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UFC 128: Will Jon Jones be able to exploit Shogun Rua's weaknesses on March 19?

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On March 19, two men with two vastly different backgrounds who share an eerily similar rise in the sport will meet up at UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones" in what has become a very anticipated 205-pound title fight.

Brazilian wrecking ball Mauricio "Shogun" Rua will defend his title for the first time against the 23-year-old phenom Jon "Bones" Jones.

If you've been following my analysis of this fight here on MMAmania.com, including my highlights of Jones and his fake single leg to over-the-top elbow combination and Shogun's vicious Muay Thai, you will understand the many reasons to be excited heading into this fight.

Will the younger, bigger, faster and stronger guy with explosive power, strength and quickness use all of that to make up for what is perceived to be a technical deficiency? Will his ridiculous natural gifts and raw talent be enough to dethrone the veteran champion?

Or will the champion be far too experienced, fine tuned and technical in using his crisp, lethal and deadly striking to overwhelm the first time challenger and give him his first taste of true defeat?

I believe it will be Jones who can exploit some subtle weaknesses in Shogun Rua's game. Follow me after the jump to find out why and how:

Throws from the clinch

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As most of us know by now, Shogun has only stopped two of the 14 takedowns attempted on him, while we have rarely seen Jones being stuffed in his several attempts. The key here is that Jones wants the fight on the ground, where he can unleash his heavy and brutal ground and pound from the top.

Above is a comparison in throws, one is of Shogun being taken down by Lyoto Machida and the other of Jones taking down Stephan Bonnar. The techniques are vastly different, Machida from a body lock and Jones from a single collar tie, but both require immense upper body strength and the usage of the opponent's body weight and momentum.

If Jones can obtain the upperhand in the clinch like like above it comes down to if Jones can land in dominant position like side control and can he avoid a scramble, which Shogun is very good at creating. Because if he can land and control Shogun once it hits the ground Jones will have the opportunity to punish the champion with elbows and control and wear Shogun out.

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For as much flack as Jones seems to get for his spinning elbows, people often forget Rua is a bit of a wildcard, too. Add in his flying guard passes to kicks like this above and you see he can also be a little careless.

It's surprising that Shogun would wing a flying kick to the body on such an effective counter striker like Lyoto Machida, which leads me to believe that he would take the same crazy chances against Jon Jones.

That leads in to my next point: Reach.

Jon Jones will have an enormous reach advantage heading into this match up. And if you watch the clip above Machida catches Shogun flush on the jaw. Now if that is Jones doing the punching, his arm extends further and he also hits with alot more emphasis. Considering Machida was not even planted for the strike, Shogun is very fortunate he was not knocked out. 

Having a rock hard chin doesn't hurt either.

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Shogun can be hit. Of course any fighter can, but I will explain the reason this matters for this fight.

Alistair Overeem and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira both tagged Shogun flush with straight left hands. Overeem got a hold of a leg while Nogueira followed with a devastating right hook that dropped Rua.

Not only does "Bones" have the reach to do what Overeem did, but he also has the stiff left straight to land through his defense. What makes this so much more easy on a fighter like Shogun is his Muay Thai stance.

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What makes this stance bad for straight right hands is that Shogun leaves his hands a little more spread open and his right arm is alot further back in this stance, which allows for a quick striker to land a quick left hand.

The other part of this stance that makes it easy for opportunities for Jones is that in the Muay Thai stance Shogun leaves a leg out begging to be snatched up. Or feinted to be snatched up.

While Shogun is a complete well rounded fighter he has holes just like any other fighter, I do think that Shogun's holes play well into a Jon Jones game plan, however. All of the items I have discussed above are of scenarios that play out while striking, which is where the fight begins and where each and every round begins.

There is no doubt that Jones wants to be on top of Shogun letting some of his ground and pound go but he has to find ways to get it there.

Here is to hoping that regardless of the outcome we see an awesome title fight.

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