"I'll fight anyone, no problem. I'm a professional fighter, no problem." -Shogun on Jon 'Bones' Jones replacing Rashad Evans as the challenger for his belt. Translation: "I don't give a fuck about the Jon Jones hype."
Saturday night was filled with fights that shook up their respective divisions. Anderson Silva threw a front kick that sent shivers down the backs of every Middleweight who witnessed it, Griffin seems to have shook off the Silva humiliation and is back to outworking his opponents to a win, and Torres made a lackluster UFC debut, but a dominant performance nonetheless, but Jones' domination of fellow prospect Ryan Bader may have been the most impressive performance of the night, so much so that he was offered a shot at the Light Heavyweight Championship belt. Sure, Silva's kick was, to quote Joe Rogan, "a move straight out of The Matrix" but if I hadn't watched the fight and you told me that's what he did, I wouldn't be surprised. If you told me Jon Jones once again steamrolled through his opponent, outwrestled a Division I wrestler, outstruck him and choked him out, I'd probably throw up a little in my mouth. Rashad Evans was originally scheduled to fight Shogun at UFC 128 but is out due to an injury and with Jones taking virtually no damage and Shogun willing to fight all comers, the match is now set for March 19.
With Jon Jones coming in as the favorite in the betting lines, it seems his hype has once again gotten ahead of itself. Jones is a monster. He has dominated everyone he has fought, throwing them off with his unorthodox striking and finishing them with his unstoppable wrestling. I just don't see how wins over Bader, Vera, and Hammill, of which Bader is the only top 10 fighter, are more impressive than wins over Machida, Liddell, Coleman, Rampage, Lil' Nog, Arona, Randleman, and Overeem, amongst a bunch of other top fighters. He, much like Jones, was a young guy fighting in one of the world's biggest promotions and just tearing through everyone in an impressive manner. The difference is Jones has been built up by steadily fighting better competition. Shogun got thrown into the deep water of the Pride pool and still dominated, brawling to a win against elite fighters.The UFC Shogun is a whole other beast, a super technical striker with taylor-made gamplans. He came in with his sharpest boxing against Liddell, and came out even better against Machida, patient, cutting off the octagon with kicks, aware of his counters, and using JJ sweeps to stay off his back. He just keeps getting better. Jones poses the same threats Evans does, and though he might be a more powerful wrestler, his stand up is not as good as Rashad's. A couple of tweaks within the next 6 weeks and Shogun will be ready to break 'Bones.'
Jones WILL take Shogun down, he's not known for his takedown defense, and his top game is superb but Jones has never fought someone as good as Shogun off his back. The stand up is where the gap is at. Shogun is the best striker in the division. Where others are thrown off by, or even scared of, his unorthodox striking, Shogun drools at the possibilities of what he could do with a missed spinning elbow. Jones' win broke him into the elite of the division, and at 205, that means a lot of high level strikers. Even if he can get past Shogun, guys like Rampage and Machida, deadly accurate strikers whose wrestling base keeps them off their backs, still pose a threat to Jones' sub-par hands. IF Jones ever does become the 'best ever,' the hype will tell us he's the next coming of the messiah, just because the hype insists on always being a step or two ahead of Jones.