With all the news surrounding Jon Jones and his recent run-in with the law (yet again), it seemed plausible that a rematch with Daniel Cormier wouldn’t come to fruition. The scenario everyone pictured had Jones scrapped because of his legal troubles, but in a twist out of left field, it was days later that an injured Cormier pulled out the battle to settle the dispute about who is truly the light heavyweight king.
Now, Ovince Saint Preux steps in to face Jones. When it was announced that OSP would fight Jones for the interim light heavyweight belt, the crowd went mild. When fans think of light heavyweight title challengers, the names that come to mind include Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. OSP? Not so much.
This is something of a letdown for fans — though not as much as the headliner of UFC 200, but that’s a different topic for a different day. It isn’t the most competitive fight. Jones seemingly has an advantage anywhere the contest takes place. OSP’s best chance comes in landing the knockout blow, similar to the finish in his victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Outside of a flash knockout, there really isn’t much stock to put in OSP’s chances for a victory. This fight could be extremely one-sided. However, despite the collective groan of disappointment from fans, the Jones-OSP fight makes sense on a certain level.
We can already rule out the aforementioned Gustafsson and Rumble as replacement opponents for Jones. The Swede is coming off two straight losses, including one for the title. Meanwhile, Rumble is currently sidelined — if Johnson was available, the UFC would have made that fight.
Who else, outside of Gustafsson and Johnson, would fans want to see face Jones?
Glover Teixeira, another highly ranked light heavyweight, is locked in for a fight against Rashad Evans. He has already lost once to Jones, too.
The only other fighter ranked ahead of OSP is Ryan Bader, another fighter who failed to beat Jones when the two met. If Bader had won his last fight, then there would be an argument there. Instead, Bader lost to the aforementioned Johnson. The loss, coupled with a prior defeat at the hands of Jones, makes it easy to build a case against Bader.
This brings us back to OSP. He might be the easiest fight to make to gives Jones a warm-up bout and earn a title while waiting for Cormier to heal up. Then, a second fight with Cormier is all the more tantalizing.
In reality, though, what light heavyweight wouldn’t be an opponent who is simply being fed to Jones? Before he was stripped of his crown, Jones made the 205-pound division look relatively thin in his time as champion. There wasn’t a light heavyweight who could give him a run for his money. Only Gustafsson really came close.
We can’t just discount OSP, though. This is MMA, after all, and crazy things have happened in the sport. Any fighter can win or lose at any moment. There isn’t anything guaranteed in any sport, let alone MMA. Jones has the advantage everywhere, but fights aren’t won on paper or in preview articles. Fights are won by the blood, sweat and tears that are shed in the cage.
It’s ultimately up to the fighters to prove the analysts, stats and everybody else right — or wrong. Don’t look at this fight as a letdown. Instead, look at it as the best possible option to create a bigger fight between Jones and Cormier. Everybody likes a good champion-vs.-champion fight, and the big rivalry between Jones and Cormier will only add fuel to the fire. OSP will only help move the story along.