("…but you know me, I never like to look past my opponents.")
As we mentioned over the weekend, UFC hype-magnet Jon Jones is likely to take on fellow light-heavyweight rising star Ryan Bader early next year. You’d think Bones would be psyched to rumble with the undefeated TUF 8 winner, in a fight that could potentially produce a title contender at 205 pounds, or at the very least establish a pecking order in the division. As it turns out, he’s not too impressed with the matchup, telling Inside MMA:
"I’m actually really sick of fighting this type of style. Matt Hamill, Matyushenko, Jake O’Brien…they all have that similar kind of style. Their main focus is that double leg dive and [they have] sub-par boxing…I’m ready to fight some strikers, I’m ready to fight some south paws, I’m ready to really mix it up…I’m trying to secure a respect level with my wrestling. I’m sure Ryan Bader, the advantage he’ll have going in is to be the better wrestler and I’m going to try and prove the UFC wrong again."
We are legally obligated at this point to remind you that anything can happen in an MMA fight, and pride goeth before a fall, and Jones is privileged to get the opportunity in the first place, and blah blah blah etc. But we have to admit that he has a point. Hamill and Matyushenko were advertised as top-of-the-food chain technical wrestlers, and Jones absolutely trashed them. Does Ryan Bader stand a better chance than the guys Jones has already beaten? Probably. For one thing, Bader doesn’t get enough credit as a game-planner; like Jones, Bader has a way of honing in on his opponents’ weaknesses, whether it’s their takedown defense or chins. But you’re not going to out-wrestle Jon Jones, and if you’re Ryan Bader, you’re probably not going to out-strike him either.
For some athletes, fresh challenges are more important than easy victories. (Crazy, we know.) So we understand why Jones might be getting a little antsy. Still, who was he hoping to fight, exactly? The Four Horsemen of the LHW division (Rua, Evans, Machida, Jackson) are already scheduled to fight each other, and Jones has already proven that strikers (see: Brandon Vera) fare no better against him than wrestlers do. We have no doubt that when Jones finally gets his title shot, it’ll be against someone who can push him to his limits. For now, he just has to suck it up and keep climbing against whoever’s put in front of him.