Make no doubt about it, Jon Jones is going into his heavyweight challenge against Lyoto Machida as a heavy betting favorite because he has utterly dominated two challengers who Lyoto failed to finish. So why did the fans at the weigh ins boo Jon Jones? Was it because they were Canadians? Probably not. It might be that people are just looking to root for the underdog again. Maybe Jon Jones' is the Apollo Creed to Machida's Rocky. Yes, that generic comparison/analogy is worn out. However, there is some truth to it with Jones' reach and height advantage and other factors. After the jump I'll explain Machida's underdog appeal. I'm sure that many people have thought of this more but I'd like to add to and collect this story because Machida vs. Jones is a cultural and historical event of great significance. Yes, that's hyperbole but let's have fun. Crazy as it sounds, I'll convince my readers that Machida vs. Jones is more like Superman vs. Batman than it is Rocky vs. Apollo.
What is needed is a comparison of Jones' and Machida's fight etiquette and public personalities. Machida just has that underdog appeal like Rocky, David, and Mighty Mouse. He's smaller maybe quicker and generally has a more reserved personality than Jones. Jones sometimes comes off as a self-righteous, cocky for his age, over-grown boy scout, jerk. He snitched on friends/acquaintances for smoking weed once and did hunt down a robber before a UFC title fight. Jon Jones respects law and order. Think of how this contrasts with the criminal actions of Chael Sonnen
and Rampage Jackson. I won't even go there right now. Let us not forget that Jones has talked highly and respectfully of his opponents. He even seemed to hold back and pace himself in his fight with Shogun to show respect. It wasn't like Sakuraba spanking Royce Gracie
The Bible verse tattoo on Jones' chest means "through him all things are possible". Sure, Jones submits to a spiritual higher power. It's up for debate whether or not God or a higher power gifted Jones with the genetics to make him a dominant force. Jones might believe it. Let's not forget that Jones also has trained long, hard hours with high level trainers to win the belt. Americans and people in general just like a story about a man who works hard to accomplish great things. I think that people sometimes look at Jones' physical advantages and they feel like he was lucky enough to be born with physical talents he didn't really "earn" so to speak. MMA commentators and press talk about a fighters work-ethic and heart. We have yet to see Jones have these standards pushed upon him by other fighters. Will Machida bring out these qualities in Jon Jones if he has them?
Lyoto embodies how people see the world and hope for better things. There's a mystique about him too. Western culture has longingly looked to the orient for insights into how to be more spiritual, peaceful and efficient. His karate background continues to conjure images of the Karate Kid movies and scenes where underdog Daniel-San works hard with limited physical abilities to beat the bully bad guys of Cobra Kai. It gets confusing because Jon Jones isn't much like Cobra Kai and I don't think people would ever literally mistake Lyoto for Ralph Macchio.
In terms of ring etiquette, Jon Jones either doesn't realize his own strength or he could be perceived to be a big bully. His first fight saw him kicking an opponent after the ref stopped the match. That's ok everybody makes mistakes when they are new. I know I might sound like a 'pussy' or something when I say that Jones may have 'overdone it' so to speak with Matt Hamill. He owned him with an O Soto Gari and I think the refs stoppage of the 12 to 6 elbows might have stopped Hamill's face from getting broken in three places like Brandon Vera's was when he fought Jones. Yes, I know that fighters should go into the ring with a "kill or be killed" attitude if they want to win and that it's the refs job to prevent injury. I just think that if I were Jon Jones I may have regretted breaking Brandon's face instead of just submitting him. Then again, it could have cost him the fight. There's no easy answer to this but I actually respect the 12 to 6 elbow rules now despite what Joe Rogan says. I can't help but think of Emelianenko vs. Arlovski and Hunt vs. Tuscherer where the victor nonchalantly, just casually walked away from a fighter they knew they had beaten handily. I hope Jones learns this because he can hurt some people easily. The last thing MMA needs is a broadcast of a man taking a life shattering injury or death. Yes, I do think Jon Jones could kill with his bare hands if he wanted to easily. Like I said before, he has to know his own strength. Frank Shamrock retired Igor Zinoviev with a pile drive type slam that might be considered illegal. The truth is that the sport was young then and things happen in the heat of the moment. Fighters enter the ring with an unspoken acknowledgement that they won't pile drive each other's faces into the ground and break their necks. Besides, it's against the rules. Like fish-hooking and nut kicking.
In conclusion, let's laugh at how Jones vs. Machida is a little bit like Superman vs. Batman. Jon Jones was born with his super powers just like Superman was and they are both clean cut and respectful of authority. They're almost unambiguously "good". Goody two shoes as they say. Lyoto is not necessarily evil. Then again, Batman isn't either. Like Batman, Lyoto was born with less strength than Superman. Batman has his tricky gadgets while Lyoto has tricks of his own in the form of clever footwork and strikes like his crane kick used against Couture. Let's be excited for tonight's fight. Me, I'm rooting for Batman.