After Thiago Silva decided to teach Brandon Vera a lesson on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and effective open hand slaps, Jon Jones took to Twitter to call out the Brazilian slugger.
"Wow that slapping was so disrespectful.. id love to give him a slap in the face"
And just in case people didn't take him seriously the first time, Jones followed that up with the following tweet.
"For all the Tiago silva fans who had a problem with my comment, I want you all to know that I stand behind what I said 100%. Dominating someone in a fight is 1 thing, looking to simply humiliate them is another… Traditional martial artist always seemed to show honor and respect.. Anyways what’s done is done, I’m headed to the gym to make sure nothing like that ever happens to me.”
Since then, some mixed martial arts fans have suggested that this would be an awesome fight to book, assuming that Jones beats Ryan Bader at UFC 126. While I agreed that a fight between Silva and Jones would produce some serious fireworks, most others felt differently.
Message boards went crazy with posts like "Jones via destruction" or "Bones crushes Silva. First round KO." At first, I bought into all of that: I figured that Jon "Bones" Jones was simply too tough for Thiago Silva, and there was no way that the Brazilian could overcome the wrecking balls that are Jon Jones' elbows.
But then I took a step back and actually looked at the fight, and it's a whole hell of a lot closer than most people would think. The skill set that Jones possesses would make it extremely difficult to dominate Thiago Silva.
When you look at Jon Jones' record, the first thing you are drawn to are all of his wins via TKO or KO. Now usually someone like that is a pretty dominate striker, but Jones has amassed all of his TKO victories in the Octagon via ground and pound. He is more comfortable on the ground. His frame and skills lend themselves beautifully to his work on the mat.
That's all fine and dandy, but Silva has shown some of the absolute best jiu jitsu in the light heavyweight division. He is incredible adept at sweeps, transitioning from a defensive position into mount almost seamlessly. His top control was impeccable against Vera, who looked absolutely lost as he tried to escape back to his feet.
Jones has been absolutely dominate in his past three fights, but look at who he has fought. He showed vastly superior jiu jitsu against Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko. Hamill and Matyushenko are both wrestlers, a certain breed of fighter who has always looked pretty pathetic off their back.
Yes, he broke Brandon Vera's face but never really displayed a dominant jiu jitsu game. He was able to takedown Vera with a trip, and then sit in his guard until he landed the fight ending elbow. Jones never really looked to advance position or anything of the sort.
Jones would be looking at his sternest test on the ground so far. Between Silva's credentials and past fights, he may be able to give the youngster absolute fits when the fight hits the mat. At the same time, Jones has shown absolutely nothing to hint that he couldn't control Silva; between his wrestling and training with Greg Jackson, Jones has turned into a complete fighter on the ground. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see either one win the ground portion of the fight.
On the feet is where things begin to get tricky.
Jon Jones hasn't looked THAT good striking during his UFC run. Yes, he has shown flashy moves at times. He also outstruck the ultimate brawler Stephan Bonnar and UFC reject Jake O'Brien, but what else has he shown? He threw a combined five strikes against Hammill, Matyuhshenko and Vera. He would circle around, throw a feeler jab, and rush in for the trip takedown.
On the other hand, you know what you get with Silva on his feet: heavy hands and a refined brawling style. He comes straight forward, rarely using kicks, and looks to knock off his opponents' heads. He doesn't throw punches to outpoint you, he throws punch to knock you out.
I will admit that his chin hasn't looked stellar in his past fights. The shot from Machida that did him in would have knocked out a horse, but besides that his chin has still looked mediocre. Silva was rocked by James Irvin, Antonio Mendes, and Houston Alexander.
But Silva's biggest question is also Jones'. Have we ever seen Jones hit with a really solid shot? I don't think so. Until someone cracks Bones across the jaw, we won't have any clue how he will react.
Maybe he turns out like Brock Lesnar, someone who is just afraid to get hit, or maybe he has a Chris Leben-esque chin. We simply don't know.
One other factor to consider going into this fight is pure strength. Watching the Silva/Vera fight, it was plain to see that Vera just couldn't match Silva's strength and power. He looked almost a full weight class above Vera, which is astounding considering Vera used to fight at heavyweight.
Jones is a lanky fighter. His six foot four frame works for his style, but you have to wonder if he is giving up muscle to make the 205 pound limit. Silva could very easily bully Jones around due to strength alone.
I'll admit that if I had a gun to my head, I would pick Jon Jones to beat Thiago Silva—but not before some serious debate. Silva's combination of power, Jiu Jitsu and ground and pound is a tough test for anyone to handle, let alone Jones. As Pat Barry so eloquently put it, Silva doesn't hit hard, he hits scary.
So before you go ahead and pencil in "Jon Jones via TKO", think about who Jones has faced and how he has beat them. Sure he has looked impressive, but this is MMA and anything can happen.
Just think, three months ago Brock Lesnar was the baddest man on the planet.