Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Jon Jones and Ovince St. Preux will clash TONIGHT (April 23, 2016) at UFC 197 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Following an 18-monthh layoff, Jones is looking to prove himself tonight. This is his chance to reassert himself as the greatest fighter in the world, as well as show off the improvements he made in his time off.
On the other hand, St. Preux is filling the role of short-notice cannon fodder. However, he's also one of the heaviest hitters in the division, so it's unlikely that "OSP" plans to simply lay over for the returning kingpin.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Daniel Cormier (UFC 182), (Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165), Lyoto Machida (UFC 140), Rashad Evans (UFC 145)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Jones is terrifyingly effective in each area of MMA and has proven it multiple times. This is a man who's a better striker than anyone in the division, has out-wrestled an Olympian, and has submitted multiple jiu-jitsu black belt.
There's a reason he's never really lost.
In this bout, Jones should probably take the path of least resistance. Why strike with "OSP" when a slip up could land him in hot trouble? Even though Jones has the tools to pick his opponent apart, it's simply taking a bigger risk than necessary.
Instead, Jones should wait for his moment to close the distance safely, probably by kicking St. Preux into the fence. Once he works his way in tight, Jones can rip into his opponent with his excellent dirty boxing and elbow technique.
Before long, Jones will be able to change levels into a double or land a clinch trip. Once on top, Jones is deadly with both his ground strikes and submissions, which should lead him to a reasonably quick finish.
Ovince St. Preux
Key Wins: Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 56), Patrick Cummins (UFC on FOX 15), Ryan Jimmo (UFC 174)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 73), Ryan Bader (UFC Fight Night 47), Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvidal)
Keys to Victory: St. Preux is a large and athletic Light Heavyweight with some massive power behind his punches and kicks. He's also got a wrestling background, making him a pretty tough man to deal with for much of the division.
He is, however, fairly outmatched here.
That doesn't mean "OSP" cannot win. If there's one trait every underdog would love, it's power, and St. Preux has that in spades. That said, it does mean that St. Preux cannot really expect to fight a measured technical bout and expect it to go well for him.
Instead, St. Preux needs to start quickly and fire hard immediately. Jones was preparing for a short, Orthodox wrestler, which is pretty much the opposite of St. Preux. While Jones has handled Southpaws before, that's still a major switch up that could provide an opening for the underdog.
Basically, St. Preux should do his best to connect with his long left hand. It can be awkward, which is actually a benefit here, as it could really catch Jones off-guard. In addition, I'd like to see St. Preux fire off his high kick often, as it's both powerful and difficult to counter.
Bottom Line: Jones is back.
There are plenty of differing opinions on Jon Jones and where he stands in the division, but this is his opportunity to clear the air. If Jones wins here, he'll be holding an interim title in addition to a victory over the current champion.
If "Bones" is holding a strap and unanimously recognized as the best, who's the real champion? It's certainly an interesting question for both Jones himself and Daniel Cormier.
On the other hand, a loss would be an incredible change of events. It would certainly call into question Jones' recent strength training, particularly if Jones were to fatigue. Or, it could simply be that Jones is better than ever but got caught by a heavy hitter
For St. Preux, this is a massive opportunity. Following some of his recent loss, a real title run seemed unlikely for the former football player. However, he now finds himself in the Octagon staring down the best fighter in the division with a belt on the line.
That's a major step up from a win over Rafael Cavalcante.
With a win, St. Preux has accomplished the impossible. Frankly, being the first man to beat Jon Jones is a bigger milestone than winning the belt. Still, St. Preux would likely face off with Cormier in an attempt to unify the straps.
Alternatively, a loss doesn't hurt St. Preux's position, it merely means that he was unable to capitalize on this unexpected opportunity.
TONIGHT at UFC 197, Jon Jones and Ovince St. Preux will throw down. Which man will have his hand raised?