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Opening Round: Jones-ing for a Challenge

This past Saturday night, Jon Jones became the first UFC light heavyweight title-holder to successfully defend his belt more than a single time since Chuck Liddell did so in 2006. And, also like “The Iceman” of old, in the process Jones has established himself as such a dominant champion the pool of believable contenders continues to diminish with each passing event.

However, the similarities between the two talented 205ers stop there, because when it comes to overall ability and potential there’s little question “Bones” is light-years ahead of the legendary Liddell. In reality, Jones is arguably a better fighter at 24 than Liddell ever was in his Hall of Fame career. Blasphemy to some, perhaps, but he owns stoppages against Quinton Jackson and Mauricio Rua (both of whom finished Liddell), is far more versatile than having to rely on one big strike, and doesn’t come close to possessing as many technical deficiencies.

That being said, after his destruction of Lyoto Machida at UFC 140, Jones only appears to have two real challenges on the horizon in the form of Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson. Another could be Phil Davis if the Penn State alum can run his undefeated record to double-digits against Evans next month on FOX. However, how stiff of a test does each actually pose? Are we talking quantum mechanics or kindergarten math?

Evans – Perhaps the toughest draw in the group, as he’s not only familiar with some of Jones’ offerings based on their time training together but has the potential to get into his former teammate’s head given their personal history. He’s also a solid wrestler with fast hands and was in the best shape of his career against Tito Ortiz at UFC 133. On the flipside, he’s shown his lights can be dimmed or even turned out completely if the right sequence lands. And, like many of his peers, Evans gives up a huge amount of reach so closing distance will be risky yet necessary. In the end likely a fight Jones still wins.

Henderson – Henderson’s power is well-documented and the key to victory for him. Then again, his reliance on the “H-Bomb” is no secret and as an admitted tape-junkie there’s no doubt Jones will have his tendencies fully scouted. Jones will also be ready to take the bout into deep waters and Henderson has shown lackluster conditioning as of late, something to be expected for a 41-year old with nearly fifteen years under his belt. Henderson is also a bit slow, opting to plod forward rather than actively choose angles. In the end a fight Jones almost definitely wins.

Davis – Davis is an intriguing possibility if considering he would have beaten Evans to earn a title-shot. With freakishly long arms himself (79 inch reach for those wondering compared to Jones’ 84.5), Davis could have the right combination of cardio, wrestling, athleticism, and multi-tiered striking to pull off an upset. His lack of overall in-ring appearances would likely help as well based on a lack of available footage to scout. In the end an interesting thought but still a probable victory for Jones who is better at putting his skills together and less reliant on pure wrestling.

And there you have it. Barring a one-punch knockout scenario, always a possibility at any level of MMA, it truly seems as though Jones has the ever-stacked light heavyweight division on lockdown. He’s faced three wildly different styles in a row, all from former UFC champions, and put each away with relative ease. There’s no reason to think he won’t do the same against the above trio. And, if he does, he will not only be an undisputed UFC champion but possibly the best 205-pound fighter in the sport’s short history with the probability of another ten years to go before hanging his gloves up.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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