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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC 214’s Jon Jones resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 214 headliner Jon Jones, who looks to recapture the strap this Saturday night (July 29, 2017) inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

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Arguably the greatest of all time, Jon Jones, will square off with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strap-hanger, Daniel Cormier, this Saturday night (July 22, 2017) at UFC 214 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Recapping the previous 2.5 years of Jones’ life since his victory over Cormier at UFC 182, frankly, has become boring. We all know Jones is a fantastic fighter, one of the best to ever do this thing. We also all know that he fucks up outside the cage more frequently than most. At some point, the endlessly repeated story of Jones’ inner battles grows tired.

Luckily, his abilities inside the cage will never not be fascinating, so let’s take a closer look at his skill set.


Jones packs one of the most diverse arsenals in the sport. While his game could be described accurately as a combination of outside kicking specialist and clinch mauler, he works with so many different and uncommon weapons from those ranges that it’s not very helpful for potential opponents.

Despite drawing techniques from many different martial arts, most of Jones’ attacks capitalize on his significant height and reach advantage. Jones puts that edge to use by battering his opponent from the outside. To that end, Jones has become a spectacular kicker. More than that, Jones is a man with fantastic kicks who's entirely unconcerned about the possibility of having his kick caught and being forced to wrestle or clinch.

In fact, he invites takedown and clinch attempts, as he thrives there.

Early on, Jones goes to work with his kicks and refuses to allow him opponent time to find their rhythm or range. It’s very difficult to defend against Jones’ offense from this range, as he simply attacks with so many different techniques. Plus, Jones’ opponent is usually too far away to effectively fight back. Lastly, many of his kicks are to the legs and body, which are effective at slowing his foe and causing him to hesitate (GIF).

Many of Jones’ kicks are designed to enforce range and break his opponent down. In this week’s technique highlight, we took a look at some of those kicking techniques:

Because of the kicks in the above video and his other range weapons, many fighters have shelled up and accepted defeat. Since they cannot fight from his range and get abused for trying to change the situation, it’s not all that hard to see why.

To this day, Jones' most devastating use of these kicks came against "Rampage" Jackson (GIF). Jones dismantled his power punching opponent. By the third round, Jackson was barely throwing with any power and could do little to stop his opponent's takedowns. On the other hand, Jones showed how these kicks could simply nullify his opponent in his last bout. After a couple rounds, St. Preux was fatigued and wounded, rarely throwing more than one strike at a time largely because of his opponent’s painful kicking assault (GIF). Many people point to this performance as one of Jones’ weaker wins, but he still shutout his opponent almost entirely with kicks from distance.

On the feet, Alexander Gustafsson was the only man to ever find consistent success with Jones. While he did occasionally trade kicks with "Bones," Gustafsson did most of his work from the boxing range, an area in which the Swede has more experience than his similarly lanky foe. While that fight showed some holes in Jones’ pure boxing skill, it’s not exactly a weak area, either. Like many Jackson-Wink fighters, Jones likes to pick his shots with short combinations rather than engage in longer exchanges. To set up his punches, Jones feints well and usually takes the initiative to close the distance himself rather than wait for his opponent to get inside (GIF).

Furthermore, Jones likes to extend his arms and hand fight with his opponent, or even literally place his palm on their forehead. While it often gets him in trouble with eye pokes, it's nonetheless an effective way for Jones to gauge his distance, maintain range, and even attack.

For example, Jones loves to reach out and grab one of his opponent's wrists. Since he's controlling one of his opponent's arms, he only really has to be wary of their free hand. At any point, Jones can pull his opponent forward and fold his arm over to land a hard elbow (GIF).

Lastly, Jones has proven to be a terrific clinch fighter. While that close range can be a disadvantage for some lanky athletes, Jones makes full use of his length to leverage takedowns and create offensive opportunities. From that distance, Jones makes great use of elbows. He's frequently slicing at his opponent with short, Muay Thai elbows from the collar tie. In addition, Jones will break the clinch with a spinning back elbow, which has been a very effective weapon for him.

Besides hand fighting, one of the smaller details that Jones has mastered is head position. Against Glover Teixeira especially, Jones almost always had his forehead or the top of his head underneath his opponent's jaw. This allowed him to pressure forward and ensure that he was the one landing damaging strikes and exhausting his foe (GIF).

In his first bout with Cormier, Jones willingly worked from the clinch for much of the fight. Though he took some shots — which is far more likely at that distance, simply because it’s harder to miss — Jones also went work with his elbows strikes and wore his opponent out from the grueling clinch battle (GIF).


A high school state and junior college champion, Jones has some of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) wrestling in the sport. He makes full use of his physical gifts, attacking with Greco-Roman and Judo takedowns from the clinch or shooting along the fence.

Many tall fighters have difficulty getting low enough to get in on their opponents' hips, but Jones is usually able to get in deep on his shot. Not only does Jones' dangerous striking thoroughly distract his opponent, his kicks often force his opponent to stand a bit straighter.

Jones has a powerful double-leg takedown that he likes to finish against the fence. In an impressive example, Jones threatened Lyoto Machida with an inside trip and turned it into a double leg when Machida defended. With his opponent pinned along the fence and his hands clasped, Jones wrenched Machida away from the fence and onto the mat with his entire body (GIF).

For the most part, Jones' takedowns opposite Cormier came via the double leg against the fence. When a lanky and skilled wrestler like Jones gets in on the hips and locks his hands, there's really no clear defense, Olympian or no (GIF). On the whole, Jones has been shooting against the fence a lot more recently. Since his clinch game is now more focused on striking, it makes sense that his opponents are covering up and leaving their hips open more often.

Jones will also utilize an outside single leg on occasion, and he transitions between the two takedowns well (GIF). After isolating one leg and getting his head on the outside, Jones will slide his inside arm up to his opponents head. From this position, Jones can apply extra pressure to turn his opponent while executing a dump or even a trip.

Jones' use of leverage from the clinch is outstanding. He's able to absolutely manhandle his opponents with Greco-Roman techniques, such as the suplex and lateral drop. Plus, he mixes in swift trips and foot sweeps (GIF). As he often does with his double leg finishes, Jones forces his opponent in one direction only to suddenly switch which way he is pressuring towards.

Once on top of his opponent, Jones is a devastating ground striker. If he's able to posture up, Jones can dispose of his opponent quickly, even in full guard. Brandon Vera found that out the hard way, as he tried to play guard and wound up with a shattered orbital thanks to a brutal elbow (GIF).

If his opponent keeps a tighter grip on Jones -- which would be everyone who had the benefit of first seeing him destroy Vera's face -- he likes to control one of his opponent's arms and pin it to the mat or behind his opponent's head. While this is risky from a submission stand point -- grapplers are taught to keep their elbows tight and avoid reaching across their opponents' waist to avoid the arm bar-- it allows him to deliver painful strikes that are difficult to block (GIF).

Since Jones is able to ruin opponents from within guard, it should be no surprise that he's nasty once he works into a dominant position. For example, Jones finished Vlad Matyushenko from the crucifix just seconds after securing it. Additionally, Jones' obliterated Matt Hamill with elbows from mount, even if some of them were fairly illegal.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Jones is a brutal and opportunistic grappler. Like the rest of his game, Jones makes smart use of his build and makes his opponent suffer in several ways.

The best weapon in Jones' submission arsenal is his guillotine choke. Thanks to his long arms, Jones can use a variation of the guillotine that attacks both sides neck, fully cutting off the carotid artery. Like a rear naked choke, this guillotine variation puts his opponent to sleep quickly (GIF). If Jones' guillotine is fully sunk in, his elbow will be directly underneath his opponent's chin. Fighters with shorter limbs will finish the choke with a rear-naked choke grip, which works as well. However, Jones instead finishes by pushing the hand of his choking arm down and in with his other hand. This adds in extra leverage, allowing Jones to finish the choke from fairly rare positions like half guard or standing (GIF).

Another devastating technique in Jones' arsenal is the shoulder crank. When his opponent secures an underhook in the clinch, Jones will lock his hands and wrench on their shoulder joint suddenly. Jones used this against both Teixeira and Cormier, forcing the experienced grapplers to yank away from their underhook or potentially deal with a shredded rotator cuff (GIF). That’s a pretty brutal technique, which is another common trait between the different aspects of Jones’ game. "Bones" is simply a rough and mean fighter, whether it be shoulder cranks, kicking the knee joint, or repeatedly dropping his chin — chin butting? — into Ryan Bader’s mid-section from the north-south position.

Outside of these key techniques, Jones is able to secure submissions simply by wearing his opponent out. In his bout with "Rampage" Jackson, the power puncher was already fatigued and injured by the time Jones dragged him to the mat. Once there, it was easy for Jones to overwhelm his defense with a rear naked choke. Similarly, Belfort was thoroughly battered prior to getting trapped in an americana.

Still, landing an americana on a jiu-jitsu black belt is quite an accomplishment (GIF).

Defensively, Jones does take risks with his arm placement. Whenever he reaches forward to grab his opponent's head or pin an arm while he's still within the guard, Jones is placing himself in a higher risk position. From there, it's easier for the bottom man to set up triangles, secure an underhook, or -- like Vitor Belfort nearly did -- roll up on an armbar.


This is a hugely important bout for Jones and his legacy. If he can return from all the turmoil — be it the actual hit and run, the long layoff, or his lackluster performance opposite "OSP" — and defeat one of the best Light Heavyweights to ever compete, it would be an incredible feat. Perhaps the most telling part of it all is that Jones is expected by the majority to dominate despite all those obstacles, whereas most fighters would be underdogs to the circumstance.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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