Drug test failings, out of fight antics and an unfavorable personality aside, Jon Jones is undoubtedly the best fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon. His records only blemish a DQ call early in his career.
For all intents and purposes, he is unbeaten. At light heavyweight he will remain unbeaten. Jones is too big, long, powerful and too talented. He has shown his level to come off the back of such a long lay off and make easy work of two top contenders in Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Smith.
With a move to Heavyweight seeming an inevitable step for Jones, it’s important to take stock of who will challenge him and consider how he will deal with the jump up to compete with the giants of MMA.
Some mouth-watering match-ups await Jones, lets take a look at them.
A Warm Up
The former Heavyweight king, Cain Velasquez seems like a natural test to introduce Jon Jones to Heavyweight. No longer the fighter he once was after significant injury lay offs, but still a tough night’s work for anyone, especially fighters such as Jones who aren’t known for that one punch KO power.
Such an intriguing fight for many reasons. The wrestling exchanges will be an amazing watch as Jones can no longer use size to bully in the exchanges, he will now be competing with guys his own size or bigger an interesting prospect for fight fans. A rivalry with team AKA will also provide the build up that pushes this fight to the top of many.
A must make fight, provided Cain Velasquez is able to get himself fit and healthy. His coach Javier Mendez suggested a mid-2020 return from his most recent injury which gives Jones just enough time to clean up at light heavyweight.
Another potential fight to introduce Jones to the ranks of heavyweight is Derrick Lewis. “The Black Beast” is riding a two-fight losing streak but is more popular with fight fans. His hilarious in-Octagon interviews, social media game, and fun fight style have him as a fighter whose popularity far outreaches his talent.
Jones may want to test the waters at heavyweight before going in with the elite, should he choose to do this Lewis may well get the call. With his size and power, he certainly presents a peak into what is to be expected for Jones against the big boys.
Heavyweight whilst not the most stacked division in MMA, still has several elite level fighters hot on the tails of current champion Daniel Cormier. By the time Jones makes the leap to heavyweight, its entirely possible one of these men could hold the belt.
Francis Ngannou is simply a scary dude. He can turn anyone’s lights off with one shot, Jon Jones included. A confidence blip apparently long forgotten as he has starched three top contenders in a row and now is on the brink of another title shot.
The bogeyman of the heavyweight division, Jones would be smart to avoid Ngannou for as long as possible. Whilst Jones has shown a good chin throughout his career, he has never faced a KO artist like Ngannou.
A clear hole in the game of Ngannou is his wrestling, as exploited by Stipe Miocic. Jones will be confident he can utilize his high-level grappling and turn in a dominant performance against a beast of an opponent.
Some of the more hardcore fans might not like to hear me put Brock Lesnar among these contenders but the facts are he simply must be in the conversation. The former UFC champion and current pro-wrestler has mass market appeal and certainly would be the preferred financial option for Jon Jones.
Despite the failure of most recent return talks you can never fully write off Lesnar’s potential return to fighting. Whilst it makes money it makes sense and Jon Jones vs Brock Lesnar is perhaps the biggest money fight in the sport right now.
At 6’3, cutting down to 265-pounds, Lesnar is a big old handful for anyone at heavyweight, never mind a guy moving up. Jones will be confident of exploiting Lesnar’s striking flaws whilst stifling the wrestling attacks of his opponent in what would be the most epic of events.
Stipe Miocic made history during his reign as UFC heavyweight champion with three successful defenses of his title. Since dropping his strap, we have saw Miocic incessantly campaign for a rematch and he’s finally got it.
He provides an interesting style match-up for Jones, with impressive wrestling and high-level boxing he certainly presents a considerable task for anyone.
Jones would have his hands full with Stipe, one of the best to ever do it at heavyweight and he may just be the champion by the time this year is done.
The biggest and in my opinion most likely fight for Jon Jones at heavyweight is Daniel Cormier, the current heavyweight king and long-time nemesis of Jones.
If the champion is 5’11 and you’ve already beat him twice, why would Jones bother warming up against the giants mentioned throughout this article, when he can go straight for the gold, make tens of millions and put another one over on someone he despises?
Cormier is a whole different fighter at heavyweight and Jones is aware of that, hence his hesitation to step up. The cut to 205-pounds did more harm than good, despite appearing aesthetically more pleasing. Cormier’s power was diminished in comparison to the Cormier we see at heavyweight.
Without the draining of his body pre-fight, he packs a hell of a punch, just ask Stipe Miocic. Undefeated at heavyweight, he’s going to take some stopping and Jon Jones may the only man capable of doing so.
Now 40 years of age, there is a time limit on this fight for Daniel Cormier. He’ll rematch Miocic and will be hopeful of a repeat result. Should he be successful its becoming a case of now or never for this hellacious heavyweight scrap.
Plenty of options await Jon Jones at heavyweight, but for now he’s got Thiago Santos standing in his way at 205lbs . The two men throw down this weekend at UFC 239.
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The Scrap’s Jordan Ellis of Liverpool, UK is a lifelong fight fan and aspiring writer. Covering all things MMA and Boxing, you can follow him on Twitter (@JordanEllisUK) for daily fight news and content.