Current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 205-pound champion, Jon "Bones" Jones, headlines UFC 152 tomorrow night (Sept. 22, 2012) against former light heavyweight champ and vicious knock out artist Vitor Belfort at the Air Canada Center in Toronto.
Jon wasn't supposed to be fighting this Saturday. If things had gone according to plan, Jon would have defended his title for the fourth time on September 1st at UFC 151 against former Pride middleweight and welterweight champion Dan Henderson. That card was derailed when "Hendo" pulled out due to a knee injury and Jones refused to fight late replacement Chael Sonnen. After Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Lyoto Machida declined to take the fight on short notice, Jones ended up with The Phenom's name alongside his own on top of the UFC 152 card.
With many fans questioning his toughness and warrior spirit, Jones is set on dominating Belfort and further solidifying his legacy as the greatest light heavyweight of all time. In this analysis, I'll be looking into the vast arsenal of skills Jon possess and determine if the odds makers are correct in setting him as a 9-1 favorite.
Follow me after the jump for a look at the UFC's youngest champion and brightest star.
Jon Jones' striking is unlike any we've ever seen in the octagon. Whether it's his blistering kicks, violent knees from the clinch, an assortment of elbows, or good old fashioned punches, Jon has a lot of options he can use to hurt his opponent.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Jon's striking game is his kicks. Jon's preferred method of attack is to strike from his kicking range. Due to his incredible length, Jones' can kick and continually damage fighters all while being outside of their striking range. This causes a reaction this is quite extraordinary but is now expected whenever Jon fights: His opponents stand and watch as they are slowly whittled down to a much weaker version of themselves. This is especially apparent in his fights with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Rampage is a great wrestler with powerful hands, so instead of engaging him head on or trying to out wrestle him immediately he turned to his kicks. In that fight, he threw a ton of kicks to the head, body, and legs. In addition to standard round house style leg kicks, he threw a large number of oblique kicks to throw off Rampage's timing and power. By the fourth round, Rampage was limping and had all but quit.
When Jon Jones fought Shogun Rua, many thought it would be the Brazilian muay Thai machine that would be showing off his deadly knees. Instead, Jones taught Rua the proper way to land a knee to the face without getting touched. 5 seconds into the first round, Jon lands a brutal flying knee to Rua's skull, forcing him to clinch and try to clear the cobwebs. Shogun said in later interviews that this strike took him out of the fight and made it difficult for him to even stay competitive with Jon. Less than 15 minutes later, Shogun had absorbed 70 more significant strikes and lost his championship belt by technical knock out.
Finally, for his version of close range fighting(a normal fighters kicking range) Jon relies on his elbows and boxing. Jon's boxing is the only part of his game that isn't incredibly new or exotic. Don't mistake that with ineffective, Jon's boxing consists of powerful punches to the head and body from odd angles and ranges and has proven to be very difficult to counter. Jon's elbows are the most tricky element of his game. Jon tricks his opponent into think they are boxing or clinch fighting and then suddenly throws a long range elbow with impeccable accuracy.
Jon Jones' striking has yet to show a real weakness. Running in with over hands like Rampage and Bader did has failed horribly, as have Lyoto and Rashad's attempts to fight at range. The only minor success any of them have had is to kick the inside of Jones' leg, which seems to irritate him. However, none of them have done it enough to prove its effect.
Jon was a state champion high school wrestler and won a national JUCO championship in college, before dropping out the pursue MMA full time. In MMA, Jon has shown a wide variety of takedowns. His best have come from the clinch, but perhaps his most unique are his hybrid trips. After grabbing a single or double leg, Jon uses his long to reach to trip the leg(or legs) while still maintaining a tight squeeze on the trapped leg. To make this even more difficult to stop, he doesn't drive them backwards but often turns the corner. After he takes them down, he proceeds to mangle them from the top position with the most vicious ground and pound since Fedor Emelianenko.
Against Brandon Vera, Jon demonstrated his wrestling skills and his brutal ground and pound. After an early trip, Vera kicked Jon off of him. Not long after, Jon again tried to trip him from the clinch then transitioned to a double leg takedown. From the double leg, Jon trips Vera while turning the corner. After successfully dragging Vera to the mat, Jon destroyed Vera's face and broke his orbital bone with violent elbows from full guard.
In his next fight verse Olympic wrestler Vladimir Matyushenko, Jones once again showed that his wrestling was on another level. After a feeling out process, Jones double legged Vlad, passed his guard, and trapped him in the crucifix. The takedown was an awesome example of Jones' wrestling. After ducking a hook from Vlad, he drops down for a double before transitioning to a single. If you look closely at the third picture, you can see Jones' foot on the left side of the camera man which is behind Vlad's other leg. Turning hard to the right, Jon trips Vlad's outside leg while powering through the takedown. From there, he dropped quick, powerful elbows very quickly forcing a stoppage.
When Jon took down Lyoto Machida, it completely changed the dynamic of their fight. First Jon ducked under a punch and attempted a clinch trip. When Machida defended, Jon dove into a double leg against the fence. From there, he yanked backwards with his entire body and forced Machida to the mat. After than he landed an elbow that cut Machida badly, and led to the eventual finish.
With so many people gunning for Jones, every facet of his game is examined for a potential weakness. With a 100% takedown defense rate and wins over high level wrestlers like Matyushenko, Rashad Evans, and Ryan Bader, it's safe to say that his downfall won't come from wrestling.
Jon's jiu-jitsu is centered around chokes from top position. Of his 5 wins by submission, 4 of them are guillotine chokes and the other is his rear naked choke of Rampage Jackson. While these two chokes are perhaps the highest percentage chokes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Jones has shown an interest in riskier moves like the north south choke and flying triangle.
In his fight with Ryan Bader, Jon came out and took Bader down easily in the first thirty seconds. After passing guard, Jon immediately transitioned to the north-south position. From there he isolated Ryan's neck and tried to crush it. Even though he got a solid angle and put a lot of his weight on Ryan's neck, Ryan managed to turn in towards Jon and scramble back to his feet. However, Ryan couldn't continue to hold off Jon's assault, about a minute into the second round he broke mentally. Bader pulled guard and didn't even bother to defend Jones' guillotine choke.
Another high risk technique that Jones attempted is a flying triangle on Rampage. Near the end of the second round, Jones held Rampage in the clinch and decided to go for a flying triangle. An especially dangerous move against Rampage, who is known for slamming his opponents from that position, Jones crossed his legs and began to properly set up the triangle when the time ran out.
By far Jon's most successful submission move is his guillotine choke. In addition to the aforementioned Bader, he choked Lyoto Machida unconscious in the second round with the same move. Jon does a variation of the guillotine that is one of the quickest chokes in MMA. The choke attacks both sides of the carotid artery without affecting the windpipe, making it nearly painless yet very effective. The guillotine is essentially a rear naked choke. Instead of being behind your opponent, you want to be in front while still keeping your elbow in line with their chin. A much more common variation of the choke is to use a rear naked choke grip to finish from the front, like Jens Pulver did to Cub Swanson. Instead of doing this, Jones utilizes his long reach to wrap around the neck and then some. A person with normal sized arms has to push into the neck, but Jon's arms are so long that he can push in and down into the neck. This added leverage makes his guillotine even more formidable.
The biggest problem that fighters have when they fight Jones is that he does not allow them to fight how they want to. They fight where and how Jones wants to, and so far Jones has made wise decisions about where he should take the fight.
When Jon fought Shogun, many people were expecting a stand up war. What they got was a one sided beating. Whenever Shogun stalked Jones, as is his preferred style of fighting, Jon smashed him with a flying knee or threw him to the mat with a takedown. Once Shogun realized that he couldn't effectively fight moving forward, he didn't know what to do. He ended up just diving for foot locks when he wasn't being backed up by Jon's relentless attack.
Rampage, like Shogun, wanted to brawl. Unlike Shogun, he had the takedown defense to stop most of Jones' shots which eliminated the game plan he used against Shogun. So instead of taking Rampage down, he kicked. Every time Rampage stepped forward, his knee was jacked backwards from an oblique kick. When Quinton stood and waited for an opening, Jon threw head and body kicks, continually damaging him. This frustrated Rampage but he couldn't do a single thing about it.
In his next fight with Machida, Jon fought Machida at his own game: kickboxing range. After deciding that the first round was too close for his liking, he switched his game plan to wrestling. It took one takedown to throw Machida off of his game and end the fight.
Rashad came into his fight with Jon saying he wouldn't get caught up in his game and stare at Jon while he got kicked and punched from outside his range. Yet once the fight started, Rashad did exactly that. Jon stood at his range and fought his fight, easily dominating another top 5 opponent and former champion.
Will Jon be able to find a hole in Vitor's game and ruthlessly exploit it like he did to all of his other opponents? If he does, it will be the fifth consecutive former UFC champion he has beaten. That wouldn't be the first record he has broken, and if he has his way, it won't be the last.