Jon Jones' impressive dispatching of Brandon Vera last night at UFC 1 on Versus was only an affirmation of the hype that has surrounded the New York native since he burst onto the UFC scene back at UFC 87.
Last night, Jones beat Vera to the punch and took "The Truth" down easily early in the fight. Vera would get back to his feet only to be taken down again. After some further exchanges on the ground, including an illegal up-kick from Vera, the fight would end 3:19 into the first round via TKO after a vicious elbow from Jones.
His comfortable victory last night—over easily his toughest opponent—will continue the call that Jonny "Bones" Jones is the hottest prospect in MMA.
At 4-1 in the UFC, with the loss being a DQ to Matt Hamill after crushing the fighter before, the growing hype is becoming justified.
The question now is not whether or not Jones is good enough, but what does the UFC do with him next?
He clearly has the talent to go to the very top, but the UFC needs to manage Jones carefully and not rush the young fighter.
Jones has shown great improvements from fight to fight, and since he is now part of the Greg Jackson Camp he will be surrounded by the right people to continue improving. But he should not jump up too far too soon because, as impressive as he was last night, I am of the opinion that Brandon Vera is not as good as the UFC hype machine would have us all believe.
Jon Jones would still only just make it into the top 10 in the LHW division in this writer's opinion, so expectations need to be in line with that. So who should he face next?
Another step up the ladder is in order for Jones but the majority of the top 10 is already lined up for upcoming events. Machida vs. Rua headlines UFC 113 in Montreal along with Griffin vs. "Lil Nog," and Rashad Evans and Rampage are set to square off at UFC 114.
A fight against Thiago Silva makes a lot of divisional sense, but it's a fight that Jones and his camp should avoid because the Brazilian is dangerous. It is a winnable fight for Jones but Silva does not carry a big name and a win would not do much for his resume. Jones should really be asking the UFC for what I would call a "big name" fight.
Randy Couture would be perfect but it looks likely "The Natural" will square off against Rich Franklin. Evans and Rampage are out as one is a training partner and Rampage only has one fight left on his contract.
Therefore, I would be looking at the loser of the Griffin vs. Lil Nog fight for Jones' next opponent. It would be a step up and a big name for Jones to fight, allowing him time to continue training and improving as a fighter whilst he waits for their fight at UFC 113.
So UFC 1 on Versus has shown us how good Jon Jones is, but I urge caution on the hype, and I hope that the UFC will allow this young talented fighter to develop at a good rate.
What to do with Jon Jones? Manage him wisely and give him the right fights.