The UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, has improved drastically with each victory inside the octagon, creating an aura of invincibility.
Many fans are left wondering who is left to challenge Jones, while others point to the fact that he has yet to face Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, and a slew of other potential contenders.
Should Jones dominate 2012 in a similar fashion to his remarkable run the year before, the question of which contender can dethrone the champion will remain.
The blueprint to defeating this young phenom rests in five different aspects of mixed martial arts. The fighter that is able to utilize these factors successfully will be the next UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
Other than his reach, Jones’ wrestling has always been his bread and butter.
His ability to control an opponent while throwing razor blade-like elbows from top position is unlike any fighter in the division.
He can cut you open and throw your entire game plan out the window via a deep forehead gash. The fighter that is able to roll with Jones when the fight hits the ground will be able to avoid those game changing strikes and may even put Jones in an uncomfortable position—on his back.
For many of Jones’ opponents, the reach disadvantage does not allow them to close the distance effectively and land powerful shots.
Lyoto Machida’s style of counter punching proved to be an effective weapon when these two light-heavyweights fought at UFC 140. Machida has been training karate his entire life which has led to a deadly counter-punching style that has been well developed over years of practice.
A fighter with similar experience or background with this style of fighting could be Jones’ Kryptonite.
At UFC 140, color commentator Joe Rogan described Jones’ calves as “almost comically thin.”
The fighter that can close the distance and chop away at the young champion's legs without fearing a ground battle may be able to stifle his movement considerably.
Aldo-Faber comes to mind.
Jon Jones may be the most athletic fighter in the UFC, as shown by his ability to push the pace and overwhelm his opponents with an array of strikes and submissions.
Some people are naturally more athletically gifted than others.
That's not to say that a fighter cannot develop explosiveness or work on their cardio, but the type of athleticism Jones' possesses is difficult to develop.
The fighter who can match this athleticism will have an easier time dealing with the onslaught of spinning elbows, takedowns and spinning back kicks that Jones utilizes to wear down his opponent.
Submission defense against Jones is a requirement.
He is the only fighter that has been able to submit Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the UFC and his standing choke of Lyoto Machida was brutal to watch. An opponent with a strong jiu-jitsu base and excellent submission defense will be necessary in order to stop the dangerous submissions of the champion.
Which fighter fits this bill?
Currently, no fighter in the light-heavyweight division poses a truly legitimate threat to Jones’ reign as champion.
However, MMA is constantly evolving and over time we will see a fighter who is able to utilize these five aspects effectively.
When that time comes, Jon Jones will be in for the fight of his life.