Thursday, September 2, 2010

What to do about Johnny?

Let's lay it on the line right now: If you haven't heard of Johnny "Bones" Jones, you haven't a remote interest in MMA.  Don't worry; I don't think (much) less of you.

At 23 years old, Bones has walked into the UFC and practically decimated everyone placed in front of him.  The only reason I say "practically" is due to his relatively quiet entrance into the UFC, where he defeated an always game Andre Gusmao by unanimous decision.  His next fight was featured during the live portion of UFC 94, where he faced Stephan Bonnar.  While Jones didn't finish the fight, the maneuvers he was able to pull out were absolutely jaw dropping.  He had announced his presence, and this is where the "practically" ends.

In his next four fights, no one saw the end of the fight with Jones.  Jake O'brian was the only one fortunate to make it past the first round.  After that, we saw him come out successively more aggressive, demolishing Matt Hamill, Brandon Vera, and Vladymir Matyushanko.  (Note:  While the Hamill fight was ruled as a loss for Jones to illegal strikes, it can not be argued that he threw Hamill around in a way that no one else has, leaving him a crumpled and bleeding mess.)

After his last two decisive and emphatic victories over experienced and well rounded opponents, Dana has promised him a serious step up in competition.  But who is a good fit?

At this point of time, the UFC currently boasts 35 fighters in their light heavy weight roster (a third of which you have never even heard of).  Of the 35, the top ten, not including Johnny, could (very arguably) be:

1. "Shogun" Rua
2.Rashad Evans
3. Quintin Jackson
4. Lyoto Machida
5. Forrest Griffin
6. Randy Couture
7. Antonio Nogiuera (Lil' Nog)
8.Rich Franklin
9.Brandon Vera
10. Anderson Silva*

*While Anderson has no official ranking with in the light heavy weight division, his success over James Irvin, Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin make it hard to argue against him being a contender should he ever choose to do so.

So where do we go from here?

Shogun, Rashad, Rampage and  Lyoto (the top four contenders) are all tied up with pre determined bouts, as is Lil' Nog (who is facing Ryan Bader).  Bones has already destroyed Brandon Vera, so who is left?

From a competition standpoint, I feel that there are one of three legitimate choices available from the (arguable) top ten: Rich Franklin, Randy Couture, and Forrest Griffin.  All three would present a stiff challenge and step up to Jones.  I would gladly watch any of these match ups with baited breath and anticipation.  But from a business standpoint...

Love him or hate him, Dana White is an incredible businessman, and he knows how to market fights and make money in the process.

The problem with the aforementioned 3 match ups result in a potential loss of money.  While Jones is being built up as "the Next Big Thing", any one of those competitors has the ability to stop him.  Dana doesn't want the hype train to stop rolling on Jones, just yet.

On the flip side...

Jones has the ability to stop each of the 3, and since each one is currently riding his own (marketable and profitable) story line, why would Dana want to shut down the potential revenue of one of these match ups?  While Dana wants Jones to face a step up, these 3 , due to the combination of experience, well rounded skill set, and progression in the sport, might just be a bit too big of a test.  But I have a solution.

Thiago Silva.

Aggressive, well rounded( on the ground and striking), and experienced against some of the top names in the UFC.  Silva, who I feel is currently in limbo, will present a very stiff (yet reasonable) challenge for Jones.  Facing Silva will also give Jones the experience and pre taste of an upper tier competitor that has the want and ability to put a serious hurt'in on him.

For the most part, Bones has faced grapplers, dominating the entire way.  Let's see him against a serious striker (Brandon Vera didn't count, as he has proven himself to be hot and cold in the past).  Not only is Silva incredible on his feet , but his BJJ black belt skills could provide a new challenge to the wrestling based Jones.

Regardless of who Dana and Joe pick, the fact of the matter is that Jones is only 23.  His level of ability, athleticism, and (thank God) humbleness, have assured his prominence in the UFC for years to come.  He will be a champ; it's just a matter of when.

1 comment:

  1. I just found out that Bones was a bouncer at a little bar called Bobby's place in Binghamton.