Two down, one to go.
The evolution of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones continued on Saturday night, but it had little too do with his second round submission victory over Lyoto ‘The Dragon” Machida in the main event of UFC 140 in Toronto. Nor did it with the way Jones finished the fight, putting Machida to sleep after tagging him with a left hand. It did not even matter that Jones lost a round.
What did matter is Jones took a punch and recovered quickly.
Throughout his dominating run to and defense of the UFC title, Jones had yet to ever be in danger during a fight. He had gone completely unscathed in battles with Rampage Jackson, Shogun, Brandon Vera and Ryan Bader. For Jones to be visibly hurt by three different Machida counters and still remain composed enough to finish the fight a round later marks an incredible growth in his young career.
That quality may have been manufactured by the media, but in a fight its true. When analyzing and breaking down fights, there is consistent talk about a fighters chin. Notables such as Jason Miller, Chris Leben and Junior dos Santos are known for their ability to take a shot and keep coming. The opposite is said about Rashad Evans, Brock Lesnar and Allistair Overeem. Though not necessarily a skill, it is a contributing factor to success and failure in MMA For you to be a dominant champion in the UFC, you must show ability to take a punch. Anderson Silva has a great chin. He is a dominant champion.
Step one in Jone’s evolution as champion was his mental capabilities. There is no doubt his physical gifts allowed him to control where most of his fights went. Mentally, where he went during the buildup to a fight was the first hurdle.
Rampage Jackson tested that during Jones 1st title defense. It did not work, as Jones became the first man in Jackson’s UFC career to finish him.
The last element of Jones career awaits him in his next title defense, a challenge from a top-level wrestler.
I do not want to argue the fundamental differences between the yet unnamed challenger, the Greco-Roman style of Dan Henderson or the collegiate wrestling of Rashad Evans and Phil Davis is enough for me to warrant if Jones can complete his growth.
Wrestling has become the fundamental base for MMA. In the UFC, five of the current titleholders have a wrestling background. Yes, Jones background is in wrestling too, but his experience fails in comparison to that of Henderson, Evans or Davis.
If any of the three can take the fight to the ground, Jones strengths become nullified. If he can survive the takedown attempts of his challenger and keep the fight in the center of the Octagon, Jones would then prove to me he is ready for the next step.
We’ll have to wait four months for the answer, as Jones will get time off after four fights this year. Evans meets Davis in the main event of UFC on Fox 2 on January 28th while Henderson has yet to learn of his next opponent.
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