UFC 239: Is Jones finally focused on greatness?
It was only a few months ago when Jon Jones’ transition to heavyweight was beginning to look rather imminent. Fast forward to international fight week — the possibility of this move in the near future is looking a bit more bleak.
With the UFC returning to its usual stomping grounds in Las Vegas this weekend — set to be headlined by non-other than Sin City’s biggest showman, “Bones” Jones himself — the reigning champ has discovered a fresh motivator that is set to keep him at 205 for at least a little longer.
In the UFC’s YouTube embedded series, Jones claimed that right now, his biggest goal is for his daughters to be able to say that their father was a 20-time world champion.
So, with Jones’ world championship count currently at 12, and the heavyweight division looking appealing only for a big money super fight, it would appear as though Jones is planning on reigning over the light heavyweight division for the foreseeable future.
Coincidentally, the UFC’s light heavyweight division continues to be injected with young, hungry up and coming fighters in recent months, and should Jones decide to remain at 205, he will certainly have his hands full.
First up: Thiago “Marreta” Santos.
Jones will step into the Vegas Octagon for the eighth time on Saturday night, and Santos’ vicious punching power makes him an opponent not to be overlooked.
Although perhaps not as skilled of a boxer as Gustafsson, and also not as big, Santos is arguably the hardest hitting opponent that Jones will have had to face in recent years, if not ever.
Of course, on paper, anything other than a Jones victory seems very unlikely.
Jones boasts a significant size advantage, including a reach longer by eight and a half inches. With that length advantage also comes the fact that the reigning champ is one of the best ever at distance fighting. Jones’ jab and the consistent use of his signature leg kicks make it near impossible for opponents to get close enough to cause any serious damage.
But, there are instances in the fight business where no matter how durable your chin may be, the slightest lapse in concentration can leave you on the canvas with the lights out. Going up against a fighter of Santos’ knockout power would certainly class in that category.
In a division now stacked with prospects, Santos got his title shot pretty quickly. The Brazilian made his light heavyweight debut in September of last year. Three knockout wins later, he gets his opportunity to dethrone one of the all-time greats.
Santos particularly impressed in his last outing against Jan Blachowicz, showing that he is more than a swing for the fences and hope for the knockout kind of fighter. “Marreta,” which means the hammer, showed plenty of composure against a dangerous opponent, and pulled the trigger when the time was right to secure the victory.
Being able to stick to the game plan and wait for his opening is good news for Santos and his team, ahead of a fight that is likely to require the Brazilian to fight smart, and wait for a window of opportunity to pounce on the champion.
The bad news is that the manner in which Jones defeated Anthony Smith earlier this year was met with some criticism — meaning the man that has virtually nothing else left to prove inside the Octagon may be out to silence his critics.
It also seems as though Jones’ head is finally screwed on straight. At last, greatness appears to be the only thing on his mind, and numerous UFC all-time records that would significantly strengthen his case in the “G.O.A.T” conversation are waiting to be broken.
Sports journalist currently based in CA, USA.