Following years of turmoil that largely kept him out of the cage, Jon Jones has now strung together three wins over seven months.
The latest was undoubtedly the hardest of the trio: a split decision victory over Thiago Santos at UFC 239 (watch the highlights here). Both men had to be carted out of the arena in wheelchairs, and the bout marks the first time in Jones’ career a judge has scored against him.
Santos earned 3 out of 5 rounds on NSAC judge Junichiro Kamijo’s card, and there’s a small but vocal segment of the MMA fandom that feel Santos was the more dangerous of the two fighters through the fight.
Unsurprisingly, Jon Jones’ team disagrees with this assessment, and his coach Brandon Gibson laid out exactly why in a recent conversation with MMA Fighting.
“I was surprised,” Gibson told MMA Fighting on Monday. “It is part of our job as coaches and trainers to be aware of how a round could have gone. We knew the first round was ultra-competitive but I thought [rounds] 2 through 5 were clearly Jon and I thought we were up. We weren’t asking Jon to coast or fight safe or anything like that or protect the lead. We’re always hunting. I was surprised that one judge saw it that way and I was a little surprised some media members I really respect saw it in Thiago’s favor.”
“I just think I have a view as good as any judge during the fight and I thought Jon’s pressure, his feints, his volume, his defense, won us that fight,” Gibson said. “Thiago missed a lot on his counters but maybe the judges thought they were landing. They were glancing shots, they were shots that were hitting Jon’s chest or Jon’s shoulders but Thiago came hard to fight for sure.”
Two of those respected press outlets that scored it for Santos? MMA Fighting and Sherdog.
The one stat that stands out to me is total strikes thrown. Santos threw a whopping 166 strikes ... of which only 43 landed. Jones threw just 90, landing 59. But when you’re watching a gigantic Brazilian monster with a giant sledgehammer on his chest winging donnybrooks, it looks mighty impressive. It certainly seemed like Santos was an inch away from catching Jones at times.
But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Jon’s team worked hard on his defense, making sure Santos was hitting nothing but air for the majority of their match. Maybe if “Marreta” had two working knees he might have been able to connect a few more, but unfortunately he came in on one injured knee and then blew the other out early in the fight. Just another reason people are interested in seeing Santos fight his way back to Jones down the road.