Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight greats Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane will clash TONIGHT (Sat., March 4, 2023) at UFC 285 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Finally, after over a decade of discussion, Jones will walk to the cage as a Heavyweight. Weigh-ins have given us a first look at the controversial new “Bones” physique, but there’s really no way to know how the 35-year-old legend will perform after a long layoff at a new weight class. He’s not been given an easy task in his return, either. Gane is the furthest thing from a Heavyweight brawler. He just might be the most talented Heavyweight of his generation, a striker who rose to gold in shockingly quick manner.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 25-1 (1)
Key Wins: Daniel Cormier (UFC 182), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 232, UFC 165), Lyoto Machida (UFC 140), Rashad Evans (UFC 145), Thiago Santos (UFC 239)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Jones is very likely the most naturally gifted fighter to ever grace the sport. He debuted a raw talent and quickly developed plus skills in every area, which combined with his size and athleticism to simply shred through multiple eras of Light Heavyweight contenders.
It’s been a long time since Jones’ wrestling really dominated a fight. He scored some takedowns against Anthony Smith, sure, but even then he didn’t look particularly effective. Really, we have to go back to his ground strikes stoppage in the Alexander Gustafsson rematch to pinpoint the last time Jones wrestled effectively and dominated his opponent from top position.
That bout took place in Dec. 2018.
One way or another, Jones absolutely has to find success with his takedowns here. I do not see the kickboxing going well for “Bones,” not against a faster, stronger opponent who’s an expert kickboxer in his own right.
There are two paths to the takedown for Jones here. On one way, he could try to clinch up right away, implement that newfound weight along the cage, and fatigue the French fighter until he’s able to gain top position. He was, after all, the sport’s best in-fighter for a number of years.
That said, the alternative option may be smarter. If Jones can convince Gane the two are in a kicking battle then look to catch Gane off-guard with a caught kick or well-timed shot, his odds of securing top position without expending a ton of energy are much higher. Plus, if he can scare Gane away from kicking a bit, that will severely limit “Bon Gamin.”
Key Wins: Tai Tuivasa (UFC Paris), Derrick Lewis (UFC 265), Jairzino Rozenstruik (UFC Vegas 20), Junior dos Santos (UFC 256), Tanner Boser (UFC Fight Night 165), Raphael Pessoa (UFC Fight Night 156)
Key Losses: Francis Ngannou (UFC 270)
Keys To Victory: Gane is such a tricky kickboxer. He’s exceptionally quick for a Heavyweight, able to close the distance suddenly with a jab from either stance or dig into his opponent’s lead leg before they realize what’s happening. That said, Gane can also crack, as evidenced by his elbow and punch knockouts.
I think the jab will be a major key for Gane here. Even at his best, Jones was never an amazing boxer. His head movement has never been excellent, as he’s usually kept safe by his reach advantage and the threat of his kicks and clinch work. Gane can jab frequently without giving up easy takedown opportunities, and his jabs do damage.
Unlike many previous Jones opponents, Gane can fight well from both stances like the former champion. Because of this, he should be able to target the calf from both stances, following Jones as he switches stance. Jones’ Heavyweight bulk has done little to beef up his famously thin calves, and the calf kick offers little risk in terms of getting turned into a takedown.
If Gane commits early to breaking down the base of Jones — a strategy people have been calling for Jones’ entire career — it could really pay off late in the form of heavier connections.
Though Francis Ngannou’s absence is certainly felt, it’s hard to complain about this match up.
Jones has been talking about Heavyweight since the beginning of his title reign, but the day has finally come to test himself. If he’s able to return from a long absence and take out the absurdly talented Gane, it’s impossible to argue that his legacy doesn’t improve. Jones has always been accused of winning due to his height and reach, but that size advantage disappears tonight.
Expect a new pound-for-pound king if “Bones” is victorious.
Conversely, Gane has a chance to make history. Jones remains essentially undefeated, disqualification loss or not. Becoming the first man to hand him a true defeat is really historically significant, and winning the title in the process is an added bonus. It may not avenge the “Predator” loss, but victory here really goes a long way in helping Gane wear the mantle of champion regardless.
At UFC 285, Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane will duel for Heavyweight gold. Which man leaves the cage as champion?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 285 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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