Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen: Key Questions Surrounding UFC 159's Main Event

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2013

Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA;  Jon Jones weighs in for his light heavyweight title bout against Chael Sonnen (not pictured) at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Jones is set to defend his UFC light-heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen in a matchup whose buildup may just be more interesting than the in-cage action.

Of course, now that the fun and games of the fight's promotion are over, all that matters is how things will shake down once they actually fight.

Jones is a prohibitive favorite. He's making his fifth title defense and has quickly made his mark on the sport as a generation-defining fighter. Sonnen will be playing the role of long-shot underdog, fighting outside of his optimal weight class and coming off of a loss to Anderson Silva.

That being said, every fight has its questions that will shape the action that takes place in the Octagon, and this one is no different. Championships aren't won or defended on paper—Jones will have to execute to defeat Sonnen and continue his reign over the light-heavyweight division.

These are the key questions that will define this fight.


Can Chael Sonnen Take Jon Jones to the Ground?

Jon Jones has faced some good wrestlers in his career. Matt Hamill, Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans all have serious wrestling chops. None has succeeded in getting the bigger, stronger Jones to the mat.

However, none of those wrestlers has the same approach as Sonnen.

If nothing else, Sonnen is a tenacious wrestler more than willing to absorb shots to close the distance and get a takedown. While others are pensive against elite strikers, Sonnen has no issue tucking his chin and bringing the pressure.

Sonnen cannot strike with Jones. The champion has far too many tools for Sonnen's rudimentary striking to present any problems on the feet. His only hope is to get in his face early and make this an ugly bout.

If Sonnen can't score a takedown early on in the fight, we'll all be going to bed early. It won't take Jones long to pick him apart.


Will Sonnen's Mind Games Succeed in Throwing Off Jones?

There's no denying that Sonnen earned this fight, in large part, thanks to his mouth. In typical Sonnen fashion, he set his eyes on a matchup with the champion and sold the fight well enough with his words that it's now a reality.

Jones has been less than ecstatic about fighting Sonnen from the outset. While Sonnen has been in full-on promotional mode, Jones has been reluctant to engage.

It's times like this awkward moment on UFC on Fuel that Jones seems to have allowed Sonnen to get under his skin:

Ultimately, we can only speculate about how much Jones is driven to beat Sonnen because of the words he has said. It's safe to say that fighters that fight on emotion have been prone to making mistakes, though. If Jones allows Sonnen to get under his skin, it will be interesting to see how that plays into the fight.


Will Jones Submit Sonnen?

It's no secret that Sonnen doesn't have the best submission defense. Eight of his 12 career losses have come by way of submission.

Jones, on the other hand, has become a bit of a submission ace as his career progresses. Three of his last four wins have come by way of submission, and he's learned to use his incredible length to set up chokes that would be difficult for most other fighters to pull off.

If Sonnen is able to drag Jones to the mat, we could see his guard for the first time in his career (other than a few seconds at the end of his bout with Evans when he pulled guard). If he can pull off a submission from the bottom, it would just be another tool that Jones can claim in his ever-expanding repertoire.