Jon Jones continues to discuss the possibility of moving up to compete in the heavyweight division, but does it make sense for the UFC light heavyweight champion to head up to the land of the big boys?
At first glance, it would appear that Jones should be content on worrying about defending his light heavyweight crown. He has a match-up with former Olympian and undefeated fighter Daniel Cormier on the horizon at UFC 182. The two men have formed a seemingly genuine dislike for each other, highlighted by their infamous “off-air” comments and the staredown that turned into an all-out brawl. Whether real or fake, the tension has not only quickly escalated in terms of the back and forth between the two men, but it has also breathed new life into a rather stagnant division.
It’s for that reason that some fans believe Jones should leave the 205-pound division to face off with the UFC’s heavyweights. At light heavyweight, Jones has defeated everyone put in front of him. His only close call came in his fight against Alexander Gustafsson, who still fell to Jones by way of unanimous decision. The champ’s recent dismantling of highly touted Brazilian Glover Teixeira let everyone know just how far ahead Jones is in regards to the rest of the field. Should Jones emerge victorious against Cormier at UFC 182, there will only be one fight left for him in the division. That would be either a much-anticipated rematch with Gustafsson or a clash against the surging Anthony Johnson (Gustafsson and Johnson are set to fight each other in late January at UFC on Fox 14). Outside of those two men, the division is a virtual wasteland of guys who have either already lost to Jones or have no business being in the cage with the champ.
With little to no competition awaiting Jones at 205 pounds, now (or the near future) would seem to be the appropriate time for Jones to move up to the heavyweight division. Or so it would appear.
If Jones is still the reigning champion when he chooses to move on, the UFC should only be interested in pitting him against either Cain Velasquez or Fabricio Werdum. A title vs. title fight would be a huge boost to declining pay-per-view buys and would undoubtedly cement Jones’s place as the top MMA fighter of all time. On the other hand, it could result in Jones taking the loss and being left with the choice of climbing back up the heavyweight ladder or returning to the light heavyweight division. Both of those options present an unique problem.
Don’t let the chicken legs fool you. Jones is one of the biggest light heavyweights, in terms of length and size, on the UFC’s roster. While he wouldn’t have to make much of an adjustment to his body in order to compete at the heavyweight level, it wouldn’t be ideal for Jones to fluctuate between divisions. Georges St-Pierre has spoken before about the dangers of changing weight classes before, and those dangers are only magnified when it’s a 240-pound or larger man standing on the other side of the cage. But to be fair, Jones’s youth should allow him to grow into a larger frame and he doesn’t have anywhere near the wear and tear as the typical fighter at his level of the game.
While Jones would have to deal with the challenges of changing his diet, workout plans and strategy based upon changes in weight, he’d also have to deal with the one thing that nearly every heavyweight possesses that he does not. For all his dominance in the cage, Jones hasn’t displayed the true one-punch knockout power that even the lower-ranked heavyweights pack in their fists. Jones may be content with peppering his light heavyweight foes from a distance with a combination of kicks and straight punches, but it’s rarely a good idea to trade power for volume in the heavyweight division.
Jones moving up a weight class is anything from a sure thing. He’s flipped on the idea numerous times. He’s proven to both fans and UFC brass that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to do things his way, which means he’s not going to fall victim to UFC President Dana White getting on his case about making a decision. He won’t make the move unless it’s either A) for the chance at facing the heavyweight champion; or B) a permanent move when all options at light heavyweight are exhausted. Still in the prime of his career, Jones is in no rush to make career-defining decisions. He is still making good money each time he steps into the cage and doesn’t need to move to a new division to reinvigorate a declining career. The idea of Jones facing Velasquez or Werdum may sound good in theory, but MMA fans should take this talk with a grain of salt. How many times have fans been burned in the past by potential superfights?
Jones should also take note that many of the top heavyweights are either on the downslope of their careers or will be by the time he decides to move up. Velasquez is sidelined until next year, and if the reigning heavyweight champion cannot defeat Werdum, the top of the division becomes wide open to the point where the UFC may not even need Jones to slide up. Simply put, Jones is playing with house money and knows he doesn’t need to focus on anything else but the opponent in front of him.