UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones faced another legend last night and, like all his previous bouts, the youngest title holder in UFC history was again able to dispatch his opponent with relative ease.
Taking on former champion Lyoto Machida, Jones faced quite a bit of adversity in the opening frame, eating solid punches each time the karate ace blitzed in to strike. A look of worry was cast on Jones' face in between rounds.
But that look left as quickly as it came.
In the second round, Jones had a much better time dictating the pace of the bout, able to secure a takedown against the cage where he was able to rain down vicious elbows that cut Machida's forehead wide open.
Stunning the former champion, Jones was able to use this moment and hit Machida with a straight as he lunged in. This strike buckled Machida and left his neck wide open for a guillotine choke. Jones quickly took Machida's neck and put the karate ace to sleep in the last minute of the round.
Although Jones took the decisive victory, there was a hole exposed in Jones' game.
Machida's blitzing style seemed to baffle the champion in the opening round as he was repeatedly hit each time Machida lunged in. This bout was the first time Jones had to face an unorthodox striker such as himself and he had a tough time dealing with it.
Anyone who wants to stop Jones must have a creative striking style that can overcome his reach advantage. As the fight went on, Jones was able to establish his reach once again, thus nullifying Machida's blitz. Future opponents must find a way to consistently move in and out on Jones while avoiding his strikes.
Another important factor is wrestling ability. Jones is a superior wrestler to most in the division, giving him a huge grappling advantage.
The final piece to defeating Jon Jones is constant movement and footwork in the stand-up. Previous opponents such as Rampage Jackson and Shogun Rua both were mystified by Jones' skill and literally just stood there as he picked them apart.
Machida did the smart thing and kept moving but was unable to take definite control in the cage and so allowed Jones to eventually play his game. Staying light on the feet and forcing Jones to be uncomfortable is key.
But who does that leave?
I believe that the two best guys to dethrone Jones are the headliners for UFC on FOX 2.
Both Rashad Evans and Phil Davis are big, powerful wrestlers with heavy hands and quick footwork. Evans and Davis can move faster on their feet than Jackson or Rua while staying more aggressive than Machida.
They may not have the variety of strikes that Machida or Rua have, but both Evans and Davis can contend with Jones on the ground and they can keep him on his toes while striking.
However, if either fighter wants to be the first person to finish Jones and take his belt, they will have to work extremely hard and not become tentative when he starts throwing funky techniques.