UFC 145: Will the UFC Push Jon Jones to Move Up to Heavyweight?
Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will go to war on April 21 at UFC 145 in Atlanta, Ga. The jury is out on the true favorite. The odds will have "Bones" as the favorite, but many fans and insiders alike give Rashad some advantages.
What I am proposing is the scenario after a possible Jones victory. If Jon Jones is able to win this fight, there is still the challenge of Dan Henderson looming on the horizon. Henderson is a multiple-time champion and legend, but Jones is a matchup nightmare for him, as he is for 99 percent of fighters on the planet.
If Jon is able to retain his title for the fourth time against Dan Henderson, that would be the most of any UFC light heavyweight since Chuck Liddell. That is a milestone in itself. Alexander Gustafsson is another name that has been generating some buzz as an in-the-mix guy, but even the "Mauler" has to win a fight with Thiago Silva at UFC on Fuel 2 next Saturday in order to move into title contention.
And of the three men mentioned, Gustafsson poses the fewest headaches for the champion. So hypothetically, Jon Jones could finish 2012 with five title defenses on his belt. With the hyper-fast nature of Twitter and all other social media at the fingertips of the world, five title wins in convincing fashion would surely cause an outcry for Jones to move up in weight.
It's not a certainty, nor a necessity, that Jon Jones would appeal to popular opinion about which weight he should fight at. However, Dana White and the UFC do take public appeals into account in their decisions and they could sway Jon Jones into moving up in weight to challenge the big boys at heavyweight.
They would argue that he had cleaned out the division or has no logical challengers left. Although, it is important to note that Anderson Silva and Frankie Edgar have both resisted similar pressures before, so it really is up to them to make a final decision. But that doesn't mean the UFC brass can't strongly encourage you with something along the lines of a contract upgrade.
Will Jon Jones be fighting at heavyweight by 2014?
Below I will present two scenarios for 2013 if Jon Jones continues his dominant run:
Scenario No. 1
This is the scenario that I would prefer. If Jones remains dominant, he will eventually be strongly encouraged to move up, most likely to heavyweight. By next year, Anderson Silva will be 38 years old. If he defeats Chael Sonnen and then the winner of Tim Boetsch vs. Michael Bisping, he will likely have no new challengers for some time.
At his advanced age, he probably won't want to take anything less than name opponents or challengers who will push him. I know that Silva recently told SportTV he would fight for 10 more years (per mixedmartialarts.com), but you never know and I am only posing possibilities here. To add to that, the oft-fantasized Georges St-Pierre vs. "Spider" Silva superfight has yet to get close to reality.
If both of these men have essentially cleaned out their divisions, as Dana White likes to say, each man could be open to a superfight at 205 pounds. Jon Jones is a very big light heavyweight and it is highly unlikely he could even make a catchweight of 200 pounds. The responsibility would fall on Anderson Silva's shoulders to move back up to light heavyweight for a UFC superfight for the ages.
If and when Jones does defeat Anderson Silva, his journey at 205 pounds would be complete. He could then move up to heavyweight knowing there is no greater challenge he could have faced at that weight.
Will a Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva superfight happen?
Scenario No. 2
This is the scenario that is much more likely to come to fruition.
In this fantasy MMA storyline, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva are never able to come together for their superfight, much like the GSP/Silva bout never happened. The most likely reason is that Anderson realizes that Jon can defeat him and he chooses to face the next tier down in competition to keep his unbelievable winning streak going.
Jones would decide quickly to move up to heavyweight with the encouragement of the UFC, his coaches and confidence in his own skills. I cannot decide if he would be granted an immediate title shot in this hypothetical scenario; I can say that a move to heavyweight could easily secure an immediate title shot if he racked up a long winning streak, including five straight title defenses.
With the way MMA seems to change every day, there is no way to predict tomorrow, let alone two years from now. However, knowing the world I live in does give me confidence in the belief that fighters are likely to move to different weight classes to determine who is the pound-for-pound best. In the end, that is what everyone wants to see.
Isn't that why the Ultimate Fighting Championship was created in the first place?
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