Jon Jones impressed me tonight. He took apart a top wrestler in Vladimir Matyushenko, manhandling him and beating him like a rented mule. It was like a man toying with a child-a man with an 84 inch reach and incredible speed and strength.
Jones has beaten two failed prospects (Brandon Vera and Stephan Bonnar) a journeyman (Matt Hamill) and an aged contender (Matyushenko). Now it's time for the top prospect to get famous-and that's not going to happen fighting Jason Brillz or Thiago Silva. Jones has been given a steady build, slowly making his way up to the top of the ladder. There is only one opponent that makes sense to help further propel Jones to superstardom: Chuck Liddell.
It's a matchup that would be obvious in boxing. We've seen it time and again, often with the biggest names in the entire sport. Oscar De La Hoya became one of the most polarizing fighters in history by whipping the aging legend Julio Cesar Chavez. Mike Tyson won over critics and solidified his status by beating back Larry Holmes, who was dragged kicking and screaming out of a lounge chair in Easton, Pennsylvania to fight the young star. Holmes wanted no part of Tyson. Don King and a bag of cash changed his mind:
I knew that I couldn't beat Mike Tyson. But again ... Don King calls. I was off two years with my band, traveling around with Kool and the Gang, the Temptations, singing ding ding ding, you know?
And drinking them -- Budweisers and stuff like that. And a knock on the door, Don King, three in the morning. 'Larry, open the door.' I said, 'Well, what are you doing, man?'
King said, 'I want you to fight Mike Tyson.' I said, 'You must be crazy. I can't beat Mike Tyson. I ain't did nothing for two years.' King said, 'It's three and a half million dollars.' I said, 'Well, come on in.'
He said, 'But you got two months to get ready for the fight.' I have two months? I said, 'Man, two months?' He said, 'Well, you have three and a half million.' And I said, 'I can't beat Mike Tyson in two months, man.' King 'Here is 500,000 cash.' I said, 'OK.'
That's the role of the former champion. I think we all know a truth that Dana White is still denying-Chuck Liddell won't leave gracefully. He's going to have to be beaten out of the sport. Why waste that opportunity on a used up Rich Franklin? And why risk your stellar young prospect against a tough unknown like Silva?
Top prospect and has-been champion. It's a proven matchup, one that has turned promising young boxing stars into box office attractions. And if a miracle happens you can immediately insert Liddell into a title fight in a real life Rocky Balboa story. Dana should put his feelings aside and make this fight. It's what Liddell needs to move on. It's what Jones needs to be a star.