In what is as blatant a "Jump the Shark" piece of shameless matchmaking Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has made, the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has foisted Middleweight washout Chael Sonnen in against Light Heavyweight standout Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 159, which takes place later tonight (Sat., April 27, 2013) from Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
It's a clear physical mismatch made on the premise that Sonnen’s marketability could boost ratings for the duo’s coaching stint on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 that aired on FX Networks. Never mind that Sonnen hasn't earned 205-pound No. 1 contender status when, in fact, he has never beaten a Top 20-ranked Light Heavyweight ever.
Sonnen has a style decidedly predicated on his solid wrestling overpowering 185-pound fighters, so why not send him in against the best 205-pound talent of all time, an evolving MMA savant who has never been remotely close to being taken down? It makes perfect sense!!
Sarcasm aside, Sonnen has to know this is the fourteenth minute of his fame, and in his defense, he’s a talented fighter. But, style-wise, this one goes so against him the only interesting thing about the match up isn’t if Jones will win, but how he’ll win.
Personally, I’m only interested in seeing if Sonnen can score a takedown just to get a glimpse – however brief – of Jones' guard, which thus far has yet to be seen in fights because "Bones" completely dictates where they go. Don’t be deceived by the hype and the pseudo build-up of the reality show:
Jones knows his role in this equation, and it’s to keep nodding and not tip off the 12 remaining fans in the world who think this could remotely be competitive. I’d be very happy to be wrong, here. But, those sentiments, and $3, will merely get you on the bus where I live.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 159 main event between Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen below:
Jones' 84.5-inch reach is the core element behind the reason he is such a bitch to fight, using creative strikes and forever-stretching limbs to uncork weird moves that simply aren’t available to other fighters. Whether it’s launching a spinning back elbow on Stephen Bonnar, annoying push kicks to the kneecaps of Quinton Jackson, among others, or simply stretching himself out to squash a half-guard sweep attempt by Mauricio Rua, Jones knows exactly how to maximize his advantages in every range.
His head for tactics against a given opponents is very savvy – he came right out against the dangerous Vitor Belfort and immediately dumped "The Phenom," negating the Brazilian’s hands with what turned out to be a ground-and-pound clinic.
For Sonnen, he must get close while fighting off numerous attacks – kicks, punches and off-kilter moves – and close the gap to initiate a clinch. His best chance for a takedown probably comes from this position because he is unlikely to get a good angle and timing on a single- or double-leg shot from the outside. The problem is, Jones is exceptionally difficult to get a bead on with his length and solid timing, and while Sonnen’s boxing is serviceable, his kicking game is non-existent, which is a key weapon to cut down a guy like Jones to size.
For Jones, this fight might reveal a lot of his mentality and the kind of statement he wants to make. It’s entirely plausible he dumps the wrestler early and scores a quick submission, something entirely within his capabilities. But, since he’ll have such huge advantages standing, and likes to try out new stuff early, he might just keep it on the feet to pick apart Sonnen, like a boy torturing a fly.
What’s scary about Jones is how completely confident he is in executing high-risk moves. He opened the Rua bout with a devastating flying knee that pretty much sent "Shogun" on Queer Street in the opening moments, and in the opening stanza against Lyoto Machida, he uncorked several spinning back kicks.
No problem, right? Against Sonnen, whose striking arsenal is far more limited, who knows what the hell he’ll try.
Jones will jab, stick and move in the first couple of minutes, popping Sonnen in the mouth and with pestering kicks to the legs, mixing it up to turn up the frustration quotient.
I suspect Jones will be a bit of a purist in this one, and want to make the statement that he’s a better striker in addition to being a better wrestler (the MMA equivalent of running up the score), so he’ll let Sonnen roast a bit while piling up points in the first and readily frustrating the challenger with movement and his reflexes.
Late in the first, Jones will close the gap and score a trip takedown to end the round, further chipping away at Chael’s confidence. In the second, it will be more of the same. Sonnen will be bloodied up and unable to close the gap, weary from getting popped endlessly, before Jones scores a huge shot to drop Sonnen en route for a rear-naked choke submission win.
Jones via submission
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 159 pay-per-view (PPV) main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:35 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst