On September 24th, 2011, Jon “Bones” Jones will defend his light heavyweight championship against veteran and former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
It has the makings of the best fight of the year.
Oddsmakers have Jones pegged as the favorite in the fight, and the general consensus is that the 24-year-old will run through Jackson.
I’ll admit that Jones deserves some of his hype, but the fight won’t be a shutout. Rampage will be his stiffest test to date, and as such we will see a tremendous performance from both fighters.
The old adage “styles make fights” certainly applies to Rampage vs. Jones, so let us explore how this fight could stylistically be the biggest and most entertaining of the year.
First and foremost, let’s address the potential buildup to the fight. Rampage is no stranger to trash talk, and as the video shows, he has already been taking shots at Jones during the UFC 135 press conference.
Jones gets his licks in as well. His demeanor may not be as playful as Jackson’s, but he’s clearly not the type to sit and let himself get derided all night.
Jackson has been building up fights for a decade, long before the rehearsed antics of Chael Sonnen. In the upcoming weeks, expect to see Rampage in full force with several one-liners dedicated to Jones.
Stylistically, the bout looks very exciting.
Visually, Jones is the more versatile fighter. No highlight video of Jones is complete without a prominent display of flashy (and effective) spinning elbows and unorthodox submissions.
Over the past few years, Jackson has transformed from a ground-and-pounder to a standing striker, but this has led to more success in his MMA career.
The last time Jackson was knocked out, it was in 2005 against a healthy Shogun Rua. It’s been six years since then, and while Jackson has been rocked by opponents like Rashad Evans, he hasn’t been close to being finished by his opponents. This is not to say Jones can’t do it, but time and again Jackson has proven to have a reliable chin.
The last time Jackson was submitted, it was in 2001 against a prime Kazushi Sakuraba. While it could be successfully argued that the present Jones is a better fighter than Sakuraba was at that time, Jackson has also improved greatly and his submission defense is notable.
Jones has completed 72 percent of attempted takedowns, but his double-leg has yet to be tested against the likes of Jackson, who has stuffed 84 percent of takedowns attempted on him.
Simply by looking at the numbers, we can see that both men are a lot more closely matched than previously thought. Sure, Jones has a tremendous wingspan, but for every inch of reach that Jones has over Jackson, Jackson can claim similarly in experience.
Quinton Jackson is an established veteran. He has 40 professional fights that testify to his experience and he has fought the absolute best in the world, including Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell, among so many others.
Jon Jones is the hungry young fighter who’s already making a name for himself, but his resume includes only one elite fighter: former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Even though he completely dismantled Rua, already there is speculation that Rua wasn’t in top form for the fight, as he was coming off a long layoff and knee surgery.
Jackson will be the first true test of Jones’ ability, as Rampage is (currently) healthy and fresh off a recent victory over Matt Hamill. With the incredible amount of hype surrounding Jones, both a win or a loss will be enough to set off a maelstrom of media attention comparable to a Lesnar fight.
If Jones wins a hard-fought decision over a span of five rounds, his critics will be hard pressed to say that Jones is only hype.
If he wins by spectacular finish over such a high-quality opponent, expect to see the Bones bandwagon increase two-fold.
If Rampage wins via hard-fought decision, then expect the UFC promoters to make the case that Jackson is one of the best ever, and rightfully so.
If he wins by spectacular finish, then he will forever be known as the man who “exposed” Jones and killed all the hype.
It’s truly hard to see a negative outcome to this fight, and that makes it potentially the biggest and best of the year.