Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Jones is
"Bones" returned to the Octagon last night (Sat., April 23, 2016) after 15 months on the sidelines to battle Ovince Saint Preux -- not the injured Daniel Cormier -- in the main event of the UFC 197 pay-per-view (PPV), which took place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For full complete results and blow-by-blow coverage click here.
As expected, Jones walked through Saint Preux like the Jews walked through the desert of Shur. So we pretty much picked up right where we left off in the career of the former light heavyweight champion, who will now attempt to unify the division titles when he runs it back with Cormier later this year.
This event sounds about right.
No disrespect to "DC," who is unquestionably the second-best light heavyweight on the planet, but I didn't see anything in their first fight to convince me a sequel would end any differently -- though I reckon the Olympian is sorry he didn't get last night's version of Jones.
Cormier says that Jones looks a little rusty and that’s why it was so hard for him to pull out of this fight.— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 24, 2016
That said, it's hard to be overly critical of Jones' performance considering he was out of action for so long AND fighting a short-notice opponent.
Onward and upward.
Assuming Jones prevails in his Cormier rematch and reclaims his spot atop the 205-pound throne, the only fighter left worthy of a crack at the crown is Anthony Johnson. The power-punching Blackzilian sits just below "Bones" in the official UFC rankings (see them here) after winning 11 of his last 12.
Eight of those by thunderous knockout.
Following a showdown with Johnson later this year -- depending on when "Rumble" can get medically cleared to compete -- you would have to sink all the way down to No. 9 in the division (Jimi Manuwa) to find a fresh face. Alexander Gustafsson was a rematch of merit, right up until "The Mauler" dropped back-to-back fights.
That doesn't leave many options for the pound-for-pound best fighter in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
And while the decision to move up in weight hasn't exactly panned out for some of the other big names in UFC, Jones is a proven commodity. With two more wins this year (this is probably a lock for the second), Jones will have cleaned out his division -- with authority.
This isn't some pipe dream cooked up to generate dialogue, as Jones has been teasing a transition to the land of big men for nearly four years. He's also found a new love for the weight room (see it), a place to bulk up and stay busy in the absence of his extracurricular (and career-threatening) activities.
And hey, most heavyweights are rolling out the red carpet.
From the perspective of a fan, it's exciting to think about what lies ahead for Jones in the second half of 2016 and beyond. Despite some glaring holes in his defense, Johnson is a dangerous fight for anyone and the matchmaking possibilities at heavyweight are limitless (and often times hilarious).
Now all we need is Cormier to do his part and stick to the script.