At the beginning of 2008, the majority of MMA fans following the sport had never heard of Jon Jones. In fact, unless you grew up in the Endicott, NY area or had followed the reign of Iowa Central Community College's success in the Junior College wrestling circuit, Jon Jones was merely a name of another newcomer to the fast-growing sport of MMA. Fast foward to a little over a year since Jon Jones made his MMA debut, he's now scheduled to battle it out once again in MMA's elite organization known as the UFC for the third time.
Jones has an impressive story when it comes to his meteoric rise to the top. Back in April of 2008, he made his MMA debut in a small regional promotion in the Boston area. Seven days later, he battled it out in the cage once again in Atlantic City for his second win, and won a third matchup only six days later in another small-time promotion in the Boston area. In only 13 days, Jones had went from a debut fighter to a 3-0 wrecking machine.
In only 4 months actually competing professionally, Jones had made his way to the big leagues as if he were a prodigy child entering college at age 12. Relatively unknown to anybody in the MMA community, Jones had managed to destroy six opponents and grab the attention of the UFC. On August 9th at the age of 21, Jones entered the Octagon at UFC 87 against Brazilian fighter Andre Gusmao.
In two fights in the UFC, Jon Jones has turned heads countless times. He has impressive power, outstanding Greco-Roman wrestling skills, and his unorthodox striking techniques have caught opponents completely off guard at times. Mixing in spinning elbows and fists while moving out of the clinch and during exchanges has been a trademark of Jones' wild stand-up style, but he's also been impressive in leveraging his power to throw opponents to the floor.
UFC 100 will see Jones try to make another statement to the UFC's light heavyweight division. He's been matched up with smothering former UFC heavyweight fighter Jake O'Brien, who recently defeated Christian Wellisch at UFC 94 via split decision. Jones will likely only have one true challenge in this matchup in that he'll need to work to stuff O'Brien's takedowns to keep away from what many fans consider a "lay n' pray" style that O'Brien uses to win matchups.
I fully expect Jones to pull out the win on Saturday night as he has the power, speed, unorthodox striking, and wrestling to defeat O'Brien. There is, however, one problem I'd like for the UFC to try to address in Jon Jones... his conditioning. In both the Andre Gusmao and Stephan Bonnar fights, it was evident that Jones was tiring in the late second and third rounds of those matchups. He had, however, done so much damage early that it was easy for the judges to score it for Jones in both the first two rounds of those matchups, but a more well-rounded opponent who is very good in most areas of his own skill set could give Jones some big problems in the latter rounds. It might be a motivating factor to give Jones a matchup in which he knows that conditioning will need extra focus.
Jones' rise into the top promotion in MMA in only six months is unheard of in this era of the sport. With fighters evolving their games to be very well-rounded, it's a rare sight to see a guy like Jones propel into the UFC and win fights in impressive fashion. We can say that Jones has had the training in the wrestling department as he did wrestle at Iowa Central with a guy by the name of Cain Velasquez, but it's an even scarier thought to imagine what Jones could become with better conditioning and a more structured skill set. He could truly be the future of MMA.
photos via ufc.com
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