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For the longest time feasible – Jon ‘Bones’ Jones has been untouchable. The reigning light heavyweight champion has a rare ability compared to his fellow champions; the ability to make even the sternest competition – appear just, normal. Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, former featherweight best, Max Holloway, Israel Adesanya, and fellow UFC 247 feature, Valentina Shevchenko share that attribute.
This weekend in Houston, Texas – an extremely active Jon Jones makes the third defense of his third reign as light heavyweight best, as he tackles the undefeated contender, Dominick ‘The Devastator’ Reyes. A disgraced talent with a problematic performance-enhancing drug history – but arguably the most technically gifted, and naturally talented athletes to ever grace the Octagon, nonetheless. An interesting narrative deployed by Reyes approaching this bout – is his natural athleticism, stemming from his collegiate wrestling and football background. Unfortunately for Reyes, that narrative crumbles when you share the Octagon with someone of Jones’ ability.
Along with his athletic advantage – Jones brings with him, one of the best rounder games the sport has seen in recent years. In a style billed as ‘look-see-do’, Jones is vastly comfortable on the feet, from top position and a facet often overlooked – in the clinch exchanges. A phenomenal controller of distance and range – Jones has developed in a very adept kickboxer in the last handful of Octagon appearances. Ever present in this tricky kickboxing arsenal – are the Jackson-Wink MMA staple oblique kicks.
It’s a technique that has become prevalent among the Albequerque based fighters, and along with former bantamweight champion, Holly Holm – Jones uses them to great effect. Whether it be a stomp toward the thigh of an approaching opponent or a front-leg side-kick, Jones has a unique ability to immediately halt forward momentum and pressure. Look for him to continue this offensive tradition on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
Another cause for concern for Reyes falls in the possible wrestling exchanges. Jones – a Juco national champion, has managed takedowns aplenty during his UFC stint including successful shots against grappling standout, and arch-rival, Daniel Cormier. Even in recent outings, Jones has displayed his grappling chops. In his rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, Jones managed an ultimately fight-ending takedown before finishing with a ground-and-pound barrage. Against Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith, in a relatively straight forward title defense, Jones scored multiple takedowns on his way to a unanimous decision win.
Ultimately, as I mentioned in my breakdown of Dominick Reyes, the Californian is simply one-dimensional when it comes to Jon Jones. A slick boxer with decent counters and power – but apart from that, offers Jones little cause for panic. It’s a difficult matchup if Jones makes it so, but with his wrestling credentials and overall striking poise – Jones is rightly considered, a quite considerable favorite heading into the headliner. With all being said – expect the unexpected of course.