Jon Jones: Breaking Down Best Opponents for Bones After UFC 152 Victory
The light heavyweight champion has become a pariah of sorts in the sport after the fiasco involving UFC 151, but no one can deny he is still the most talented fighter in mixed martial arts right now.
And because Jones is so good and so dominant, he has made it difficult to keep coming up with challengers for his title. Frankly, when you get right down to it, the list of potential opponents doesn't inspire much confidence.
But we know that Jones is going to fight again, and there are a few names out there who at least deserve the shot to compete for the light heavyweight title.
Here are the fighters we would like to see at least get considered for the next light heavyweight title shot against Jones.
Henderson is the easiest name to put on the list. He is currently the No. 2 light heavyweight in the world, according to Sherdog. He has won four consecutive fights, the last two under the UFC banner. (His July 2011 Strikeforce fight with Fedor Emelianenko was after UFC purchased the rival promotion.)
And, oh by the way, Henderson was supposed to challenge Jones at UFC 151 before suffering a knee injury that forced him to withdraw.
Even though Henderson is a popular fighter with one of the strongest chins in the history of the sport, he is still a 42-year-old who would be going against the best athlete in the sport, who is also 17 years younger.
I don't see Henderson having much of a chance, unless he can breach Jones' huge wall he can create due to his ridiculous reach and land hard punches. Even if Henderson doesn't win, he has earned the right to prove himself.
Who Deserves the Next Title Shot Against Jon Jones?
UFC is giving Gustafsson a chance to prove himself against the best the 205-pound division has to offer with a showdown against former champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC on FOX in December.
A victory in that fight should propel Gustafsson into title contention. He has a career record of 14-1, including a 6-1 mark in UFC. He can't quite match Jones' natural athleticism or physical attributes, but he is long and lanky with a good stand-up game and power.
Given the way that Jones has manhandled all the other top contenders in the division, such as Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, it is time for some new blood to step up and provide a challenge for the champion.
Still, Gustafsson does have to prove himself against Rua. His best win, at least against a name opponent, was against Matt Hamill, who has had a solid career but isn't exactly in the top tier of light heavyweights.
I went back and forth with who I wanted to put in the final spot on the list. The choices came down to Sonnen and Lyoto Machida.
However, after Machida rejected a title shot against Jones after Henderson withdrew, White made it sound like he was going to put the Dragon through the wringer before putting him in the spotlight.
On the other hand, Sonnen was more than happy to offer his services for the fight on short notice. A move up in weight for Sonnen will be a difficult adjustment, and throwing him to the wolves right away might not be the smartest move, but think of the marketing possibilities.
Trying to find anyone who will give Jones a challenge is hard on its own, so why not go with the fighter you know is going to put himself out there in order to sell the show?
Sonnen is a marketer extraordinaire. He wants to be on television, telling the world why he is going to win, why his opponent is garbage, and what he wants to do in the fight.
Plus, Sonnen is one of the best pure wrestlers in the sport. He held Anderson Silva on the ground for an entire round in their second fight. Of course, Sonnen got knocked out in the second round, but still, a round win over Silva carries a lot of weight.
Jones has handled every challenge put in front of him with ease. Sonnen wouldn't necessarily be the biggest test of Jones' career, but he would certainly make the fight far more entertaining than anyone else.
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