UFC 159 Jones vs Sonnen: Sunday Perspective

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It was a night of oddities and horrors for the UFC as Jon Jones defended his UFC Light Heavyweight title only to then discover he had suffered a horrific toe injury during the fight.

The main event of UFC 159 between the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and former Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen turned out to be just as non-competitive as most fans and media expected it to be. Jones was able to take Sonnen down nearly at will and then once on the ground Sonnen has basically no answer for the elbows of Jones.

But that was not the story of the night. It was the gruesome injuries that marred this card, culminating the horrific toe injury suffered by Jones that stole the spotlight. For those that haven't seen, it appears that Jones big toe on his left foot gave out while he was pushing off while in Sonnen's guard. The gif of it happening is terrifying, so do not click on that link unless you are prepared, but it this injury moves Sonnen vs Jones past a simple waste of time to a huge mistake.

I have no medical background, but based on the indefinite medical suspension given to Jones in the aftermath of his injury, I suspect that he will be sidelined for quite some time recovering and rehabilitating. On top of that, the way Jones injured his toe, driving off and into his strikes while in top position, could have lasting impacts. That motion of driving while in guard is a central piece to Jones' domination of fighters on the ground. This injury could change the way Jones' fights in the future. His toe just gave out under him, the power and dynamism of Jones' own movements caused his body to critically fail. That is a mental hurdle that would be difficult for just about any athlete to surmount.

Now clearly judgment will have to be reserved for whenever we see Jones fighting again, but it is entirely possible Jones never fully returns to form, or if he does that it takes him a great deal of time. And we wasted some of the best time of his career having him fight the likes of Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen? Just goes to show that nothing is for certain in sports, and why athletes should look out for themselves first because every time they step out into the cage, or on the field, or the court, or what-have-you could be their last time.

On to the rundown:

  • In a quick aside from the seriousness of the injury, if Sonnen had held on for 27 more seconds and made it to his corner he would very likely be wearing the belt today. An injury stoppage would have happened as soon as that injury was noticed. Also there was some gallows humor to be had to watching Jones go from the joy of winning his fight, to noticing the toe injury and then during the course of Rogan's interview watching Jones move into shock and then looking like he wanted to vomit. Clearly I am concerned for the welfare of Jones, but something about that hit a dark humor cord and even Jones seems caught between horror, pain, being physically ill, and just laughing at the pure surreal nature of it all.
  • And moving from one horrific injury to another, the eye poke that ended the Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher fight might very well have ended Belcher's career. Belcher's reaction to the poke was horrible to behold and considering the eye problems Belcher has had before, this could be a career killing injury. Getting to the actual fight in a moment, eye pokes were up and down this card and something needs to be done. Changing the gloves is not the answer, it would have too large an impact on the grappling aspects of the sport and the real root of the problem is that there is no penalty for eye pokes right now. Yes, you can lose a point, but that punishment is so rarely enacted there is functionally nothing stopping fighters from eye poking to gain an advantage. It didn't appear Bisping intended to poke Belcher in the eye, but again what does any fighter have to fear by extending an open hand towards the face of their opponent? The rules should be modified to allowed for medical breaks due to eye pokes, instant point deductions for an eye poke that is confirmed by video replay, and any fight that ends via eye poke should be ruled at the very least a No Contest. The fact that two fighters won fights last night that had to be stopped due to eye pokes is a joke, and dangerous. There are fighters out there who already use the eye poke as a dirty tactic and nights like last night will only embolden them. Eye pokes are incredibly dangerous for the career of a fighter and have no place in this sport, so it is up the regulating bodies to try to get them out of the sport all together.
  • Ok, looking at the fight, it was a prototypical Michael Bisping win up until the eye poke. Bisping doesn't really stand out for any one skill, but one attribute he does have that sets him apart from the majority of MMA Middleweights is his work rate. He sets a pace for a fight and dares opponents to keep up and most of them cannot. Belcher faded badly in the second and third rounds, and it was one way traffic from there on out. Bisping struggles with the physically exceptional but he can handle the mid-tier of the UFC Middleweights with skill and ease.
  • What is next for Bisping? The UFC has wanted to do a fight with Anderson Silva and Bisping in London for some time, and this seems like their last chance to put on that fight. Silva wants the fight because Bisping is the perfect style of fighter for Silva to look masterful against, and the UFC very well might shelf Bisping for the better part of this year and wait to see if they can make that match happen.
  • Roy Nelson has a big right hand, not really a big secret. But he always finds a way to land it and he followed up with an awesome coffin nail strike to a scrambling Cheick Kongo to put that fight to bed. Again this was a fight that was what everyone expected it to be, not much more to say here.
  • Speaking of fights that were what people expected, fans and media alike saw a shoddy striking battle coming when Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes, two of the best submission grapplers at Light Heavyweight, were matched together and that is what they got. Davis looked more comfortable and fluid on the feet, his punches had some snap. Again not much more to say, Magalhaes was out of his depth and Davis needs to get back in with an elite guy so we can see where he stands in the division.
  • Pat Healy and Jim Miller put on an excellent fight, and Healy walked away a much richer man winning both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors. Miller looked he had this fight well in hand in the first round, landing strong right crossed, but the grappling of Healy slowly overwhelmed Miller, who tired visibly in this fight. This was a statement win for Healy, who is now 9-1 as a Lightweight, he is an elite fighter in that division and should be matched as such in his next fight.
  • Sara McMann got an quick win over Sheila Gaff and looked like a monster in doing so, but pump the breaks on her jumping into the cage with UFC Champion Ronda Rousey. Yes, McMann has the wrestling pedigree that fans are looking for, but she is still very much a developing fighter. Those who saw McMann's last fight before entering the UFC against Shayna Baszler know that McMann struggled in the grappling exchanges and that on many media scorecards McMann lost that fight. While McMann was able to pass Gaff's guard, the German fighter is in no way a ground fighter. McMann has a bright future ahead of her, but don't rush her towards it.
  • The thumb injury in the Yancy Medeiros and Rustam Khabilov stopped what promised to be a fun fight before it ever got started and is a good reminding of why you don't post your arm when falling. Two straight wins for Khabilov by slam.
  • Other undercard thoughts include Ovince St. Preux's win over Gian Villante fit with my eye poke rant above, Leonard Garcia blew it in a big way against Cody MeKenzie and should be out of the UFC, and Steven Siler and Kurt Holobaugh put on the second best fight of the night to open the card.
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