The UFC’s light heavyweight division has long been considered one of its best and most competitive divisions. Legendary fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, and Rampage Jackson set the bar high, and the division has since evolved with new contenders beginning to emerge.
For the last three years, Jon “Bones” Jones has ruled the light heavyweight division. He has also taken over the pound-for-pound rankings and solidified himself as the clear-cut No. 1 fighter in the world, if not of all-time.
With the exception of Jones’ UFC 165 title defense against Alexander Gustafsson, one may argue that the champ has had a relatively easy time keeping his belt by showing dominance to each contender he has faced. However, it looks as if 2015 will not be as easy a time for “Bones,” and some may predict next year will be the end of his era.
With an extremely tough test waiting in front of him in undefeated former Olympian Daniel Cormier and a potential rematch with the Swedish superstar waiting in the wings, Jones undoubtedly has his work cut out for him.
These circumstances now pose a question. Who will be the king of the light heavyweight division at the end of 2015?
Will Cormier, who many consider Jones’ toughest test to date, be able to dethrone the champ, or will Gustafsson finish the job if he gets his rematch?
Despite the challenges he is facing, I believe that the belt will remain around the waist of Team Jackson/Winkeljohn product Jones.
Jones will face his first challenge of the new year when he meets Cormier in the main event of January 3’s UFC 182. Cormier poses many interesting threats to Jones, specifically with his extensive wrestling background.
The champ has never faced a wrestler like Cormier, as “DC” is probably the best wrestler in all of MMA. If Gustafsson was able to get Jones down then Cormier should be able to as well. However, the difference here is Cormier may be able to keep Jones down as no other fighter has.
The former Olympian also trains at American Kickboxing Academy, and his striking has improved each time we’ve see him. Training alongside heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, we can also expect “DC” to come in shape and possibly be able to push the pace.
Although he may face some problems, I believe Jones will get the job done. The champion is one of the most well rounded fighters in the game and usually has an answer for everything.
I also think the champion’s reach advantage will work wonders for him in this fight. If he can use his huge advantage effectively, he may be able to keep Cormier out of his takedown range, which is the challenger’s strongest area.
I also think under the tutelage of highly touted trainer Greg Jackson, Jones will have a great gameplan coming into the fight and will be able to secure the pivotal win.
If the champion does indeed gets past Cormier, and Alexander Gustafsson gets past rumored opponent Rashad Evans, the stars could align for quite possibly the biggest rematch in UFC history.
“The Mauler” infamously took “Bones” five rounds last year in an extremely exciting bout and almost came away with the belt. However, in the end Jones prevailed and I think that will happen again if the two end up meeting next year.
The Swede clearly gave Jones many problems on the feet, and I see the rematch being very close as well. But the second time around, I think the champion will be able to adapt to Gustafsson’s strengths.
In my opinion, Jones underestimated Gustafsson the first time. He underestimated how tough it would be to fight someone with a similar reach advantage him. He also underestimated the striking, the heart, and overall talent of “The Mauler”. I don’t see that happening again. I think Jones will be able to fix his flaws and get the job done in what will be a rematch for the ages.
So there is my opinion, by the end of next year Jon Jones will still sit atop the light heavyweight throne, as well as at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings, after having solidified himself as a true champion and the best fighter in MMA right now.
Do you agree? If not, whom do you predict will wear UFC 205-pound gold at the end of next year?