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Which Jon Jones Will Show Up to UFC 285?


We’re nearing the end of fight week and in a lot of ways, it’s business as usual, but a lot of us are wondering which Jon Jones will show up to UFC 285? March 4th Jones is fighting for the first time in over three years. Long layoffs aren’t strange for Jon. He has returned from suspension to take the belt back three separate times. There is less bad press for him this time around, but less hate for Jon Jones still means there’s a lot of hate for Jon Jones. 

Image, MMA Junkie – USA Today

In some ways he’s in very unfamiliar territory. Presumably, Jones has passed all of his drug tests. Few times in Jon Jones’s career has he fought someone younger and naturally bigger than him. Ciryl Gane has had only one loss in his entire Muay Thai and MMA career, and that loss was to UFC champion Francis Ngannou.

Ground Advantage

If March 4th goes to the ground, Jon Jones is going to have a clear advantage, but I’m not convinced Jon wants to expend the effort to get it to the ground. He hasn’t made takedowns a part of his game for a long time. He opted to stand and strike with Reyes, landing only two of nine takedown attempts and logging a paltry 1:41 of control time in the whole fight. Jon spent even less time in the clinch with Reyes.

Gane has a dangerous clinch and kicking, an 81” reach, plus championship experience. Nobody I talked to before Gane vs Ngannou expected that fight to go a full five rounds. I certainly thought it would be a short night at the office for Ngannou, but it turned out wrestling was the deciding factor.

It’s strange that the former paths Jones used to take to victory haven’t been part of this late stage of his career. Before, when he faced excellent boxers, he compensated by relying more on clinch and kicks to melt his opposition and score impressive wins. Takedowns and ground and pound got him to the dance and helped him stay a record breaking champion. Where have they been the last five years?

A return to form would suit Jones and his brash ambition, but I can see a fight where Jon tries to box with Gane, who being a heavyweight known for fighting light on his feet, dances around Jon for rounds. Another possibility is that Gane, who fighting at his natural size and against huge opponents, just tosses him around. We might see Jones fade in later rounds, as opposed to come alive.

When The Time Comes

One truth greater than all others is that time comes for every fighter. Part of being the greatest of all time could be knowing when to walk away. There is a difference between fighters like George St-Pierre and Khabib Nurmagomedov, who surprised the critics by retiring with some gas in the tank. Others, like Anderson Silva and Conor McGregor can hope that their legacy will stand on its own without an embarrassing epilogue. Silva went 1-7-1 since 2013 after defining the sport for over a decade. As you read this, Conor is in the TUF house, hammered. I know that hindsight is 50/50, but McGregor could have been a whiskey mogul deleted his Twitter, and MMA would have been just fine without the last six years of Conor’s bullshit. Instead, we have another ticking time bomb of a fight celebrity in a sport known for them.

Ticking Time Bomb

One could argue that Jones’s own time bomb behavior is part of what makes him great. His wildness could be a key to why he has made it to the heights he has. Personally, I don’t buy it. Anything exciting about the wildness of MMA can be achieved through self-awareness and discipline. Jon himself is still trying to stake his claim on the mountain top of the sport, and he is still a ticking time bomb of MMA.

I’m excited to see if he is able to explode in the ring and reclaim his early viciousness, or if he finally blows it for good.

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