Jon Jones' coming out party came at UFC 94, when he manhandled the veteran Stephan Bonnar en route to a unanimous decision. His massive potential was easy to see in that fight, as he displayed amazing strength and coordination throughout, while showing enough maturity to not get worn down by his more seasoned opponent.
Since Jones' fight against Bonnar, the hype surrounding the man has only become more intense, and in fact, has become one of the major subjects of conversation in MMA.
The Jones Effect
In sales, the Jones Effect refers to a way of motivating people to buy the mentality of "keeping up with the Joneses."
In MMA, the Jones Effect refers to the exploding of brains and demanding of title shots that results when people watch Jon Jones fight. Such is the excitement surrounding the man and his potential.
The excitement is easy to understand. Jon Jones has been manhandling guys, throwing spinning back elbows, and generally has been looking like a force to be reckoned with.
That said, the hype surrounding the man is a bit ridiculous.
The Reasons For The Hype
Hype in MMA is nothing new, of course.
MMA is full of bandwagon jumpers, and people who generally get overexcited about every win, and overly negative about every loss. For example, people seem to think Lyoto Machida is done now, even though he has only lost a single fight.
Some of the hype for Jones is justified. A lot of it is not.
The justifiable hype is the excitement surrounding his massive potential as an MMA prospect.
Aside from power and athleticism, Jones has shown consistent improvements, maturity that seems beyond his years, and an ability to pull off low—percentage and unorthodox moves with ease.
On the other hand, a lot of the hype surrounding Jones can be divided into two less reasonable ideas, those being the mystique of the undefeated fighter and the hyping of prospects in general.
The mystique of an undefeated fighter is something that tends to bend people's perceptions about a fighter's actual capabilities and weaknesses.
Fedor Emelianenko had it.
Lyoto Machida had it.
And even though Jon Jones has that DQ loss on his record, he has the mystique. Because of that, people are going to continue to irrationally think that he can't lose, can't be submitted, and can't be knocked out just because he hasn't.
Going along with this mystique is the bandwagon effect that goes along with being the most popular young prospect in the sport.
Everybody wants to jump on board the Jon Jones bandwagon now, so they'll feel good about themselves if and when he becomes a champion. Others who care less about that particular feeling still bring up Jones in conversation and give him the nod as the best prospect in MMA, because it seems like a smart thing to say.
I count myself among those who think that Jones has the ability to become as good or better than some already seem to think he is. That said, there are some cautions that I think people should keep in mind.
Some Cautions On The Hyping Of Jon Jones
While Jones has won in convincing fashion up to this point, there are still some areas of concern.
Jones got tired in his fight against Stephan Bonnar, and since then we haven't seen him pushed the full 15—minute distance, so his cardio and conditioning still remain a question.
Spinning back elbows, lateral drops, and wing chun techniques have all made their appearances in Jones's fights. But although he's shown an ability to execute such flashy techniques, his overall striking still requires improvement.
For example, Jake O'Brien was out-boxing Jones for long stretches before he got caught by a spinning back elbow, and Jones still needs to show that he can keep up a solid work rate with his strikes rather than just throwing a flashy technique every 15 or 20 seconds.
Also, I have a feeling that his striking defense still is probably not up to snuff with the top of the division.
While Jones certainly has fight—ending power of his own, his lack of defense could prove costly against the elite strikers of the division like Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua, who could be quick to capitalize on the opening left by one of Jones' flashier strikes.
On the ground, Jones can end the fight with a massive elbow strike like the one he landed on Brandon Vera, but his arm placement inside the guard looked dangerous to the point that many think Jones would have been submitted by one of the better BJJ artists in the division.
The Next Move For Jones
Should Jones defeat Vladimir Matyushenko in spectacular fashion, it seems likely that people are going to be screaming for a title shot, or at least some sort of title elimination bout (some people already want him to fight the winner of the fight between Rampage Jackson and Machida).
I don't know if a title shot is the best thing for Jon Jones at this moment.
Certainly he has the offensive skills to possibly win, but he still hasn't picked up all of the tools to give himself the greatest possible chance.
Sherdog's Jordan Breen has said on frequent occasion that the best thing for Jones may be to keep winning, but to not be quite so impressive that fans are clamoring for him to get an instant title shot.
The more time that Jones has to fill out his skill set, the better off he is going to be once he's thrown in with the lions fight in and fight out.
There's a reason why Jones is being placed up against Matyushenko, and it isn't simply to pad his record.
When Jones finally gets his shot at a title, I fully expect the fan reaction to be that "it's about time this guy got a shot."
What these fans will fail to realize is that how Jones fares in that bout will be a direct result of the development path he's been afforded up to that point.