What Next For Jon Jones
By Ross Markey
The co-main event of UFC 235 saw a dominant title siege, while the main event saw a similarly one sided display, with Jon Jones successfully defending his recently reclaimed light heavyweight title against gritty contender Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith. Just over 8 weeks removed from his vacant championship re-run with Alexander Gustafsson, Jones exacted a balanced displayed of halting kicks and wearing wrestling to claim a 48-44 unanimous decision victory.
Currently, it doesn’t seem likely that Jones finds himself on the losing side of a match at 205lbs regardless of opposition, with a move to heavyweight a possibility in the near future. Jones has an incredible ability to manage distance and utilize every inch of his 84 ½ inch reach, especially against towering opponents like Alexander Gustafsson and Ovince Saint Preux. Who at light heavyweight deserves a quest for Jon Jones’ crown next?
Brazilian bruiser Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos is simply undeniable at 205lbs at the moment. Scoring his third consecutive stoppage last weekend over the tough Jan Blachowicz at UFC Prague, the former middleweight contender has steamrolled each of his opponents since his leap up a division. Showing a punishing Muay Thai game rarely seen at the heavier weights, the Rio de Janeiro native has injected a fresh threat into the depths of the weight class, beginning with knockouts over Eryk Anders and fellow heavy hitter Jimi Manuwa.
The American Top Team product also possesses a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and his background in the Brazilian art of Capoeira allows him to utilize many spinning techniques, evident from his wheel kick stoppage of Jack Marshmann.
On paper, the uprising striker poses a tricky puzzle on the feet with his more diverse techniques, and interestingly, he holds the last stoppage victory over Saturday night’s challenger Anthony Smith. Santos has notably never extended his win streak beyond four in the promotion, and Jon Jones would be his fifth clash on his current tear.
Often the forgotten man at light heavyweight, wrestling ace and TUF 19 victor Corey Anderson has made a decent claim for the right to face Jon Jones in his next Octagon walk after a unanimous decision win over Sweden’s Ilir Latifi. Anderson also holds a three fight win streak at 205lbs, albeit three decision’s against less impressive competition, which may unfortunately see him leapfrogged by the aforementioned Santos into the title picture. His NCAA Division II All-American wrestling exploits is his biggest threat when and if pitted with Jones but the Illinois native has rarely demonstrated fight ending grappling.
Daniel Cormier III:
If Jones elects against continuing his reign at 205lbs, a leap to former foe Daniel Cormeir’s heavyweight division in search of a trilogy bout and “champ champ” status may be on the horizon for the Jackson-Wink mainstay. Cormier has established himself as the front runner to meet current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar in a potential summer showdown, prolonging his career in search of a massive payday if ‘The Beast’ returns to the Octagon. If the return of Lesnar fails to materialize, let the brass pit Cormier and Jones together for a third time, this time at heavyweight, with the championship up for spoils. How does the trilogy end at heavyweight?
Stipe Miocic/Francis Ngannou:
If Brock returns and Jon is still interested in moving up to heavyweight, whilst Cormier is occupied, let him face off in a title eliminator with either Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou. In the same breath, if Cormier meets Jones, have Miocic rematch Ngannou for a shot at the victor. Miocic has the punching power to stop Jones and Ngannou is an obvious candidate for the hardest hitter in combat sports history. Could either of these men hand ‘Bones’ his premier legitimate defeat?