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By: Frank Hyden, MMATorch contributor
Jon Jones dominated Rashad Evans in their fight at UFC 145 Saturday night, but had to settle for a five round decision victory. I give Rashad credit for going the distance with Jones, as I thought Jones would get the finish. Now Dan Henderson steps in as the next challenger for Jones and the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. In a way I would give Henderson a better chance at stopping Jones, as Henderson has unbelievable power and could knock Jones out with one shot. However, at the same time I think Henderson has a much lower chance than Rashad did to beat Jones. The disadvantages start with the reach. We all know about Jon Jones and his 84 inch reach, but that's only the beginning. Jones also has better wrestling, better submissions, and better cardio.
This is the cliche "puncher's chance" strategy come to life. All Henderson has to do is get one clean shot on Jones and the fight's over. However, getting that shot is going to be extremely difficult. Henderson has the experience to pull it off, but I can't see it happening. Jones knows what to expect, and he'd be a major league idiot to put himself into a spot to get caught with one of those bombs from Henderson.
The possibility of Jones moving up to the heavyweight division has now come up, and will continue to come up as long as Jones dominates in his current division. Dana White recently weighed in and said that Jones should be careful because heavyweight is a whole new world, the implication being that the heavyweight division is better than light heavyweight.
The old adage is that, "A good big man will always beat a good little man." That's not even remotely true because of all the variables that go into a fight. It brings to mind the saying, "That's why they play the game." Underdogs win all the time. On any given night, anyone can win. The other problem with just assuming that the heavier fighter will win is the size adage quoted above only applies to athletes of equal ability and skill.
It's true that being larger is an advantage, but it's only one of many advantages that can be gained. Generally larger fighters are stronger, but they are also slower. They also don't usually have good cardio. Size alone isn't an advantage if you don't know how to utilize it. Being strong also doesn't automatically grant you the ability to throw hard punches. If you know how to throw a punch you can knock anyone out. At the same time, if you don't know proper punching technique it doesn't matter how strong you are, you're not knocking people out.
The point I'm making is that Jon Jones could move to heavyweight if he wanted, and he'd grind up most of the guys in that division. Jon Jones would beat the piss out of almost all the UFC heavyweights. How many people out there think that Frank Mir would beat Jon Jones? Probably not that many if they've been paying attention, yet Mir is slated to fight for the UFC Heavyweight title next month. That tells you how weak the heavyweight division is compared to the light heavyweight division. Yes, Mir is a good fighter, but Jones is a great fighter. Mir is really good on the ground, but he'd have a hard time even getting the fight to the ground. Rashad Evans tried to take Jones down four times, and was unsuccessful every time. Rashad is a really good wrestler, when he fought at heavyweight he was able to take guys whenever he wanted. If he couldn't take Jones down, Mir would have a hard time as well.
I'm not suggesting every lighter fighter can beat a heavier fighter. However, there are certain fighters who transcend typical limitations. Jon Jones is one of those fighters. Guys like Jon Jones are able to do things that others can't. I've said for years that Anderson Silva could beat heavyweights, and I still believe that. Anderson Silva has superior technique. Physically, he's very good, but there's nothing there that jumps out and makes you step back. There's no area where he's head and shoulders above everyone else. The UFC is full of great athletes. Jon Jones has his incredible reach, that's huge; that's something that puts him above other fighters. However, he doesn't have the incredible technique that Silva has.
Indications are that Jones is advancing towards reaching that level, though. A lot of times, transcendent athletes struggle to achieve greatness without their natural ability. When the time comes that their natural ability isn't enough, because it's diminished with age or injury, they can't rely on technique and they fail. Mike Tyson is one of the most famous cases of this. Tyson was an average to below-average boxer, but he had amazing power and that aura of invincibility. It seems like Jones won't fail prey to this, though. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are examples of guys who had great natural ability, but worked on their technique so that when age or injury caught up with them, they were still able to perform at a high level.
I think Jon Jones will work on his technique and not just rely on natural ability. That's why I think that Jones will end up being as great as Anderson Silva, and probably even better. That's a long way off, though. I think that if Silva and Jones fought right now that Silva would win. That's not entirely fair, though, as Silva is a finished product. Silva has plateaued, while Jones is still on an upward curve.
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