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Four reasons why Jon Jones should move to heavyweight on his UFC return

Jon Jones will eventually compete in the UFC, and here are four reasons why he should seriously consider moving to heavyweight for his return.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Jones avoided jail time from a hit-and-run incident last April, and was sentenced to just 18 months probation. While the UFC has stated that they plan on doing a formal review first, this basically paves the way for an eventual return for the former top pound-for-pound fighter.

Some have speculated that he will eventually return to face the winner of the upcoming title bout between Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson, but I believe Jones (and the UFC) should seriously consider a run at heavyweight first. Here are four reasons why he should move up a division upon his return to competition:

IT CAN HELP SHOW THAT HE'S REINVENTING HIMSELF

This may be the least important of all four reasons, but from a marketing perspective, the biggest story line from a return is how Jones gets back on track to reinvent himself after his troubles.

While it's obviously not the same thing, the easiest way to supplement that narrative of change outside the cage, is to show a completely different person inside the cage as well. Instead of looking like the same 'cocky' dominant champ beating on 'shorter, smaller' men, it would be so easy for the UFC to sell him as a ‘new' Jon Jones at heavyweight.

Picture a former champ who is more mature outside the cage, and testing his wares on a completely new division against 'bigger and badder’ opposition inside of it. That would certainly paint a better picture than another grudge match against Cormier, who can possibly bring out that ugly side of Jones. I’m sure the lead up to a rematch is likely to play out differently, but if you’re invested in Jones (e.g. His camp, and the UFC), you don’t want to risk the guy issuing more death threats or getting in brawls when you're trying to clean up his image.

JONES IS A HUGE STAR, BEING A TWO DIVISION CHAMP MAKES HIM A MASSIVE ONE

During his reign, Jones was already considered the top pound-for-pound fighter and one of the biggest and most dominant stars in the sport. It obviously won't be easy to attain, but being a two-division champ will put him in the history books and elevate his star to new heights.

If Jones wants to gain even more traction with casual fans, he should move up and take out one of the name heavyweights, then gun for that belt immediately after.

We've seen this in boxing, and we've seen this in Mixed Martial Arts. Even if he doesn't want to go for the belt, fighting up a division is guaranteed to do much more for his career than rematching another guy in a division he has already cleaned out. Jones has spoken about eventually making that jump multiple times before, and now is the perfect time to do that.

And speaking of heavyweight champs...

HE ALREADY HAS THAT RIVALRY WITH WERDUM

Prior to Jones' last title win against Cormier, he spoke about moving up to heavyweight and said he's confident about beating heavyweights like Fabricio Werdum. Jones said he'd fight him "everyday, all day", prompting a back and forth that had Werdum accepting the challenge, and then even going further to ask for a gym brawl with no time limit.

Since then, Werdum has dominated Cain Velasquez to take his title. Now you have that story line to go with an already intriguing stylistic match up, making it a really marketable fight. Now that Werdum's the undisputed heavyweight champion, there's no better time to put those words into actions.

THIS ALSO GIVES THE LHW DIVISION TIME TO DEVELOP

There's just no reason for Jones to rematch guys who he already beat just yet.

Moving up, even for a couple of fights, lets the light heavyweight division mature and build more stars in his absence. Some hoped that would be the case by now, but let's face it, nobody thinks Daniel Cormier is the real champ just yet. Even DC himself has said as much.

Despite being a stacked card, UFC 187 headlined by Cormier was a box office disappointment, and the same is likely to happen to the upcoming UFC 192 title defense against Gustafsson. 205 used to be the UFC's marquee division, but the fact is, Cormier just hasn't translated in to a draw yet. It's not his fault either. He's just not too far removed from the loss to Jones, and Jon's looming return just kills any chances of that happening.

Let DC, or whoever leaves with the belt, become a bigger star by getting a few more title defenses and getting accepted as a true champ on their own. If he cleans out the top of the division, even better.

In the mean time, Jones can fight Struve to answer silly criticisms about height and reach, or maybe Crocop to get a legend and a suitable tune up bout like Anderson Silva's first contest at 205. It can be against any name fighter, really. If he's impressive enough, Jones can go straight to a title shot against Werdum if he wanted it.

Whether it'd be a temporary move or a legitimate title run, time away from light heavyweight not only helps build his own career, it also helps develop the division and set up more marketable bouts (or rematches) at either weight.

Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena