naked on Miller, a guy who is no stranger to submissions himself. Very impressive performance from yet another Strikeforce crossover and a hell of a comeback to say the least.

7. Rematch anyone? Rustam Khabilov and Ovince St. Preux both won their fights, true. But neither fight really felt like a victory for either guy, from the perspective of the fans and probably from the fighters and their corners as well. Khabilov’s slam ended up dislocating Yancy Medeiros thumb, so that fight had to be stopped due to an injury. Yancy was still very game though and the fight was just beginning. OSP vs. Gian Villante was a different story, which is sure to generate a lot of discussion. Villante complained of an eye-poke and when referee Kevin Mulhall asked him if he could see (and what’s a guy who just got poked in the eye going to say to that?), Villante said no and the fight was stopped. Villante just needed a break to recover and protested the stoppage, and it was clear he could keep fighting. Both fights were off to good starts and had sour endings and neither really had a clear winner when they were stopped. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both fights made again in the future when the fighters are recovered.

8. Eyepokes galore. Joe Rogan commented on the need to address the eye-poking issues that occurred not just on the UFC 159 card, but on plenty of other cards as well. It’s tough to settle on an approach, should there be a change in the equipment, should it be on the refs, should there be fines/punishments post-fight? There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these, but it’s clear that something that has to change. Fighters too frequently throw an open hand out there, whether it’s intended to damage or not, it’s threatening fighter safety beyond normal expectations. I just got poked in the eye recently playing pickup basketball. It happened during the first game, it was the worst poke I’ve ever experienced, it swelled up and it hurt like hell, and I had to go home in the middle of the game. I felt miserable and it wasn’t even close to as bad as what happened to Alan Belcher and Gian Villante. Here’s to the UFC taking action to prevent further injuries from happening.

9. Ladies impress yet again. McMann vs. Gaff marked the third women’s fight in the UFC and like the two fights before their match, it was a quality fight. If you can call a fight clean, that’s what McMann vs. Gaff was. No eye-pokes, no low blows, no controversial stoppages or protests to the referee. We saw some striking, some clinch work and knees, a few takedowns and some ground work. McMann was brilliant and set up a mounted crucifix position to earn a first round finish. We’re bound to see a close women’s fight that will go to a decision, but we haven’t seen one yet.

10. Goodbye Leonard? Leonard Garcia has an entertaining style, frankly it’s what’s kept him in the UFC over the course of a now five-fight losing streak. Garcia himself said if he lost to McKenzie, he doesn’t deserve to be in the UFC. Well…he lost. Perhaps this was the last time we saw the Bad Boy fight in the Octagon. Garcia can put on a decent show, but he’s more of a brawler than a skilled tactician. And more importantly, he just can’t win. Not a formula for success in today’s UFC.

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