Jon Jones is such a good UFC fighter that it seems the only thing that can beat him might just be his enormous hype, which is why it might be time for Jones to fight men even bigger than himself.
The dominance of Jones has put him in an interesting position. He is the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA and arguably the best, depending on how you’re judging at home.
He’s nearly cleaned out the light-heavyweight division with his record-tying five title defenses, and pundits everywhere are quick to acknowledge his size and reach advantage after every win.
These reasons, however, dictate a move to heavyweight, which he's spoken of as inevitable at some point in his career, based on the weaknesses of his foes rather than the actual benefits a move would reap for him.
Despite Jones’ success, there have been a few decisions that have lost him much fanfare, including his DWI and a refusal to fight a new opponent on a few days notice, resulting in the infamous cancelling of UFC 151. With a move to heavyweight, however, Jones would finally be forced to fight.
A move to heavyweight would force Jones to fight opponents more his own size and strength, which would eliminate some of the physical advantages he’s used to.
It would be much more difficult to control the likes of a Cain Velasquez or a Junior dos Santos, who sport takedown defense percentages of 88 and 74 respectively. Jones would still have a reach advantage over his opponents, but the strength of these men would balance this out and force him to be more technical with his wrestling than he already is.
Although Jones has a stoppage rate of 80 percent by finishing 15 of his 19 opponents, his knockouts have been more due to technical striking rather than powerful striking. Heavyweights theoretically would be able to shrug off a few more of his shots and make him work for control.
How is making him fight more technically and tougher a benefit?
First of all, it would be a benefit to his image. While there are many fans in support of the hype train that is Jon Jones, many want to see him fall because of an arrogance they see in him.
By fighting bigger and tougher guys, he would earn a lot more respect from the fans. Popular figures in MMA, such as the recently retired Forrest Griffin, won fans over because they came to fight and left everything in the cage no matter who stood across from them, and a similar move by Jones could give him that same appeal.
Jones' quest to perfect his craft and realize his full potential would also benefit. Although Jones is known for his relentless training and top-notch game planning prior to fights, he would have to train even harder on his craft for tougher fights.
He would inevitably shore up his wrestling game, and his Muay Thai as well, to allow him the opportunity to control bigger opponents with more efficiency. If the strength of his opponents proved too much, he could certainly use that jiu-jitsu game he’s always talking about improving.
Jones owns six submission victories in his career, but the heavyweight division appears to have more submission savvy fighters than his current one, with guys like Allistair Overeem, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum, who have a combined 48 career submission victories.
It’s already been stated that Jones uses technical and effective (if unorthodox) striking to demoralize opponents. A move to the heavyweight division might not help his chances at one punch knockouts, but it would give him a distinct speed advantage over his opponents.
Jones possesses a striking defense of 67 percent and a striking accuracy of 53 percent, according to Fight Metric. The top 3 heavyweights in the world—Velasquez, dos Santos, and Cormier—all land punches on opponents at rates of 58, 49 and 49 percent respectively.
You would have to think that these striking averages would decrease against a fighter who is used to fighting in a lower weight class. Jones would look to capitalize on this speed advantage and pick apart bigger opponents with even crisper striking than usual.
At the end of the day, the only fights that make sense for Jones at light heavyweight are Alexander Gustafsson, who possesses similar physical gifts to Jones in the height and reach department, and Cormier, who is trying to make a cut to the division to avoid a potential matchup with Velasquez at heavyweight.
Whether for his image, potential or the addition of a new advantage inside the Octagon, Jon "Bones" Jones should move up in weight sooner rather than later.