Who Should Jon Jones Face in His UFC Return?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2019

Who Should Jon Jones Face in His UFC Return?

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    There's never been a UFC fighter as dominant as Jon Jones, but therein lies at least part of the problem. The 32-year-old American is basically undefeated and has gone virtually untested during his dominant 11-year run with the company. 

    How exactly is the UFC supposed to keep a guy like that busy?

    Sure, the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion technically lost to Matt Hamill nearly 10 years ago via disqualification in a fight he was clearly dominating, but nobody counts that. Heck, I'm not even sure Hamill counts that. 

    To put it another way, a pretty decent argument could be made that Jones has been the best fighter in the world since the moment he first stepped inside the Octagon. Think about it. How many times have you seen Jones in a tough fight? Maybe once or twice?

    So it's probably a pretty big task to find such a dominant champion a worthy competitor these days. 

    According to MMAFighting.com, Jones has been teasing on social media a potential bout against undefeated light heavyweight phenom Dominick Reyes. That's not a bad idea. He appears to a special fighter. 

    But is Reyes really the top guy the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC should target for his next bout? Or are there bigger and better fights for Jones to consider?

    Click through to see which fighters made our list, and let us know if you have a better take.

5. Israel Adesanya

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    ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/Getty Images

    I hate to be that guy, but Israel Adesanya is such an intriguing option for Jones that UFC executives would probably be wise to let any promotion build a little before making the fight. 

    Sure, the two have gone hard at each other on social media and all that back-and-forth would help drive interest in the fight even higher. But Adesanya just recently became undisputed UFC middleweight champion. Doesn't he still have plenty of noteworthy contenders to face in his own division?

    Besides, Jones just recently defeated two former middleweights in Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. Both were good fights, but it's hard to believe Jones would want to draw again from the middleweight well so soon coming off those promotions. 

    Fighting one or two former middleweights is an OK thing to do every now and then, but if the light heavyweight champ starts exclusively tackling former 185-pounders all the time, it just looks like he's being big bully.

    Worse is that it could be argued Jones was ducking the fighters in the division actually capable of competing. 

    Still, Adesanya is an undefeated phenom who might be on his way to becoming the next pound-for-pound king. If that's the case, the 30-year-old might truly be one of the few fighters in the world who could legitimately give Jones a test.

    Ultimately, the UFC would seem to be on the right track in slow-playing this matchup for a while, but they shouldn't wait too long. 

    Besides too soon is always better than never when it comes to making fights happen.  He shouldn't be the top target, but Adesanya deserves serious consideration.

4. Jan Blachowicz

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    Despite rumors and wishes of potential blockbuster heavyweight superfights against the likes of former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar and scary knockout monster Francis Ngannou, Jones hasn't shown anything beyond passing interest in moving up to heavyweight ranks. 

    That means most of the credible potential opponents for Jones' next gig are probably competing in the light heavyweight division. 

    Jan Blachowicz isn't nearly the most intriguing name on this list. But the 36-year-old from Poland is the No. 6-ranked contender according to the UFC and was thought by many to have been previously in line for a title shot earlier this year before getting knocked out by Thiago Santos in February.

    Blachowicz is 5-1 in his last six fights and has reeled off two straight impressive wins since that stumble. He knocked out former middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold in July in two rounds and earned a split-decision win over Ronaldo Souza last weekend in a hyper-technical performance.

    The Souza fight probably didn't win him any fans, but it definitely earned him the victory at a really important time in his career.

3. Corey Anderson

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    Corey Anderson is angry, and maybe he should be.

    While the 30-year-old has never been one to consistently create highlight-reel knockout montages, there's no doubt he's crafted a strong enough resume in recent years to claim he's one of the best contenders at 205 pounds to not have received a title shot yet.

    And it isn't for lack of trying. Anderson has called out Jones on social media and in post-fight interviews just about every time he's had the chance. The latest such instance included him letting his emotions get the best of him after pulling off the shocking upset over Johnny Walker at UFC 244. 

    Now Anderson has won three straight including that first-round shocker over Walker, who was perceived entering the bout as a potential future foe for Jones. 

    But Anderson was the victor, and so he now has a legitimate case to be Jones' next title defense.

2. Dominick Reyes

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    The most likely candidate for Jones' next title defense is Dominick Reyes. The obvious reason is that he's the highest-ranked contender according to the UFC that Jones hasn't already defeated; if the champion is truly content to simply clean out the division, then Reyes is the next man up. 

    But another important factor is that Reyes is coming off a dominant first-round knockout of former middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman in which the undefeated light heavyweight showed both the tremendous athleticism he possesses as well as his sharp counterpunching ability. 

    Add to it that Reyes is one of the few fighters in the world who could match Jones' incredibly long reach, and that he might even possess more power than the perennially technical Jones and you have a pretty good scrap. 

    The two have engaged in a pretty raucous war of words over recent months, and it's even been reported by BJPenn.com that the two have already basically agreed to headline UFC 247 in February. 

    There are lots of things to like about that. Jones vs. Reyes is a tremendous matchup that would likely provide real fireworks. 

    Still, it's not quite the best possible matchup Jones should consider before officially announcing his next gig.

1. Stipe Miocic

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    It seems like this potential superfight should be more of a thing than it is.

    For all the hype people like to spew out about Jones possibly moving up to heavyweight, there's really only one potential blockbuster out there that would be worth the risk.

    Stipe Miocic is the UFC heavyweight champion. The 36-year-old already holds the record for heavyweight title defenses and is coming off a huge fourth-round stoppage win over Daniel Cormier. 

    To put it bluntly, some people think he is the greatest UFC heavyweight ever, and there's not a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise. 

    So while Jones cleaning out the light heavyweight division is historically significant in its own way, it's not nearly as bold and brave a move as seeking to become just the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time.

    Conor McGregor did it first. Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cedujo have become "champ champs" since.  

    You're telling me that perhaps the best UFC fighter of them, Jones, a guy who hasn't really even had to sweat out close decisions all that many times, hasn't even tried it yet? 

    What exactly is he waiting for?