UFC 159 Preview: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Jon Jones will put his UFC light heavyweight title on the line once again at UFC 159, where he will face opposing TUF 17 coach Chael Sonnen.
With a win, Jones would tie Tito Ortiz for the most consecutive UFC light heavyweight title defenses. At 25 years old, Jones is already one of the best 205-pound fighters ever and has a chance to go down as the greatest of all time before all is said and done.
Sonnen, meanwhile, earned this opportunity by getting under Jones' skin. Having lost to middleweight champion Anderson Silva in his most recent outing, Sonnen was hardly the most deserving of a light heavyweight title shot, but he talked his way into one anyway.
As this potentially historic fight approaches, let's take a look at which fighter is more likely to walk away with the win.
Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen aren't the most technical strikers, but they both work well with what they have, coming from wrestling backgrounds.
Both men have respectable striking defense, avoiding 67 percent of strikes thrown at them. However, Jones is noticeably more accurate than Sonnen, landing 52 percent of his attempted strikes in comparison to his opponent's 44 percent rate of success.
Add to that edge in accuracy a massive reach advantage in this matchup, and Jones should have no problem teeing off on Sonnen from distance.
Landing 57 percent of his strikes when on the ground, Sonnen is very active from the top position. If he can take Jones down, Sonnen can soften Jones up with ground-and-pound, but he very rarely finishes opponents with strikes.
Jones, on the other hand, has the ability to put opponents away with his ground-and-pound in a hurry. The light heavyweight champion smashed Brandon Vera's skull with an elbow and began his finishing sequence against Mauricio Rua with strikes from the top position.
While both fighters are capable of scoring points with ground-and-pound, Jones' ground striking is far more dangerous.
Power and Durability
Since joining the UFC ranks, Jones has finished three opponents with strikes. He did that in a much shorter time than Sonnen, who has yet to record a striking stoppage inside the Octagon.
While Jones would appear to have a clear edge in finishing ability, both men are difficult to stop with strikes.
At the UFC level, only Anderson Silva has been able to put away Sonnen in such a fashion. Jones has not had his chin tested quite as much, but he has eaten a few solid strikes from some of the best in the world without going down.
Overall Striking Edge: Jones
Takedowns and Takedown Defense
This is really where the fight will be decided, and it's tough to give either fighter a clear edge in the wrestling department.
Chael Sonnen is relentless in his attempts to take opponents to the ground. Not since he fought Demian Maia in February 2009 has Sonnen failed to take an opponent down.
At the same time, Jon Jones has never been taken to the ground in his UFC career.
Although Sonnen competed at a higher level in amateur wrestling, Jones was a JUCO national champion and could have gone on to accomplish great things at the NCAA level had he accepted a scholarship to Iowa State University.
Control and Escapability
If either of these fighters is able to score a takedown, it will be bad news for the opponent.
Sonnen sticks to his foes like glue when he achieves the top position. Since we have hardly ever seen Jones fighting off his back, it's impossible to say whether or not he'd be able to escape from the bottom.
From the opposite perspective, Jones often doesn't need much time to put opponents away once he has them on the canvas. Like Jones, Sonnen is not accustomed to fighting off his back and could end up eating a ton of elbows if he's forced to do so.
Submissions and Submission Defense
There aren't many top-level fighters that Sonnen has an edge over when it comes to jiu-jitsu.
Sonnen has been submitted four times inside the Octagon, and Jones has quickly become one of the most dangerous submission artists in MMA despite having no background in submission grappling.
If jiu-jitsu black belts Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort couldn't survive with Jones on the ground, then Sonnen will surely have difficulty lasting long on the ground at UFC 159.
Overall Grappling Edge: Jones
Chael Sonnen has won more fights than Jon Jones has competed in.
However, with several UFC title fights already under his belt, Jones is no longer a fighter who could be overwhelmed a more seasoned opponent.
All of the challengers Jones faced as champion prior to Sonnen had been UFC titleholders, so this will be a less intimidating fight for the 205-pound king, if anything.
It has been said many times, but Jones is one of the most impressive athletes to ever enter the MMA world.
That's not to say Sonnen walked in off the street. The title challenger is in excellent physical condition as well, but he's just not as physically gifted as the champion.
Coming up from the middleweight division, Sonnen will have to deal with a larger opponent and one of the longest reaches in the sport.
Sonnen's gas tank is impressive.
The last time the outspoken contender went into the championship rounds in a bout with Anderson Silva, he landed 64 strikes in the fourth frame and 42 strikes with two minutes remaining in the final stanza.
Likewise, Jones isn't one to slow as a fight goes on.
The champion has defended his belt with multiple fourth-round submissions and landed more strikes in the fifth round of his bout with Rashad Evans than he did in any of the previous four against his former Jackson's MMA teammate.
Overall Intangibles Edge: Jones
It really shouldn't come as a surprise that Jon Jones is such a heavy favorite heading into the UFC 159 main event.
Not even ranked among the top-10 light heavyweights, Sonnen has done hardly anything at 205 pounds that would lead anyone to believe he has a realistic chance at dethroning one of the most dominant champions in the division's history.
Jones can pick Sonnen apart with his reach or take advantage of the challenger's shaky submission defense on the ground. No matter where this fight goes, it's hard to see Sonnen pulling off the upset.
Jones defeats Sonnen by submission in the second round.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.