I'm finishing up my day and waiting for what is supposed to be blazing fast technology to give me my outputs to work on over the weekend. So, I thought I would do a lighthearted fan post about Jon Jones' challengers in the future. We are going to see Jones face off against Rashad soon enough and I think he will prevail in that fight. After that, many of the LHW fighters in the UFC don't seem to match up well with Jones. Even Phil Davis gave us all some doubt this past weekend. I believe the challenge for Jones will come from Zuffa's now little adopted brother, Strikeforce. There are four men specifically who I think could give him trouble. Kind of like the legendary Four Horsemen. I am going to compare and contrast using one of the later iterations of the Horsemen (Flair, Arn, Malenko, and Benoit) with the Strikeforce four and we can all see what kind of shot they might have against the current phenom of the UFC.
Arn Anderson and Dan Henderson
Besides looking like they could be related, and since they both are from the Erson families that immigrated to the US in the late 1800's, they probably are, there is a ground in stone toughness these two men share. Dan Henderson is one of the elite few who have had such a long career and has never been knocked out or had the bout stopped by strikes. Ever. He has faced some of the hardest hitting fighters in MMA and not once did he succumb. Also, with Henderson's wrestling abilities, which are top notch, he would be able to work with Jones on the ground. The biggest challenge for Hendo would be the incredible reach advantage Jones would have over him. A 10" reach advantage would be too much to overcome for anyone. However, Arn was kind of like the meat tenderizer of the Four Horsemen. He would beat you up, wreck your spine, and leave you in bad shape for the next guy to come along. Henderson could certainly batter Jones if they worked up close. That right hand can be an equalizer against anyone.
Chris Benoit and Gegard Mousasi
Let's put the horrific tragedy of Chris Benoit aside and just look at style and technique. People who worked with Benoit would feel it for days after. He made the matches look real because he was beating the hell out of his opponents. Stiff is what the insiders would call it. What it means is when he hits you, he hits you. Some might recall the harrowing match in which he broke Sabu's neck. He earned his nickname, The Crippler. And he did it across the globe at a young age. Stoic, technically proficient, and bruising. As is Mousasi. We all sometimes forget that Mousasi is only 25 years old. Younger than Phil Davis. Yet he has a grizzled veteran's record of 30-3-1. His striking is among the best in the LHW division and it always amazes me how calm he is in the cage. True. He has been exposed to take downs by King Mo and that would spell tons of trouble against Jones if he hasn't improved. However, in the past year he has trained with the likes of GSP and has spent a camp with Dan Henderson's Team Quest, not to mention time with submission specialist Jacare Souza. He is no slouch when it comes to submissions either, learning from the once great submission specialist, Fedor. Eleven of his thirty wins have come by way of submission. He would be hard pressed to find victory on the ground but if Jones were to strike with him he could find himself in serious trouble.
Dean Malenko and Roger Gracie
Dean Malenko was technically one of the greatest to enter the squared circle. People around him found him to be obsessed with learning more about the trade he employed. He earned his nickname "The Man of 1,000 Holds" by being so versatile in the ring. Paul Heyman, an early follower of UFC gave Malenko a persona called "The Shooter" because of his skills and resemblance to Royce Gracie, when the early UFC fights were capturing so much attention. While Roger might not be a man of 1,000 holds, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu uses over 600 techniques. Roger is a master of all of them. It can be said of Roger that no one today is his equal on the ground, grappling. He is unrivaled in the ADCC world. Something else Roger has is height. He matches Jones' height at 6'4" tall. Of course, his stand up game is nowhere near Jones' today but he has shown great improvement between his last two bouts. If somehow this fight goes to the ground, I don't care how strong and "explosive" Jones is, he is going to tap.
Ric Flair and King Mo
Now, Ric Flair is a legend in his field. Mo has not gained that status yet. But, what both Mo and Flair share are the flamboyant personalities and excellent in ring/cage skills. If there is someone in MMA who could pull off that kind of limousine ridin', jet flyin', kiss stealin', wheelin' dealin' persona it is Mo. And like Flair, Mo has the abilities to back them up. We can all rave about Jones' wrestling abilities but when it comes right down to it there are few in MMA today who are more decorated as a wrestler than King Mo. His wrestling is elite, cream of the crop. Yes, he faltered against Feijao. That happens when you blow out your knee. If you look at the rest of his career what you see is a tremendous wrestler with, dare I say it, explosive power. If you look at the field of LHW's today, King Mo poses a huge challenge for Jones, one that he might not be able to overcome.
With the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce eventually these Four, the Strikeforce Four Horsemen, will make their way into the Octagon. Among them, one will topple the highly vaunted Jones. The clock has already begun ticking.