Jon "Bones" Jones is quite possibly the biggest prospect the UFC has had in the Light Heavyweight division since Brandon Vera. However, Jones proved that, in the words of a fellow BR writer, he is indeed a better "Brandon Vera" than Brandon Vera himself.
For while Vera was bragging about how he would hold the belt in two divisions, Jones simply steamrolled through competition without anybody giving him a legitimate loss. After Jones beat Vera at UFC on Versus, it is the beginning of stardom for Jones, and the end of stardom for Vera.
Anyway, enough with the Vera talk. As of now, Jones' next opponent is unknown. Each of his fights from now on will be the most important ones in his career, so it's time to examine who could be the next opponent for the ever-growing "Bones."
Jon Jones and Ryan Bader are both currently in very similar positions. They have just beaten the gatekeeper they needed to pass in order for them to cross into the upper echelon of the LW division.
Despite them being in nearly identical positions, I guarantee you that it if they fight, it won't be very competitive. Even though Bader defeated Keith Jardine, it was a close bout up until the third round, when Bader managed to take advantage of Jardine's glass chin.
On the other hand, Jones absolutely decimated Brandon Vera to take home the victory in the first round. If Jones were to actually fight Bader, his excellent reach and unpredictable striking would make Bader struggle to land a shot.
On paper, it might seem to be a good stylistic match-up for Bader because of his wrestling credentials. Fortunately for Jones, he had the perfect gameplan in his fight against Hammil and it would also most likely serve him well against Bader too.
Although Bader is in the same situation as Jones, he still has aways to go in order to compete with him.
A chance for both fighters to prove something would be given if Thiago Silva and Jones were to fight. While Jones is coming off an impressive win against Vera, Silva is coming off a very unimpressive loss against Rashad Evans.
In his bout with Evans, Silva was overwhelmed from Evans's vastly superior wrestling throughout the first two rounds, and then only in the final round he barely managed to rock Evans, stopping because of his lack of stamina. Although his striking is excellent, his ground game is lacking.
If he fought and won against Jones, he would prove that he is more than just a gatekeeper.
The wrestling of Jones would not only be a huge factor in his fight with Silva, his unorthodox striking always gives him a slight advantage. It's hard to fight intelligently against spinning back elbows. Like Evans, Jones could grapple with Silva and easily take home at least a unanimous decision.
Rich Franklin is at a problematic place right now. He was going to fight Randy Couture at UFC 115, but soon after there were rumors that he would replace Tito Ortiz to fight against Chuck Liddell. Dana White claimed this was not true and he would still fight Couture.
Unless the result of his fight against Couture is not good or he gets injured, it would be an excellent idea for him to fight against Jones. He has explosive and powerful striking, something that may give Jones some problems.
His brown belt in BJJ is something that could produce quite a predicament for Jones on the ground. Jones would have to tread carefully in pretty much everything against Franklin; Franklin is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport of MMA.
The only clear advantage Jones has over Franklin is age, which is extremely important. Franklin is 36 and didn't look good against Vitor Belfort who overwhelmed him with his quick striking in only the first round. Jones would need to be quick to fight and win against Franklin.
Age may be the only advantage Jones needs. If this fight were to happen five or so years ago, it would definitely be a different story, but now Jones would be able to win.
Forrest Griffin against Jones would be great in the respect that you can never count Griffin out of a fight. Did people give him a chance against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua? No. What about Quinton "Rampage" Jackson? Not a chance that I can remember.
On paper, it would seem that Jones could easily defeat Griffin. Griffin is a brawler, and like many he would have a tough time dealing with Jones' striking.
Griffin's brown belt in jiu jitsu might be the only thing that can produce a few difficulties, but otherwise it's hard to find anything to contest Jones, standing or on the ground. If everything were to go ideally for him, it's not hard to imagine Jones recreating his fight with Stephan Bonnar.
An important thing separating Griffin from nearly all fighters is his heart. Right up until the bell rings to signal the end of the final round, he gives it his all. If Jones were to gas like he did in the final round of his fight with Bonnar, Griffin would undoubtedly take advantage of it.
It would make an intriguing fight, but if Jones comes adequately prepared he should be able to win.
In my opinion, Little Nog is one of the most underrated fighters in MMA. His record, 18-3, is good in itself and his losses are nothing to be ashamed of. His first loss was against Vladimir Matyushenko. A strong fighter, but Nog just recently brutally avenged the loss with a KO by knee.
His second loss was against Mauricio Rua in his prime; and it was an amazing fight that went to the decision. It was considered by many to be fight of the year in 2005. His third and final loss was likely a fluke.
He fought Sokoudjou, and probably underestimated him greatly. Sokoudjou is known for being deadly in the first round, but gassing as early as the second round. Anyway, he KO'ed Nog at 0:23 of round one. It was a blessing in disguise. Little Nog now knows to never underestimate his opponents.
Little Nog is now on a five-win streak and just silenced his critics with a deadly KO of Luis Cane in the first round. His dangerous BJJ and crisp and effective boxing is unfortunate for Jones. His experience is an added bonus, which makes Little Nog the worst opponent for Jones out of the five in this slideshow.
Jones' only advantage may again be age. However, this time I don't think it's enough for him to win. I think Jones would put up a great fight, but eventually Little Nog would win.