The Jon "Bones" Jones truth and hype.

At UFC 97: St. Pierre vs Penn 2, Jon Jones delivered one of the most impressive strikes in MMA history. A spinning elbow caught a veteran by surprise and made an arena filled with fans (and me at a bar hundreds of miles away) jump out of their seats and yell “DAMN!”.

Now while I did enjoy the decision victory for the young Jon Jones, I began to contemplate the man’s future in the Light-Heavyweight division. So as soon as I arrived home, I went straight for my laptop and went on a search frenzy for every possible Jon Jones bout available at 1am. Much to my surprise, I found four bouts (his UFC debut against Andre Gusmao, the Stephan Bonnar fight I had watched earlier and two pre-UFC bouts).

Within two hours of watching the fights, I had come to the realization that I had become a Jon Jones fan but also a realist. Afterall, how could anyone not like the young lion? The man brought excitement to a fight. And yet, he also would bring the obnoxious fans and myths (as I would soon find out).

After Jon Jones dominated and submitted Ryan Bader at UFC 126, the hype around the young fighter had grown to unrealistic levels (not expectations as a title holder but as an unstoppable force – a force to run right through the entire division with ease). That hype level would only get worse as soon as Joe Rogan announced that Jon Jones would get the spot to replace the injuried Rashad Evans in a title bout. The comments made around me were uneducated but not asinine. That is until I stumbled upon an article on the internet two days later. An article that presented the case that Jon Jones was favorite and Shogun Rua was the underdog. Although the article highlighted that Jones was the favorite merely because of his wrestling and reach, it was the comments made from fellow fans and writers that ruined it.

Fans are entitled to their own opinion but when things get out of control with outrageous claims, then it becomes an issue. Like a virus, these comments have made their way to every article involving Jon Jones across the nation. These comments are what I consider to be the mythology of Jon Jones. Unlike Fedor’s adoring fans, ‘The Last Emperor’ established an image from a decade of invincibility and championship gold… while Jones has only captured his biggest win over a TUF graduate in Ryan Bader just recently. A fighter, who in my opinion, was wrongfully placed in the top ten rankings (even with a win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira).

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So for this article, I dedicated a large amount of my time analyzing every Jon Jones fight possibly known to man (within the UFC and whatever was available outside the organization) to hopefully end some of the myths created by overly excited fans and reveal what’s truly there.

Striking: I have heard it all when it comes to Jones’ stand up. Unconventional, unorthodox, outstanding, Anderson Silva 2.0, etc. Yet, I can’t help but wonder at what Joe Rogan called his style and skillset in his UFC debut (redimentary). In his fight with Gusmao, Jones failed to land more than half of his strikes which resulted in him gassing out by the second round. Jon, in the end, won the decision victory only because he relied on his wrestling to score points. Next we move on to the Stephan Bonnar fight. The only thing people seem to remember about that fight is the spinning elbow that caught Bonnar in the back of the head. But what people fail to remember is that Jones wore down (again) because of the amount of strikes missed. Jon, once more, reverted back to his wrestling and earned another decision victory. In perhaps one of most stunning fights in his young career against Jake “The Blanket” O’Brien, Jon was completely out-boxed by the wrestler in the entire first round. Jones was flustered and confused and failed to find his range. His only offense was found in leg kicks. So when the second round came around, Jones went back to his bread and butter (his wrestling) and submitted O’Brien in the second round. Against Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko, Jon appeared to fight the smarter fight but still left more unanswered questions than before. Although Vera had a small percentage in beating Jones, Brandon was given the striking advantage by the experts and rightfully so, in my opinion. Instead of seeing a stand up war, Jones went for the takedown and pummeled Vera into La-La Land. And finally, in his bout against Bader, Jones showed improvement in the stand up department but, unfortunately, also displayed looping punches and reckless abandonment once more – proving that while Jones is athletic and creative in distributing his strikes, he is not an elite striker. Therefore, Jones does not have the advantage in this department.

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Ground Game: Jones has incredible wrestling and a good base (so far from what I’ve seen) but how is his submission defense? Judging from how long he has been training at Greg Jackson‘s camp and how long he has been in MMA, I’m afraid the answer is not great. He managed to defend Ryan Bader‘s submission attempts but at same time we have to consider that Bader was never in a dominant position nor does he possess a high level submission game like Rua’s. Shogun’s strongest point is actually his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and he is a real danger from the guard position. Here’s another little fun fact about Mauricio, his speciality are sweeps and leglocks (a wrestler’s worst nightmare). Now how much experience does Jon have when encountering elite grapplers? The answer is zero.

Fighter’s IQ: Yes, I have even seen articles and comments stating that Jones’ intelligence or Fighter’s IQ level is quite high. In fact, it is viewed as an advantage over Rua in their match up. Now I am not calling Jones a ‘caveman’ but he is not, nor has he ever been, a thinking/strategic fighter. The proof lies in his only loss against Matt Hamill. In a bout where Jones let his emotions get the better of his logic. He utilized the illegal 12-to-6 elbows onto his opponent in full mount (not once, not twice but three times). It resulted in a DQ win for the destroyed Hamill. Another example of Jones not being strategic is, of course, the usage of his gas tank and strikes. It is evident by now that Jones has trouble conserving some of his energy (a deadly mistake to make if going against the elite in the division). Like I stated above, Jones has recently been fighting smarter (Vera-Matyushenko) but keep in mind, Jones has a long history of getting drawn into stand up wars and wearing down. Jones’ bread and butter is his Wrestling and Ground-&-Pound but will he be able to stick to his gameplan?

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In summary, here are the facts involving Jon Jones and his skillset. For one, he is a great wrestler with some knowledge in the submission game but inexperienced against grapplers. Second, he is athletic, flashy and creative when coming to his strikes. In addition, he has above average knock out power and his elbows (in which loves to use for Ground-and-Pound) are devastating but his striking is overrated and he has yet to go to war with an elite striker. And third, he has never gone past three rounds in the octagon and when he has gone to a decision, he is always beyond depletion and exhaustion.

So, have the fans created a fighter that can live up to expectations and to the hype? Or have they created a myth?