UFC 135 review: The blueprint to beating Jon Jones?

We saw UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones successfully defend his title for the first time against former champion Rampage Jackson at UFC 135. The more we see fighters fight the more we see things they like to do and from there you can see their strengths and weaknesses.  

I wrote a fairly detailed preview of that fight and you will need to read that(if you haven’t already) before reading this piece to further tie it all together. I named two things that Jackson had to overcome to be able to defeat Jones. Check it:

There are two things that Rampage Jackson must overcome in this fight and that is the reach of Jones and the wrestling of Jones.

I believe those two attributes are what sets Jon Jones apart from the rest of the light heavyweights. I talked in detail about the wrestling ability of Jones and how he prefers to get his opponents to the mat(refer to .gifs in the preview post). I also wrote how I thought he would have difficulty getting Rampage to the mat with those methods which turned out to be true. So Jackson was able to defend the wrestling for the most part, but wasn’t able to overcome the reach of Jones mainly due to this reason:

  • Jackson is naturally a counterpuncher and Jones did not attack him aggressively which caused Jackson’s offense to stall Jones rarely attacked with combinations which forced Jackson to try and time the perfect opportunity to to launch an attack even though he was giving up a foot in reach. That perfect opportunity never came.

These two guys spent a fair amount of time in the clinch, but Jackson was so busy worrying about defending the takedown that he failed to capitalize on the opportunties to attack Jones in this position. The position in which the reach of Jones was not something he had to overcome. The video below isn’t the best illustration, but it’s the closest thing I could find to give you an idea of the point I’m trying to make.

Jackson and Jones spent a lot of time in the clinch position and Jackson was able to put him against the cage at times. Jackson was content with throwing short knees to the thigh of Jones which basically accomplished nothing. You often see Jones disengage from the clinch position to thow his patented spinning elbow while his opponents are against the cage. Opponents need to use that position to launch their own offense.

In the beginning of the video above Rashad Evans is already attacking Tito Ortiz but this is the type of attack that I’m talking about launching, not short knees to the thighs that do no damage. Obviously you have to defend against the threat of a takedown, but if you can put Jones against the cage you have to attack him there and make it count. You can’t play the striking game with distance against Jones as you’ll come up short all night and get picked apart. Your best defense is your offense against Jones.

Fast forward to the :11 second mark of the video above and you’ll see Rashad attacking Ortiz and dropping down for a double leg takedown. Doing this would put Jones on his back which nullifies his reach and wrestling aspects of his game. I’ve seen footage of Jones in grappling tournaments and it’s evident he is no slouch on the ground. It’s pick your poison with Jones. Would you prefer top position or being underneath him eating devastating elbows? Yep, thought so.

Now let’s just say that you can’t get get your offense off from the clinch position. If not, you are just going to have to do your best Rocky rendition and eat a couple of shots to get your offense going. Jones doesn’t have one punch KO power, or at least he hasn’t displayed that type of ability yet. Check the .gif of Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson below:

Rashad takes down Rampage [UFC 114]

In this exchange it appears that Evans is basically throwing punches to set up the takedown. He basically wants to force Rampage to be defensive for a split second that would allow him to transition into the takedown. He flicks an ugly left hook out there and a right hand to the body, but doesn’t fully commit to the body punch while immediately transitioning to the power double leg takedown and puts Jackson on his back. Again, from there you have to like your chances of avoiding damage while being able to do some of your own. Also, the threat of a takedown could allow you to have some success with your strikes. Jones knew Jackson wouldn’t try to take him down so he could just kick and punch at will knowing that he would be out of range for Jackson to return fire because of his reach.

Fighters are going to have to win in the clinch and/or be able to close the distance and set up takedowns with strikes or both. You simply can’t afford to just strike with Jon Jones because of his ridiculous reach advantage and you can’t afford to allow him to take you down as he is an absolute killer when in the top position.

So while Rampage Jackson wasn’t able to mount much offense against Jones, I think he did allow us to get a glimpse of where Jones could be vulnerable.

The question is which fighter has the tools to win in these areas?

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