UFC 128 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey marked the beginning of Jon "Bones" Jones' reign as UFC light heavyweight champion.
Destroying seasoned veteran and former UFC and Pride light heavyweight champion, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Jones captivated millions of fans with his arsenal of stand-up strikes and brilliant take-down defense to become the youngest UFC champion in history.
Crowned champion, experts worldwide will now begin to analyze the "what-ifs" of "Bones's" career.
One such query is "what-if" Jones competed at heavyweight? What fighters could the current UFC light heavyweight champion challenge, if not defeat?
At 6'5" with a reach of 84.5", Jones has the physical stature to match-up against most of the roster in the UFC heavyweight division.
Walking around at roughly 220 pounds, Jones is an under-sized competitor for the array of super heavyweights present in the UFC.
Therefore, the following are 10 heavyweights I feel Jon "Bones" Jones can challenge, if not earn a victory against, based on "Bones's" size, speed, dynamic offense and overall skill-set.
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At 12-5 with 10 knockouts, Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran fights with one philosophy inside the Octagon: Stand and bang.
Beltran is clearly one-dimensional and relies heavily on his boxing prowess and his toughness to engage with the best heavyweights in the UFC.
Standing toe-to-toe with kick boxing sensation Pat Barry in his last matchup, Beltran was still the aggressor in the later rounds even though he was visibly limping on a damaged left leg after enduring a barrage of lethal leg strikes from the K-1 veteran.
Jon Jones is tremendously talented on his feet. A dynamic striker who utilizes a variety of angles and attacks with all eight weapons, Jones would be able to minimize Beltran's offense through his quick feet and employ a vicious assault on the one-dimensional heavyweight.
If "Bones" decides to take this fight to the ground, Beltran has very limited Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu abilities and will be exposed for his weaknesses in the ground game very quickly.
Joey Beltran's toughness would keep him in this fight against Jon Jones, only for a short time, however. His lack of well-rounded talents would open up many opportunities for the current light heavyweight champion and Jones would be crowned the victor against "The Mexicutioner."
A former two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler at Minnesota State University, Chris Tuchscherer is a teammate of former UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar.
With an overall MMA record of 21-4, "The Crowbar" is 1-3 inside the UFC Octagon.
Losing by (T)KO on all three occasions, the chin of Tuchscherer is suspect.
Even though Chris is roughly 260 pounds, his limited stand-up abilities would be exploited by the versatile Jon Jones. Quick and agile on his feet, Jones would be able to utilize his foot speed and long reach to easily land strikes while avoiding any offense by the big heavyweight.
Understanding that Jones would be in danger if the former All-American wrestler was able to take "Bones" down. I can only assume, however, that this threat would not occur considering Jones has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon.
Clearly a clash of stylistic differences, the speed and athleticism of Jones would win out against the power and sheer size of Tuchscherer.
I foresee a second round (T)KO by Jon "Bones" Jones between these two combatants.
At 6'0" tall and weighing 255 pounds, Jon Madsen has utilized all of his seemingly undersized heavyweight frame to his benefit racking up a 4-0 record within the UFC.
Going the distance in three of his four fights inside the Octagon, Madsen's conditioning is always top-notch and enables the wrestler to constantly force the action against his opponents.
Evidently heavier than Jon Jones, Madsen has only a 69" reach, whereas Jones has an incredible 84.5" wingspan.
The ability for the current UFC light heavyweight champion to stay on the outside and pick apart the less agile Madsen is a huge benefit for Jones.
Delivering bone-shattering strike after strike from various angles and planes will be the key to Jon Jones' success. Varying the combinations that "Bones" utilizes will keep Madsen off balance and will prevent the heavyweight from taking Jones to the mat where he is much more comfortable.
In the end, like Tuchscherer, Madsen will not be able to overcome Jones' reach and athleticism. Picking apart Madsen, Jones will ultimately finish the Death Clutch member via TKO from strikes providing Madsen with his first defeat in the UFC.
A matchup between Jon Jones and Stefan Struve would be very interesting.
Stefan Struve is 6'11" and weighs 255 pounds, both of which are larger dimensions than Jon Jones.
With an overall MMA record of 21-4 with 14 submissions, Struve has a very well-rounded fight game and is versed on his feet and on the mat.
A back and forth challenge on the fight, the difference between these two young UFC superstars is that Jones is much more explosive and dynamic as a striker as compared to Struve.
I am in no way taking away from "The Skyscrapers" stand-up skills, however, both strikers Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson were able to get inside on the taller Struve and punish him with vicious punches.
Following in that same game-plan, Jones will be able to utilize his agility and movement to deliver punishing shots to Struve, ultimately taking down "The Skyscraper."
In the end, I feel like this fight would be a back and forth affair. However, Jones hand will be raised in victory as Struve is tended to by the ringside physician following a knockout.
A "Duke" Roufus prodigy fighting out of the Roufusport Fight Club, Pat Barry is a tremendously gifted kick boxing sensation that has competed globally on the world's largest kick-boxing stages.
Competing in K-1 tournaments world-wide, Barry accumulated an 18-6 overall kick-boxing record before stepping foot inside the Octagon.
Utilizing his stand-up skills, "HD" has dominated opponents on his feet in the UFC. His two losses are both via submission illustrating Barry's limited jiu-jitsu skills.
If this fight between Jon Jones and Pat Barry stays on the feet, the fans will be rewarded with non-stop fireworks by both fighters. The extremely diverse striking skills of Jon Jones will look to take out the precision striking of one of the most talented kick-boxing grounded fighters inside the UFC.
Like Joey Beltran, Pat Barry does not want a fight to go to the ground. Because of Jon Jones' wrestling background, he could easily take advantage of Barry's limited take-down defense and exploit the Roufus prodigy with ground-and-pound or a submission.
An extremely electric battle between two stand-up specialists, Jones would earn a victory via submission on the ground.
"The Hybrid" Brendan Schaub, like Jon Jones, is coming off his biggest victory to date with a third round KO of legend, Mirko Cro Cop, at UFC 128.
A former collegiate and professional football player, Brendan Schaub is extremely athletic.
Combine his athleticism with a very solid boxing background including a Golden Gloves boxing championship to his credit, and Schaub is quite the challenge for Jones.
Teammates at Jackson Submission Fighting, both Jones and Schaub are well versed with each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Considering that both fighters are athletic, talented strikers, solid on the ground and have an incredible heart and desire for victory, who wins this match-up between teammates?
To this author, I give the slight edge to Jon Jones because of his ingenuity inside the Octagon. His arsenal of varied strikes from a multitude of angles may be the edge needed to pull out a decision victory.
Closely contested, I would be eager to see this fight come to fruition.
The long and storied career of Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira includes the whose who of mixed martial arts competitors.
Challenging the likes of Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Sergei Kharitonov and Dan Henderson, just to name a few, Nogueira has entered the cage against the stiffest of competition.
Known for his boxing prowess, solid chin and wizardry on the ground, "Minotauro" is a solid adversary for any opponent.
Unable to match Jon Jones in athleticism or quickness, Nogueira's best defense on his feet will be his boxing defense and his ability to stand and trade in the pocket.
On the ground, however, "Minotauro" will have a sizeable advantage in the jiu-jitsu department against the less experienced Jones.
If Antonio is able to take Jon Jones to the ground, I believe Jones will suffer a submission defeat.
However, if "Bones" is able to elude any take-down threat and keep this fight standing, Jones will pick apart Nogueira with his reach advantage and quickness mounting up points in the judges' eyes on his way to a decision victory.
A three-time former UFC heavyweight champion and two-time UFC light heavyweight champion, "The Natural" Randy Couture has championship pedigree coursing through his hall-of-fame veins.
A superior athlete in his own right, Couture has defeated a variety of athletic opponents including Brandon Vera, Vitor Belfort and Tito Ortiz.
Known for his conditioning and wrestling foundation, "The Natural" will nullify any of "Bones's" take-down attempts.
Balancing the scales in the grappling department, I feel that this fight will be won by the superior striker. And that advantage rests with Jon Jones.
Not to discredit any of Randy's stand-up abilities, but at 47 years old, he lacks the speed, explosiveness and creativity of the 23-year-old light heavyweight champion.
A fight for the ages, Jon Jones' hand will be raised in victory as Randy Couture passes the torch on, so to speak, to the next generation of UFC superstar.
At 6'4", 240 pounds of Brazilian muscle, Junior "Cigano" dos Santos (JDS) is a human wrecking machine.
With an overall MMA record of 12-1 with eight knockouts, JDS delivers head-thumping bomb after bomb inside the Octagon.
Knocking out the likes of Gabriel Gonzaga, Fabricio Werdum and Mirko Cro Cop, dos Santos possesses a multitude of crushing strikes including punches, kicks and knees.
Additionally, Junior has earned a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at Black House training school in Brazil.
How would the current UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon "Bones" Jones match up against Junior dos Santos?
On one hand, the one advantage Jones has over JDS is his speed and athleticism. Dos Santos is known to stand and trade in the pocket relying on his heavy hands to weather a storm. He does not retreat, nor does he utilize angles and levels as much as Jones.
However, I feel that the skill-set JDS possesses is outside of Jon Jones' abilities. JDS is too powerful, too explosive, too precise with his strikes and is equally versed on the ground.
Therefore, in the end, Jon Jones would present a challenge for Junior dos Santos. Yet, it would be the Brazilian heavyweight who earns the victory in this epic battle.
Like Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez's rise to UFC championship gold was set at a meteoric pace.
Defeating tremendous heavyweight talents including Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Velasquez made short work of previous UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar to acquire the belt and sit atop the heavyweight throne.
At 9-0 with eight knockouts, Cain possesses dynamite in all his strikes and moves very well on his feet.
As agile as Jones, this match-up of striking sensations would deliver not only excitement and praise, but the opportunity to witness the very best MMA striking present.
Both Jones and Velasquez can deliver a finishing blow. Both fighters have the ability to elude damage, yet deliver precise and powerful strikes. And both fighters are fluid and possess amazing footwork.
On the ground, Jones and Velasquez have equal wrestling abilities. Considering that Velasquez competed at a higher level in college and is the larger man, I award the slight edge to the current heavyweight champion in the grappling department.
Additionally, whereas Jon Jones is ever improving in his jiu-jitsu skills, Velasquez is solidified with a brown belt in Guerrilla jiu-jitsu at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California.
When the sweat is wiped and the blood is clotted between these two champions, Cain Velasquez will remain undefeated and Jon Jones will stand proud knowing that he has taken the current UFC heavyweight champion the distance, yet came up just short on the judges' scorecards.