Three Fighters Who Can Beat Jon Jones
byMichael Roberts May 03, 2012 at 3:00PM | Views: 2,613
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones became the youngest champ in UFC history when he won the belt in March 2011 at just 23 years of age. After three successful title defenses, the New York native only trails Anderson Silva, and on some lists Georges St-Pierre, as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Many are clamoring for Jones to move up a weight class and fight at heavyweight. But slow down a bit, Jones has only been fighting for four years. Seriously, four years. In that time he's entered the UFC, captured a world title and defeated four former champions. Talented? Unquestionably. The greatest fighter in MMA history? That remains to be seen. It's hard to oversell Jones' capabilities and potential, but let's take the foot off the gas for a second and dig into three fighters who just might have his kryptonite. Don't forget to catch Jon Jones live in-studio tonight on Spike's MMA Uncensored Live at 11/10c.
Dan Henderson: Next in line for a crack at Jones' title is the legend, Dan Henderson. When "Hendo" made his pro MMA debut, Jones wasn't even 10 years old. Henderson, now a battle-tested 41 years old, has few advantages over Jones on paper. He's slower, less athletic, has questionable cardio and gives up more than a foot of reach, which makes it tricky for Henderson to utilize his best asset: his wrestling. So how exactly can the former PRIDE and Strikeforce champ win this? Quite simply: the H-Bomb; the great equalizer. If Henderson's right hand meets your chin, the lights go off. No gimmicks, just ask Michael Bisping. If you manage to survive the initial barrage, you're greeted with some of the most ferocious ground and pound in the sport. This style won Henderson his last three bouts in Strikeforce, including a KO of heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko. Even if "Hendo" only has a puncher's chance against Jones, it's still a chance. And hey, that's all Matt Serra needed against GSP, right?
Alexander Gustafsson: The up and coming Swede may be the last real hope in the current mix at 205 to dethrone Jones, but his best chance isn't right this second. Thankfully, the 25-year-old striker has time on his side, as he's only months older than Jones. While his wrestling is still several levels beneath that of Jones, Gustafsson's frame fits his boxing-centric style perfectly. Gustafsson stands 6'5", which means Jones won't tower over him. "The Mauler" also has proven power in his hands, scoring finishes in five of his six UFC wins, including TKOs of Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko. While he, like everyone else, will give up reach to Jones, Gustafsson's footwork and speed gives him a chance to get inside and connect. Training with All-American wrestler Phil Davis, the lone man to defeat him, will certainly help Gustafsson round out his ground game. If his overall progression keeps pace, he'd be a formidable task for Jones in the near future.
Junior Dos Santos: Don't call it a cop out. Sure they're separated by a weight class, and no, Jones shouldn't move up for this fight any time in the next year, but Junior dos Santos has the best chance of anyone at heavyweight to beat Jones. Of course that's easy to say with him sporting gold around his waist, but belt or no belt the Brazilian is a stylistic nightmare for Jones; if there is a such thing. He has a competent sprawl and scramble, as displayed against Gabriel Gonzaga and Shane Carwin, and allegedly dangerous jit-jitsu from his time training with the Nogueira brothers. Allegedly is a key word, however, as his hands end fights so quickly fans have only seen glimpses of his ground game. One of the best boxers in the sport, dos Santos is consistently aggressive without becoming reckless, and possesses a natural killer instinct that's been evident since he blitzed Fabricio Werdum in his UFC debut. If the heavyweight champ and Jones meet down the road, dos Santos' powerful and accurate punches could give Jones a rude welcoming to the heavyweight division.
Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/ Zuffa LLC/ Getty Images