Everybody has an opinion about who reigning UFC Middleweight Champion and Pound for Pound great Anderson Silva should be stepping inside the Octagon against next. Right now it appears that the bout everyone is interested in is a bout between Silva and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Although for the longest time the two men refused even the slightest chance that the bout would ever take place, it seems as though Dana White’s assurances that the bout would eventually materialize are coming true. In the media recently both men have warmed up to the idea of a potential bout between one another, for whatever reason (most likely Dana’s deep pockets.)
Although it could end up being an exercise in futility, many people wonder what would happen if two of the UFC’s top stars and most dominant champions ever stepped into the Octagon against one another. So with that in mind, I have prepared this breakdown of a potential bout between the two.
Fighter Preview: Anderson “The Spider” Silva
Last Three Fights:
Defeated Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – via TKO in Round One (October 13, 2012)
Defeated Chael Sonnen at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada – via TKO in Round Two (July 7, 2012)
Defeated Yushin Okami at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – via TKO in Round Two (August 27, 2011)
Silva has also gone on to become one of the most talented and dominant fighters in the history of MMA. He is currently the UFC’s longest reigning champion, winning the UFC Middleweight title on October 14, 2006, just over 6 years ago. Silva has also won 12 Fight Night bonuses, which is another UFC record. He is currently riding a 17-fight-winning streak, bouncing back and forth between the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions in the UFC. His most recent win came at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he stepped up to save a card plagued by injury and delivered a first round pummeling of Stephan Bonnar, pounding the former TUF 1 cast-member straight into retirement.
Fighter Preview: Jon “Bones” Jones
Last Three Fights:
Defeated Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in Toronto, Canada – via Submission in Round Four (September 22, 2012)
Defeated Rashad Evans at UFC 145 in Atlanta, Georgia – via Unanimous Decision (April 21, 2012)
Defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in Toronto, Canada – via Submission in Round Two (December 10, 2011)
Jon Jones is the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion and has had one of the most impressive runs through a very tough division on his way to the UFC title. The 25-year-old Jones is the youngest UFC champion in the history of the promotion. Jones is the prized pupil of Greg Jackson, training out of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jones is a member of one of the most athletically talented families in the United States as both his older brother Arthur and younger brother Chandler play professional football in the NFL. Jones was a state champion wrestler in high school, before moving on to become a national JUCO champion at Iowa Central Community College.
Since dropping out of college to pursue a professional MMA career Jones has had nothing but success. He started on the regional circuit and quickly fired off six straight victories, all via stoppage. He was then approached by the UFC to make his debut as a late replacement. Since making his UFC debut in August 2008, he has compiled an 11-1 record inside the octagon en route to becoming the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. The lone loss came via Disqualification to Matt Hamill in a bout that he was dominating, making him undefeated in the eyes of most fans. Jones has won five Fight Night bonuses so far in his young MMA career, and is blazing a path towards breaking Tito Ortiz’s record of five straight UFC Light Heavyweight title defenses. He’s scheduled to appear on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter on FX, coaching opposite Chael Sonnen.
Fight Breakdown: Striking
As the hype train for this bout continues to roll on, it’s likely that a lot of people are going to offer their opinions on the bout. One of the people who has done so already is Mike Winkeljohn; the striking coach of Jon Jones, who says that Jones isn’t “that far away” from being on Anderson Silva’s level in the striking department. While I would agree that Jones has made great strides in his striking fundamentals and has unnatural athletic gifts, which greatly benefit his kick boxing skills, I do not agree that he is close to Silva’s acumen in the striking realm. To put it relatively bluntly, Silva is the greatest MMA striker in the game today, and in my opinion it’s not really close.
Despite that Jones does pose a number of problems in the striking realm. The biggest issue is Jones’ reach. At 6’4” tall and with an 84.5-inch reach, Jones has the length of a man who is over 7’0” tall. Silva himself is a counter striker and prefers to stand outside and trade, keeping his opponents out of range by fighting behind a strong jab and threatening kicks. With Jones’ reach, playing that sort of game is simply not possible. Silva himself is lengthy and has a 78-inch reach, but that still puts him more than half a foot away from Jones’ range. Simply put, Silva’s usual defensive, counter-punching style would need a couple of significant tweaks to combat the range and length of Jon Jones.
The second major issue for Silva would be that he is often able to confuse his opponents by constantly switching up his stance. Silva uses a lot of feints and head movement to confuse his opponents. He’s excellent at rolling with the punches, bobbing and weaving inside the octagon, making his opponents look foolish all at the same time. Jones like Silva switches from orthodox stance to a southpaw stance extremely fluidly. Jones also throws a number of unorthodox strikes, such as front kicks to the knee or elbow strikes from a range, while Silva himself throws a number of unorthodox strikes, he has yet to face a striker who offers such a variety of potential problems on the feet.
Despite all of these problems, I still consider to be the more capable and more technically sound striker of the two. Of all the problems listed above, the biggest certainly is his 84.5-inch reach. Jones is calm and confident when striking, but he is also extremely cautious and rarely takes risks unnecessarily. Silva preys upon fighters who get overconfident in their striking and leave themselves open to counter shots. Jones rarely makes those kind of big blunders; instead Jones is a measured striker, calmly waiting for opportunities. The most likely outcome in a striking match between these two is an action-light affair. Neither man willing to leave himself open to a big shot from the other, however, those are often the bouts that Silva dominates. One of the things Silva often doesn’t get enough credit for is his ability to capitalize on the smallest of openings. It’s often in these action-light striking exchanges, where an opponent might put his hands down for a second, or take a wrong step into his range where Silva capitalizes.
Frankly, in my opinion if Jones refuses to push the pace against Silva, he risks the chance of ‘The Spider’ lulling him into a false sense of security. However, if Jones chooses to rush Silva, it also plays into the Brazilian’s strengths, as he will be setting himself up for prime counter-punching opportunities. Silva has major knockout power in both of his hands and both feet, as well as a nasty Thai clinch. It’s hard to tell who would win a battle in the clinch between Jones and Silva, since Jones would have a marked size advantage and could use his strong wrestling base to overpower Silva. The best chance for Jones in a striking battle is to work from range, but constantly push forward against Silva, while keeping himself protected. He can’t allow Silva to get comfortable and set up a kill shot, he needs to constantly force Silva into discomfort and look for the chance to work this bout to the ground.
Fight Breakdown: Grappling
Jones is an excellent wrestler and was a former JUCO Wrestling Champion. He has translated his wrestling skillset well to MMA and is one of the most powerful and dominating wrestlers in the entire UFC. Jones is also extremely athletic, agile and very fast, this makes his power double leg takedown extremely tough to defend against. Silva often changes stances frequently in the striking department, this allows him to create space between he and his opponent, which makes the distance his opponent must travel longer if he chooses to shoot on Silva. This often gives Silva enough time to sprawl, or throw knees or other strikes to fend off the takedown or search for a knockout. The problem against Jones is that he too is adept at switching stances, as already mentioned, so Jones too is able to control the distance of how far his shot must travel in order to score a takedown.
We have seen in the past that wrestlers can find success against Silva simply by spamming takedowns early and often, not allowing him to get into his comfort zone. Dan Henderson did it for a round, Chael Sonnen did it for four and a half rounds, and then for another round in their second fight. Silva still stormed back in all of those fights, but top-level wrestlers have found success against Silva on the ground.
Silva’s grappling game is highly underrated. This is largely in part because he is such an excellent striker and frankly very few opponents ever get the chance to work the bout to the ground where Silva needs to show off his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills. However, Silva is relatively active from his back, constantly throwing punches and elbows from bottom position, as well as regularly working for submissions and sweeps. In particular he has shown a solid grasp of triangle chokes, as he uses his lankly legs well to set up the submission when his opponent is in his guard.
Against Jones however, all of that may go out the window. Despite nearly being submitted by Vitor Belfort in his last bout, Jones has dominated every fighter that he has ever taken down. Jones’ ground and pound is some of the nastiest in the sport, as he uses punches, hammer fists and elbow strikes to pummel away at his opponents and cause a lot of damage as he does so. Jones has also been regularly working on his Jiu Jitsu skills and has made a lot of improvements in his ability to pass guard, and move towards more dominant positions like full mount or crucifix. Add to that a brand new submission awareness as he showed with his Americana against Belfort and his Guillotine against Machida, and one can see that Jones is a dual-pronged threat on the mat, constantly using ground and pound to search for a stoppage or set up a submission opportunity.
Striking Offense and Power: Silva
Striking Defense: Silva
Hand and Foot Speed: EVEN
Grappling and Submissions: Jones
Fight IQ: Jones
Heart and Chin: EVEN
Analysis and Prediction
This would certainly be an interesting clash of styles. Despite any pre-fight hype that may come out about how good Jones’ striking is, he still comes from the Greg Jackson camp and is likely to have a better game plan than to simply come out and try to turn the fight into a kickboxing bout. Chael Sonnen enjoyed a fair amount of success by taking down Silva and Jones possesses much stronger ground and pound and a better submission awareness than Sonnen, which leads me to believe that Jones would be looking to get this fight to the ground as soon as possible. For Silva, he’ll likely want to do everything he can to keep the bout standing.
If anyone can get through the long range of Jones, I would put my money on Silva. His training partner Lyoto Machida did have some success in the striking department against Jones in the first round. Despite getting overwhelmed in the second round, Machida did show off some flaws in Jones’ style and did find openings to be successful against Jones standing. Machida and Silva are both elite level strikers and both train together, so one would have to believe that together the two of them might be able to figure out a way inside of Jones’ range.
Jackson is one of the top coaches in the world. Despite whatever negative feedback he gets from Dana White as a sports-killer or from fans as creating boring fighters, he is still one of the best game planners in the world. There’s no doubt that Jackson and company would be breaking down the tape from the Silva vs. Sonnen fights to see exactly what worked for Sonnen and also what caused him to ultimately fail against Silva. Jones’ submission skills are far above those of Sonnen’s, both offensively and defensively. What this would suggest is that it’s far less likely that Silva can win via Submission from the bottom like he did against Sonnen. Jones’ ground and pound is very aggressive and he is excellent at controlling fighters from top position, making it a lot harder for fighters on the bottom to defend themselves effectively, or even to be aggressive with submission offense. Despite the brief scare against Belfort, Jones has rarely been anything but completely dominant on the mat.
Silva is one of the best fighters in the history of the sport and Jon Jones is undeniably the future of the sport. In my opinion there is a big reason why neither man is overly interested in this fight happening and it’s because it’s an extremely dangerous fight for both guys. Silva has an advantage on the feet, while Jones holds a marked advantage in the grappling department. I hate to bet against Silva, but I think the bout has to favor Jones. Silva’s edge in the striking is somewhat negated simply by Jones’ freakishly long reach and ability to fight at distance. While Jones edge on the ground is significantly more pronounced, as he is one of the best fighters in the world at top control.
My prediction… Jon Jones via TKO in Round Four.