If you ask Jon Jones, he is ready to maintain his momentum and take the gold at UFC 128.
However, he may be in for a surprise.
Practically-speaking, Jones is undefeated. Officially, he has a tarnished record at the hands of Matt Hamill, who did nothing but unwillingly submit to Jones' barrage of strikes underneath a brutal mount.
After his victory over Vladimir Matyushenko, Jones admitted he's eager to face a striker to challenge him. Not only has Jones received that opportunity, but he also has to prove himself against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, one of the most dangerous strikers in the history of the sport, in a championship match.
It's a tall order for a young fighter who just started training in MMA.
Along with the championship at stake in a test he hasn't yet proven himself to be worthy of, Jones also has the prospect of facing training partner and friend Rashad Evans if he wins.
If you take one look at Jones though, it seems that all this pressure is shaken off as soon as it tries to attach itself to him.
One thing's for sure: this fight shouldn't be a walk in the park for Jones, even if he does end up winning. He could very well take Shogun down and submit him like he plans; as he pointed out in UFC Primetime, Shogun has been taken down by fighters who aren't even good wrestlers.
However, this very certainty may backfire on him.
Although I believe Jones will win, I would be foolish to say he's already won, as he claims he has. He has yet to see his limit, and I view this to be his weakness. Everyone has a limit, and just because Jones doesn't see his, doesn't mean he doesn't have one.
Shogun probably doesn't see any drastic technique he can use to subdue Jones other than leg kicks and systematic chopping to work him into the later rounds and hopefully exhaust him while avoiding the takedown.
But that doesn't mean Shogun won't find the window he needs to close in.
Although it appears that Jones has plenty of support, Shogun is in almost as unique a position. He is facing what could be the most dominant light heavyweight MMA has seen in a long time, or he could stop that train dead in its tracks. This could end up being more of a make-or-break moment for Jones than Shogun.
If Jones succeeds and claims the light heavyweight title, he may indeed be in there for a long time. His blossoming skill, in conjunction with often unparalleled natural talent, is almost a perfect storm for someone of his physical stature, not to mention the fact that no one has seemed to figure him out yet.
However, Shogun is no slouch, and people quickly learned that one can't conceivably count him out. Jones is essentially being tested for the first time in a setting where he likely wouldn't get another crack at the title for a year or two if he loses.
The leap up in competition for Jones means a fall would be twice as hard.
That isn't to say the odds help Shogun; if he does win, he will likely win via knockout/TKO and send Jones back to the training grounds with Lyoto Machida, Ryan Bader and the like. If Jones wins, though, he will finally gain a hard-earned position, one that will catch the attention of every light heavyweight fighter in the world.
Although it certainly doesn't seem like it from my perspective and other Jones supporters, the fact is that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
A fighter who doesn't know his limits will confidently display his skills until he is somehow shaped by some external, environmental factor.
Will Shogun be that factor? He very well may be. We'll know come Saturday night.
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