The Obsessions of Jon Jones

By on April 23, 2014

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It's 8:45 in the morning, and I'm standing in the lobby of the famed Jackson/Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts gym. Photos of the gym's fighters through the years line the walls, and the gray reception desk is covered with boxes and mail. 

Jackson/Winkeljohn is not what you expect a famous gym to look like. It has churned out champions for years and has been home to some of the most famous fighters in the world. Given this, one might expect a large building with high-tech equipment and all the latest amenities designed to produce incredible athletes.

That is not the case.

The gym is modest, located in what might best be described as a sketchy part of town. It is one of those places where, unless you know exactly where you’re going and what you’re looking for, you might not find it at all and end up in a place you don’t want to be.

There are mats and there is a cage, but there is not much else.

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Aaron Sweet/Getty Images

For the first time ever, the UFC will bring its traveling circus to Baltimore on Saturday night, and the best fighter in the world is coming along for the ride.

Jon Jones has not competed since a narrow win over Alexander Gustafsson in September. This time around, he defends his championship against a top light heavyweight with an entirely different skill set than any opponent he has faced thus far.

Glover Teixeira has long been lauded by hardcore fans as one of the best light heavyweights in mixed martial arts, but visa issues prevented him from making his Octagon debut until 2012.

He has not lost a fight since 2005. His 20-fight winning streak is impressive. But does he have what it takes to compete with one of the best talents the sport has ever seen? And, more importantly for our purposes, is he worth gambling on? We’ll take a look at the main event and the rest of the main card in the following pages.

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USA Today

Let’s all say it together: Ugh.

Not to be the bearer of soul-crushing news, but the tea leaves indicate a long-rumored, much-decried fight between Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano may still be in the offing.

Despite the UFC’s good and proper recent decision to book Rousey against Alexis Davis at July’s UFC 175, company president Dana White re-stoked the fires about a Carano superfight on Saturday, following UFC on Fox 11.

White reportedly emerged from last week’s meeting with Carano positively glowing and indicated he’s still hopeful a deal can get done. During the Fox event's media scrum he also defended the notion the fighter-turned-actress might step straight into a bout for Rousey’s gold.

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Credit: Championship Fighting Alliance

Fallon Fox's fifteen minutes of fame was inevitable the moment she got a phone call that changed everything. 

It should have been a time for celebration, a dinner to celebrate the launch of something new. Fox, in just her second professional fight, had won in devastating fashion, knocking out poor Ericka Newsome with a brutal knee in the clinch.

The ringing phone, and the reporter on the other end, changed the mood, glee turning to gloom in just a few seconds. The gist?

"I know."

The reporter's words were as chilling as they were inevitable. Her secret, one she had kept close to her heart for seven years even from close friends such as her trainer Joe Smith, was about to become very, very public. 

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USA Today

The last name is actually not that difficult if you just sound it out:

Nurm-a-go-med-ov.

Written out on paper (or in a headline), it looks like a handful, but after the man in question solidified his position as the UFC’s fastest-rising lightweight prospect on Saturday, we’re all going to have to get comfortable with it.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is going to be in the conversation for a while.

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Joe Camporeale/USA Today

Phil Davis has always been known as a quiet man.

He is someone who goes in the cage to fight but keeps a low profile outside of it. He has never done much trash talking. When I interviewed him last week, he stressed the importance of winning his fights above all else, even in a promotion that consistently values entertaining fighters over those who win but do so in less than exciting fashion.

“Nothing to me is more important than winning. And there are a lot of guys like this. There are a lot of guys who can go out and get a knockout 50 percent of the time. The other 50 percent of the time, they’ll lose,” Davis said. “I’m not one of those guys. It’s great they can get a knockout. But more important than getting the knockout is getting the win.”

His mindset may be changing, however, after UFC President Dana White’s recent comments after the UFC on Fox post-fight press conference.

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AP Images

The new Fabricio Werdum truly emerged against Travis Browne in the third round of their title eliminator on Fox. In the classic Brazilian "butt scoot" position, Werdum challenged Browne to hit the mat and roll around with him a bit. Browne, wisely, wanted no part of the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion.

The old Werdum would have made quite a petulant show of it. A ground-first fighter, he had managed to capture not a single heart or mind in his 12-year career despite beating a who's who of the sport's best heavyweights.

The new Werdum?  

He simply smiled, kipped up like he was the second coming of The Rock, a fairly flabbergasting feat for a man approaching 260 pounds, and proceeded to walk over and continue beating Browne to a pulp.

"Werdum has been fooling all of us," Fox Sports 2 analyst Chael Sonnen said after the fight. "He doesn’t have to take you down to beat you. He just Muay Thai’s you to death."

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AP Images

Here’s the moment you knew for sure that Saturday night’s UFC heavyweight title eliminator wasn’t going to end well for Travis Browne:

It was midway through the third round, and Fabricio Werdum was already having so much of his way that the 36-year-old underdog felt secure in trying an awkward spinning leg sweep. Of course, the move badly missed its mark, ricocheting off Browne’s thigh and sending Werdum sprawling to the mat on his behind.

Disaster? Hardly.

Werdum merely smiled and—reaffirming that the American wanted no part of him on the ground—sprang to his feet with a kip-up worthy of an in-his-prime Shawn Michaels.

That’s when you understood: There was no remarkable comeback brewing here. Things for Browne were broken beyond repair.

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David Manning/USA Today

There was a time, and it was not all that long ago, that Fabricio Werdum was a one-dimensional fighter. Long considered one of the world’s best jiu-jitsu players, he was as dangerous on the ground as anyone in the world. But he was a subpar striker. He rarely threatened on the feet. He was so one-dimensional that the UFC elected to cut him after a 2008 knockout loss to Junior dos Santos.

The times, they have changed.

The 2014 version of Werdum is a completely different fighter, and nowhere was this more evident than in his dominating win over Travis Browne at UFC on Fox 11.

Browne was considered the better striker going into the fight. For Werdum to win, he needed to get the fight to the ground and work his submission game. If Browne kept the fight on the feet, the chances were great that he’d knock Werdum out cold.

Except none of this happened. The opposite happened, in fact. From the opening bell until the closing bell 25 minutes later, Werdum absolutely owned Browne in every facet of the fight. He outstruck him handily, often mixing repeated jabs followed by straight right hands. In one exchange, Werdum landed a leg kick, left punch, right punch and then a head kick. He landed 100 more significant strikes than Browne.

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Getty Images

It’s a sobering commentary on the UFC heavyweight division that Travis Browne is arguably its most intriguing young contender.

This is by no means a critique of Browne. As he readies for a nationally televised title-eliminator against Fabricio Werdum on Saturday, his status as a top challenger should be self-evident.

The Hawaii native and Greg Jackson product has duly earned his spot across the cage from Werdum, transforming himself from toolsy prospect to bona fide championship threat during a four-year tenure in the UFC. He sports an impressive 7-1-1 record in the promotion, and in his last three fights, he laid waste to Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett with varying degrees of extreme prejudice.

At 6'8", he’s tall and rangy even for an MMA heavyweight and possesses the sort of athleticism that leads us to halfway believe him when he proclaims himself part of the "new breed" of UFC big men.