Tomorrow night, UFC 214 will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA with a stacked card, featuring three title fights. This night of mixed martial arts action will have championship ramifications, and effect the overall direction of some careers as well.
At the top of the card, a grudge match between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship, a rematch two and a half years in the making. Jones, the troubled former champion, won the title from the legendary Shogun Rua at the age of just 23 years old. Since that victory in 2011, “Bones” Jones made more headlines outside of the cage than he did in the ring.
With a laundry list of arrests and drug violations, the details of every incident would be too lengthy to discuss entirely in this article. Most recently, Jones did zero in his UFC career as he was suspended for a year after it was announced just days before a scheduled Cormier rematch at UFC 200 that he tested positive for a banned substances, which was his second suspension after he tested positive for cocaine following a bout in January of 2015. With Jones’ positive test, Anderson Silva stepped in to fight Cormier as a late replacement for UFC 200, a bout that DC won via unanimous decision. Still, many considered the Jones/Cormier feud unresolved, despite the fact that “Bones” wasn’t eligible to fight again until his suspension expired.
The last time Jon Jones was inside the octagon, he defeated Ovince Saint Preux via decision and looked to have a lot of ring rust in April of last year. The general consensus after the score cards awarded him the interim title, a belt he was later stripped of because of the positive test, was that the Jones that fought OSP wouldn’t be able to defeat Cormier. So, there’s much speculation as to what version of “Bones” Jones will show up this Saturday
At the time that Jones’ legal woes unfolded, I penned a column that utilized a quote from the underrated classic film, “A Bronx Tale.” Robert De Niro plays the father of a youth that idolizes a local mafia boss brilliantly portrayed by Chazz Palminteri. The film takes place during the tension of the 1960s, and Calogero receives useful advice, both from his hard-working father and the neighborhood kingpin. De Niro’s character cautions his son with wise words that become the theme of the film, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
That quote can be applied to Jon Jones. Sadly, Jones is known more for incidents outside of the octagon than the amazing athletic talent that he has in the sport. At 30, he already spent a few years of his prime suspended for drug violations or in court for legal problems. When he originally won the 205 LBS championship, it looked as though he would become the next Anderson Silva, a tremendous champion that set records in the UFC. However, he is now one more positive test away from possibly the end of his MMA career. A multiple year suspension for another violation would logistically take him out of the conversation as a top star for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The result of this 205 LBS contest, and more specifically, the performances that Jon Jones displays will be an indication of his mixed martial arts future. A lackluster effort could reveal that his best days are behind him, while a dynamic win would rejuvenate his career. Either way, let’s make it extremely clear, Jon Jones has nobody to blame but himself for this situation.
As for the fight itself, the key will be, what “Bones” Jones arrives in the octagon? Assuming that the former champion shows up ready to fight, it will be difficult to beat him. The reach and most importantly, the ability to properly use that reach gives him a tremendous advantage against opponents.
At 38, Cormier is definitely at the latter stages of his career, but his extensive amateur wrestling background might extend his career because of the exceptional conditioning involved with the amateur background. The point being, DC undoubtedly has enough left in the tank to win this contest. With a record of 19-1, the only blemish a defeat in the original Jones bout, Cormier had a relatively late start in MMA, transitioning to the cage after the 2008 Olympics. All things considered, he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the record he quietly assembled since he began fighting in 2009.
A win against “Bones” Jones avenges his only loss and puts him on course to be considered among the elite at the conclusion of his career. Assuming that DC racks up a few more wins, when he retires it might allow him to reach legendary status in the Light Heavyweight division. At the same time, the former Olympic grappler might surprise everyone and fight for another five years. Either way, the opportunity to avenge his only defeat and settle the score with Jones could determine the perception of his legacy, especially because he became the UFC Light Heavyweight champion without beating Jon Jones to win it.
I don’t think Cormier will be able to stop Jones so the best strategy will probably be to use his wrestling skills to win a decision. That philosophy will test Jones’ cardio and it will be interesting to see if he will be effective in the later rounds. If Jones is in top form, he could use his striking and take down defense to win on the score cards. I will pick Jones to win via decision, but again the key to this bout is if Jon Jones shows up ready to fight. If Jones wins the title, it will be interesting to see if he can avoid the pitfalls that derailed his career a few years ago and actually add to his accomplishments in the UFC.
Until next week