Before I start this article I need to disclose a few things.
1. I am a certified Jon Jones hater. I was a big fan of his early on and predicted he'd be champ before the Vera fight even. But I really do not enjoy Jon Jones outside of the cage. At all. Not even a little bit. This however does not make me the kind of guy who says things like "Jon Jones sucks!" or "He's just bigger than everyone else." I can separate Jon Jones the fighter from Jon Jones the person. One sucks the other is awesome!
2. Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter in MMA history thus far. If you want to argue that the history is not that long, that's a fair argument. But just because Jon Jones MAY be better than Anderson Silva right NOW, does not change that or make Anderson Silva any less great or anything like that.
3. This isn't a comparison between who is a better fighter historically. This is a breakdown of who is a better fighter right NOW in 2013. Not 2 years ago, not next year, right now.
Ok let's break this down!!!!
Anderson Silva is a striking artist and probably the best striker in MMA history and possibly in the history of any striking sport, put simply in a stand up fight, he has an advantage on any man alive. Jon Jones is a surprisingly good striker for how long he's been training. Let's look at how they compare in the main areas of the stand up fight.
Distance Control: Distance control is the key to successful striking. Anderson Silva has the longest reach in the Middleweight division at 77 inches and Jon Jones has the longest reach in the UFC at 84 and a half inches. But distance can be controlled in a variety of ways, including but not limited to footwork (specifically small steps to change the actual fighting distance leading to the ability to hit but not get hit), feints, striking rhythm (the pace at which you attack) and various tactics like pushing off or pulling into the clinch. The idea behind distance control, which I learned directly from Antoni Hardonk who learned it from Johan Voss is this; You want to be either too close or too far away from your opponent. Silva does a spectacular job of controlling distance using a very controlled rhythm (especially in the first round as he's sizing an opponent up) before exploding with spectacular counters (don't believe me, ask Forrest Griffin) He's also got the best Thai Plum in MMA for when guys get too close to him. Unfortunately for the Spider, Jon Jones controls distance better than any fighter I've ever seen. It's not just the reach either... It's the front push kicks, the side oblique kicks(which are illegal when thrown to the knee, as Jon Jones, likes to do) the complete use of his reach to keep his opponents halfway across the cage (as opposed to Stephan Struve who has an equal reach to Jones but is way too friendly in letting guys get close to him.) Like Floyd Mayweather, I can remember when Jon Jones has been hit semi hard (not even hard). It's happened twice in his career, once by Machida in the first round and once by Rashad in the third round of their fight. Not even Silva can say that.
Advantage: Jon Jones
Power: Anderson Silva appears to hit much harder(or more accurately) than any MMA fighter I've seen. When he connects flush guys go down every single time. Doesn't matter if it's a front kick to the face (Vitor Belfort), Straight Lefts from his southpaw stance (Leben), Or the single most perfectly timed switch knee ever thrown (Stephan Bonnar). Jon Jones does not seem to hit particularly hard. It's probably due to his arms being so long that he can't quite transfer power as easily as someone with shorter arms, he also tends to come wide with his punches which can help with placement around an opponent's guard but dissipates power. In fact you have to go back to his pre UFC days in World Championship Fighting 3 against Parker Porter to find him winning via Knockout with punches. Jones striking is not based on his power or accuracy and is more based on his distance control, variety of strikes, unpredictability and a willingness to throw a ton of kicks because of his wrestling base.
Advantage: Anderson Silva
Diversity: This is definitely the biggest strength of Jon Jones striking game. He throws a lot of crazy stuff, spinning elbows, flying knees, jump kicks, elbow jabs, and more. If a strike can be thrown, Jon Jones probably already has against the best competition in the world. Silva has a pretty diverse game as well but it's mostly your typical Muay Thai toolbox. He's a southpaw who can switch stances with the best of them (he actually was in an orthodox stance when he hit Bonnar with the switch knee, look it up, I'll wait) He did kill Tony Fryklund with that video game elbow and he stole Belfort's soul... well before that face kick. BUT... the face kick was the finisher, even though Vitor walked into that cage beaten. You won't see Silva throw spinning attacks or jumping attacks (at least not since he starched Carlos Netwon with a flying knee) as they are not the best idea and could leave him out of position (trust me I fell in love with the flying knee in training til I got rocked by a great counter cross). and Silva is NEVER out of position.
Advantage: Jon Jones
Clinch: Both of these guys are MONSTERS in the clinch. Anderson Silva is WAY stronger than he looks. I never really noticed it until the Bonnar fight when he literally blocks one of Bonnar's knees with his own arm using a single arm grip. And remember Bonnar was bigger and on steroids for that fight. You can also see it in his two maulings of Rich Franklin which if there was an MMA university would be taught as the textbook for clinch work. It is in no way hyperbole to say that NO ONE has used the clinch as devastatingly as Anderson Silva in the history of MMA. Jon Jones, uses his clinch to set up submissions more so than for striking. He's incredibly strong in the clinch and battered my hero Shogun Rua mercilessly from the position ,but he mostly looks for submissions and for someone who is so good with elbows he doesn't look to utilize those in the standing clinch as much as he does on the ground which I don't understand.
Advantage: Anderson Silva
Defense: This is by far the least close category in the entire breakdown. Silva's defense is NOT like Jon Jones'. Silva's head movement is spectacular, he routinely drops his hands and guys still can't hit him. There's just no words. You really have to watch it. The best examples are obviously the Griffin fight, the second Sonnen fight and the Yushin Okami fight. There are reasons why Silva is often compared to a matrix character. The only guy I've ever seen do similar things is Roy Jones Jr. Jon Jones' defense is good. Mostly because of his reach,use of distance control, and the fear his wrestling and takedowns put into his opponents. His defense is good for the same reasons GSP's defense is good. Guys are too scared of getting taken down, to really dig in and throw the kind of punches likely to hurt him. Everything that gets thrown at Jones is from a distance that he can strike from comfortably, while his opponents have to jump in (Shogun actually did leave his feet several times to attempt to hit Jones to no success). He has no head movement at all, and actually keeps his head quite still when throwing punches and kicks. His defense is more offensive using the aforementioned push and side kicks to keep guys out. He also does that SUPER obnoxious borderline illegal thing where he extends his open fingers towards guys faces to keep his distance. Basically threatening the eye poke if they come in. Shady, and one of the many reasons Jon Jones(the person) is the worst.
Big advantage: Silva
Ok now let's look at grappling
Takedowns: We'll start with the ability to take the fight to the floor. Jon Jones is obviously a great wrestler, but I would argue that when Silva actually wants to take the fight to the ground his trips and wrestling switches are pretty solid. Jones is not a particularly accomplished wrestler topping out at the Junior College level, but his MMA wrestling especially when combined with his size, reach and unpredictable striking is pretty spectacular. He can take guys down from the clinch with crazy throws like against Stephan Bonnar or he can shoot singles, or doubles like he did against Matt Hamill and Brandon Vera respectively. Silva used a wrestling switch to get out of trouble and ultimately finish Nate Marquardt (Who I could watch get knocked out all day BTW). He also used a brillant trip take-down against Bonnar before pushing him into the cage with uppercuts and landing the killer knee. Much like the Most interesting man in the world, Anderson Silva doesn't always try to take the fight to the ground but when he does he's surprisingly effective. Still...
Big advantage: Jon Jones
Takedown Defense: Jon Jones has NEVER been taken down in the UFC and by all accounts of my research has never been taken down in his MMA career. Anderson Silva's take-down defense gets a bad rap, but besides the first Chael fight and a few seconds of the Travis Lutter fight, he's never really been in trouble due to take-down defense and as we saw in the second Chael fight and the Bonnar fight, taking Anderson Silva down in 2013 is much harder than it used to be.
Advantage: Jon Jones
Submissions: This is where Jon Jones for all his hype is actually underrated. His submission game is top notch. In just 12 fights in the UFC he already has 5 submissions total and 2 STANDING submissions. He's submitted guys with Rear Naked Chokes, Guillotines, and Americanas. But before we move on I want to mention that some of these submissions specifically when he submitted Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida, were crazy. The power guillotine he used against Machida could not have been pulled off by ANY other fighter. And they list that submission against Bader as a Guillotine but in my re-watching of the fight last night it looks like some kinda hybrid guillotine/d'arce combo choke that looks fucking nasty. Anderson Silva has 3 submission wins in the UFC against Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, and Travis Lutter. However his most spectacular victory came by way of submission, so that should count for something.
Submission Defense: The only real chink in Jon Jones' armor thus far was his submission defense against Vitor Belfort. Now part of that was probably surprise that Vitor threw up that armbar, but it still looks like Jones is figuring out the submission defense game. Most of the time his top control, pressure and elbows is enough that opponents are so overwhelmed they can't even think of throwing up a submission lest they get their faces re-arranged like Hamill and Vera. Anderson Silva had a problem with submissions when he was in Pride, but I think that has more to do with one of them being a hail mary (Ryo Chonan) and the other being a consequence of Silva being WAY better in a cage than in a ring but that's a subject for another article.
Ground and Pound: Well this is awkward... Jon Jones has the best Ground and Pound ever. Anderson Silva doesn't really use ground and pound. I won't waste your time with any more in this section, plus I really hate praising Jones and declaring him the best at anything so excuse me while I puke...
Big Advantage: Jones
Intangibles: As we know from my last breakdown there are factors that are harder to measure, let's take a look at these.
Heart/Will/Killer Instinct/Whatever you wanna call it: Jon Jones did show the heart of a champion in fighting through that armbar and then eventually submitting Vitor but he honestly shouldn't have been in that position against a 35 year old middleweight. Silva fought through adversity not just in the both of the Chael fights (don;'t forget Chael blanketed him for the first round of fight # 2) but in the Dan Henderson fight as well where he lost the first round. You could even argue he was in trouble against Lutter and Marquardt. The problem with Anderson Silva is that bizarre three fight stretch against Thales Leites, Demian Maia, and Patrick Cote. While you can;t question his heart, you can question his motivation and his killer instinct which are things you can't really question about Jones. When Jon Jones gets in the cage he brings it every single time, and seems to prepare and take getting better every fight extremely seriously. For that reason
Size/Athleticism: Ok, Now I'll feed the trolls, who want to discredit Jones' skills and savant like learning of MMA and say he's just bigger than everyone else. Yes, Jon Jones is HUGE for LHW. He's listed at 6-4 but when he was standing next to Chael Sonnen (who may be shorter than his listed 6-1) he looked a good 6 inches taller than Chael. I believe that Jones has grown since being listed at 6-4 and that he's AT LEAST 6-5 or 6-6.His brothers are both professional defensive linemen in the NFL with his brother Arthur tipping the scales at 6'3 315ILBS. The dude comes from a line of large athletci dudes. Jones keeps talking about eventually moving to Heavyweight as he is still getting bigger. Silva has very good size for both the LHW and MW divisions but it's definitely not a dominant advantage as it is for Jones. Silva is a spectacular athlete with AMAZING reflexes, speed, and agility. However, I'd draw the line just short of giving him the kind of athleticism Jon Jones has. Let's just put it this way Anderson Silva doesn't have 2 brothers in the NFL. Jones has the type of athleticism that could have made him a professional football or basketball player. Silva doesn't.
Advantage: Jon Jones
Some Final Thoughts: I think that Anderson Silva is at the peak of his powers. I think he's in the same zone Michael Jordan was in during his 1998 season where both his physical skills and his mindset are peaking. He's also the greatest mixed Martial Artist we've seen thus far. The version of Silva we're getting right now is the best version of him we've seen. But here's the rub, it's still not enough. Right now I would favor Jon Jones in a fight against ANY man alive. Silva and Heavyweight monster Cain Velasquez included. And the scary part is, I think we've only seen about 75% of what he's going to be.
Final Tally: Jones 8-4.
As much as it pains me to admit, Jon Jones is the most dominant fighter right now. And before it's all said and done I believe he will go down as the most dominant MMA fighter we will ever see.
I'm now going to jump off my balcony...