After "Bones" Jones staged a movie titled "The Siesta of the Dragon" on Saturday, Jonathan Snowden at MMA Nation yielded to a bit of exuberant hyperbole when he declared that Jon Jones is the best fighter in the world. I cringed. It wasn't just that this was another example of someone confusing America with the world (the NFL, NBA and World Series 'world champions' are really just American champions). It was also that if this claim is true, it says something very unflattering about martial artists worldwide.
As expected, Jones was phenomenal in his slaying of the Dragon. But to a trained eye, his weaknesses were painful to watch. His kicks were like those of a Karate yellow belt- awkward, off-target and sorely lacking in precision. The only kicks he can throw well are low leg kicks, because they don't require real skill or balance. Compared to world-class boxers, he punches in slow motion. When Machida attacked, it wasn't really Jones' ability to take a punch that was tested- it was his ability to execute simple defensive techniques- blocking, parrying, side-stepping. He could do none of these, because he hasn't been trained to do any of these. When attacked, his instinct is to either run away very fast, or go to his comfort zone, a close clinch.
In short, as a martial artist, Jones is just above average, and certainly not great. His effortless dominance of the UFC LHW division says more about the depth of competition in the division- and in the UFC- than about Jones' talent. When you require a fight-off of only four people to establish a championship belt, that signals that the UFC pool of fighters is really too small to be considered a reflection of global talent. And no wonder- while the UFC is dominated by North American fighters, everyone knows the best martial artists in the world are in Asia. Where are the best Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Karate, Judo and Kung-Fu practitioners? Fighting within their own stylistic silos, unfortunately. The UFC desperately needs to draft them.
Go to Lumpini stadium in Thailand, swing a cat, and you'll hit a Muai Thai fighter who would break Jones' bones with a barrage of crushing kicks. The best Karate fighters would punch holes through his rib cage. The leading Taekwondo competitors would show him what a proper kick looks like. Hell, even second-tier boxers would embarass his weak guard and leave bells ringing in his head. And as for his vaunted wrestling, how would he fare against the World Judo champion?
This of course is not about denigrating Jones. I have no bones about his success. He is a fantastic athlete and fully deserves his accolades. It is just that he earned those accolades playing in a very small pool of competitors, against fairly mediocre fighters with fairly homogenous backgrounds (college wrestlers or BJJ exponents who- barely- learned to punch) . The fact that finding good opponents for him is already a problem proves the point that the UFC is just too small and shallow as a talent pool to be really credible as a showcase of global martial arts talent. Currently, it is something of a cult of mediocrity, hyping average fighters as global masters.
Dana White, Go East Young Man. Find the top 30 fighters in each of Shotokan, Kyokushinkai, Goju Ryu, Judo, Kung-Fu, Muay Thai, Boxing and Kickboxing. Lure them out of their closed stylistic silos with lucrative contracts. Expand and diversify the UFC talent pool. And THEN Let The Games Begin.