With each passing victory, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones looks more and more infallible. Of course, we know that no fighter has immunity from defeat, and even the best suffer disappointment from time to time, Jones not excepting.
Still, even a good fighter having a lucky day will lose nine times out of 10 against Jones. What truly ramps up the odds of a Jones loss to a reasonable level is the right opponent—one with the proper assets to overcome the champion's dominance—not luck.
Over the coming slides you will find a five-ingredient recipe that meshes to constitute a theoretical fighter capable of dethroning Jones.
Being super-great at everything would probably be the best option, but I've whittled down prerequisites to focus on what I feel are specific attributes relevant in this singular instance.
One of Jones' sharpest tools is the incredible 84.5" reach he wields. It regularly gives him a sizable advantage over opponents, and he tends to make the most of that gain.
It naturally follows that for an opponent to maximize his chances against Jones, he has to negate, or at least mitigate, the impact of the champ's reach.
The natural progression of this sentiment leads us to identify an equally great reach as the tool to counter. While this quite obviously makes sense, it is not the only way to even the score.
Some fighters are particularly apt at breaking though the defense of fighters with a long reach and are able to do damage from in close. In fairness, Jones is pretty deadly from the clinch, so he isn't as vulnerable as other lanky fighters, like Stefan Struve, but the principle is the same.
Either way, something has to be done about the reach.
Jones' height and long limbs lend him a great deal of leverage with which to work. This enables him to handle opponents in close, despite his lanky build, either tossing them down, working knees or bullying them against the fence.
It's a pretty mundane requirement, but I don't see how any fighter without sufficient strength gives Jones much of a challenge.
It's not like we need to call on Hercules, but the constitution to counteract the disadvantage of inferior leverage would go a long way to ending the Jones era.
Of course, knockout power is a great asset for anyone, but you have to hit your opponent for it to count, and Jones is a guy who has done well avoiding power shots so far.
Between his natural athleticism, blazing quickness and unprecedented reach, he is a hard man to catch flush on the jaw. Under the circumstances, I favor a striker who is capable of mixing things up and scoring points over a guy who could theoretically land the knockout blow but probably wouldn't.
Jones has been clipped before—the end of Round 1 with Rashad Evans comes to mind—but he's never been taken down. Consequently, I'd say the stand-up realm is where an opponent's most immediate chances of victory lie, which is why I am leaning this way instead of a deadly submission repertoire.
If a fighter was able to handle Jones' reach and get his timing down, damage could be done. Of course, that leaves the whole takedown defense to deal with.
Though Jones has come a long way as a striker, UFC 159 confirmed that wrestling remains at the pinnacle of his skill set.
In order to defeat Jones, an opponent would not need equally strong wrestling, he would just need to be good enough to keep the fight standing. Ideally, the wrestling would be at a level where he could put Jones on his back, but that is a pretty lofty goal, seeing as how no one has accomplished it to date.
If a fighter's takedown defense was staunch enough to keep the action upright, then it opens up some possibilities. Either a one-punch knockout, something possible in every bout, or a performance dependent upon last slide's criteria could reasonably occur.
I imagine that trying to hit Jones is kind of like being 6'0" tall and being told to touch your head against a 7'0"-high ceiling without jumping.
Add in the fact that the fighting-against-Jones half of the analogy couples jabs to the face and kicks to the legs with unnerving futility, and we are looking at a ridiculously frustrating situation.
In circumstances of great pressure, frustration often leads to impatience, and impatience to mistakes. When we look at the level Jones is currently competing at, no one can make a mistake against him and expect that it will go unpunished.
There are a handful of intangible traits necessary for success in most any MMA fight, but when we look at a date with Jones, this one stands out as mandatory.