Jon Jones: Strengths, Weaknesses and How to Beat the Light Heavyweight Kingpin
Jonathan Dwight Jones is the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion and top three pound for pound in the world. He owns the records for longest reach and youngest champion in UFC History.
Jones has been virtually unstoppable since he burst on the scene on two weeks notice against undefeated Andre Gusmao at UFC 87. From that day till now the only thing to defeat him is the 12/6 elbow rule.
However we all know that no one is unbeatable. So what are Jon’s strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what is the way to possibly break “Bones"?
Tale of the Tape
Average Cage Time
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute
Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute
Average Takedowns Per 15 minutes
For Jon Jones, the fight is won Monday through Friday through training. In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Jones has said that he trains five times a day and studies every night. He’s even been quoted as saying that he’s “obsessed” with his opponents. By the end of a training camp, Bones’ expectation is to know every tool his opponent has in his toolbox and how he likes to use it. Most of the time he’s dead on.
Bones has the UFC Record with an incredible 84.5” reach. What’s more impressive is that he knows how to use it. The Endicott native utilizes a solid jab and push kick to the knee in order to keep his opponents at bay. Against Rashad Evans, he even used elbow jabs to keep “Suga” from closing distance.
In a stretch in which he faced noted wrestlers Ryan Bader, Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans, Bones’ back touched the canvas exactly zero times. His dexterity and ability to stay standing against some of the strongest wrestlers in the division is a big part of what makes him hard to stop.
The same goes for striking. As you’re trying to figure out how to negate his 84.5” reach he throws either a spinning side kick, a spinning elbow, Superman punch or flying knee. He’s as good at keeping his opponents off balance thinking about what he’s going to do as he is staying off of his back.
One of Jon’s strengths is knowing his opponent inside and out. His training is a big part of who he is as a fighter because his game plans seem to almost be impeccable. With that said, his belief that he already knows an opponent could be something used against him.
Take the first round of the Machida fight, for instance. Jon thought he could stand and trade with the elusive counter-striker. Instead he came up short, getting caught with a flush right straight in a round he ultimately lost. His overconfidence of thinking he could best Machida at his own game almost cost Jones his title.
Jon Jones has an array of strikes that he uses to try and confuse his opponents. None of them have one shot KO power. KO power isn't exactly a necessity in order to win fights convincingly, but in the future it can be a detriment.
While standing, Jon Jones has a very interesting array of moves that he uses at his disposal. He uses a blend of Muay Thai and boxing to throw his opponents off. So at any given time you can see punches, elbows, knees or kicks.
He has the longest reach in the UFC at 84.5 inches, and he knows how to use it. He starts off with a long push jab then mixes in side kicks to the lead knee to keep his opponent at bay.
While in tight Jon loves to throw his signature elbows. Against Rashad Evans, Bones went to using his elbows like left and right crosses to the jaw of “Suga.” In the clinch Jones often uses spinning elbows on the break and while he has his opponent backed up against the cage he throws his spinning side kick. His entire repertoire is predicated on distance, and he rarely opens up with any more than an occasional jab-cross-leg kick combination.
One thing about Jon’s striking game is that it’s ever evolving so you never really know which tricks he’s added up his sleeve. In some fights he’ll come out like Shogun with his right hand up by his ear and his left arm outstretched, and in others he’ll come out in a three point wrestling stance. The beauty of his striking game is purely in the unpredictability.
Jon Jones has some of the best wrestling credentials of any MMA fighter. He’s a 2005 New York State Wrestling Champion, National Junior College Wrestling Champion, as well as Greco-Roman All American.
These skills along with his off-the-charts athleticism translate really well to MMA. Early on in his MMA career, Jon used a plethora of judo throws and trips to get his opponents down. Lately he’s gone to more of a level changing double leg takedown guy.
As it comes to Jon’s wrestling, he’s long and agile which makes it that much tougher to get him down. His sprawl covers several feet and if he’s against the cage and you drop for the takedown, you may as well give up. He is explosive and accurate on take downs and studies extensively to see exactly where you’re vulnerable.
One word: elbows. No matter if he’s in your guard or any of the dominant ground positions, you are going to get pounded with elbows once you’re down.
He loves posturing up and raining down elbows while in guard. If he gets to where he can just tee off on you while you’re down, you may as well get ready to have a shattered orbital bone.
With his long arms Jon can look for chokes at different angles. His favorite of all is the guillotine. Out of his five submission victories, four have come by way of guillotine. He’s locked up guillotines on the ground with different grips as well as an impressive standing guillotine that put Lyoto Machida to bed during a title fight.
How to Defeat Jon Jones
In this sport, everybody get’s beaten. No man is invulnerable which is why when you step into the Octagon, there’s at least a puncher’s chance that you can win.
To defeat Jones, you have to be a counterstriker with solid kickboxing. The first thing you’ll see with Jon’s standup is that he has a very open stance and usually leaves his lead leg out. Peppering his legs with solid kicks throughout the fight is a must.
Jones has a methodical approach to striking and usually takes his time to find openings. If you can wait until he throws his signature spinning strikes, he leaves himself open for attack. Once he does, you have to fully pressure him and try to overwhelm him with strikes to both the head and body. Jon got caught twice in his UFC fights, once by Lyoto and another by Rashad Evans. Neither time did they go in for the kill afterwards. Don’t make the same mistake.
One thing to know is that between rounds, Jon rarely comes back with the same stuff. He uses the first round to gauge distance and judge reactions. To see which way you might lean with your punches or how you’ll try to shoot.
In the second round, he comes out stronger and looks to use everything he’s learned through his study of you and the first round to take you out. The key is to show him a different look in the first round. Show him what he’s been studying, then when the second round comes along, show him a different look to throw off his confidence.
If that's all working, Jon is going to go for a takedown. Excellent takedown defense is very well needed if you’re going to pull this off. His takedowns are explosive and very creative so watch for the level change and make sure to grab underhooks as soon as you can.
The recipe for success against Jon is to keep it standing and be explosive when he gives you openings. Get inside and mix it up with him while putting pressure on him. Do that, and you just may be able to break "Bones."
Three Fighters Who Can Realistically Defeat Jones
Lyoto gave Jon his biggest test to date, even taking a round from the Light Heavyweight dynamo. His counter striking and elusiveness gave Jones a puzzle he couldn’t exactly figure out. Then in the second round he came out with a wrestle heavy approach. He took Lyoto down before landing a sharp elbow that changed the complexion of the fight. If Lyoto can shore up his wrestling defense, he has proven to be a tough test for Bones.
This is fight that probably will never happen, but we can dream, right? Anderson actually poses multiple problems for Jon. Not only does he have the most accurate striking in all of MMA, but he also has a very good guard and has submitted dominant wrestlers Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. If this fight were to somehow come together, Anderson will have the necessary tools to have Jon staring up at the lights.
Junior dos Santos
Junior has the perfect set of skills to take down Bones. He has elite takedown defense, a solid chin and the best boxing in MMA. His skills are almost the exact opposite of Bones in that he wants to stand and bang with his opponents and completely negate the ground game. However even if the fight gets to the ground, Junior has a brown belt from the Noguerias that can more than give Jon problems. If this fight comes to fruition, look for Bones to be dealt a losing hand.