Who’s Next to Fight Jon “Bones” Jones?
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Considered by many to be the greatest light heavyweight fighter in UFC history, if not the greatest combat athlete of all time, Jon Jones has had an illustrious career despite his time spent in the proverbial dog house.
Controversies aside, Jon Jones has beaten the best of the best during his UFC career, cementing him in the annals of history, with wins over the likes of “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Daniel Cormier.
Jones’ meteoric rise to the top really began at UFC 126 in 2011 when he took on the then-undefeated Ryan Bader (now the Bellator heavyweight and light heavyweight champion). The young Jones handed Bader the first loss of his career when he submitted him in the second round. This opened the door for Jones to receive a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – the champion at that time.
The two would clash at UFC 128 and Jones would TKO Rua in the third round – becoming the youngest UFC champion in history at just 23-years-old. That record still remains.
Since then, Jones has gone undefeated (the only loss on his record remains: a DQ loss to Matt Hamill in a fight that Jones was well on his way to winning).
He defended the title eight times in a row before being stripped for a code of conduct violation. He returned in 2016, defeating Ovince St. Preux and then winning his title back from Daniel Cormier. That fight was later overturned to a no-contest due to a failed drug test.
Jones returned, once again, in late 2018 to take on Alexander Gustafsson for the now vacant light heavyweight title.
Jones would TKO Gustafsson in the third round and reclaim his place at the top of the division. Since that fight, Jones has defended the title three more times and continues to build on his legacy.
Some say Jones is starting to slow down a bit with age. Some say a move up to the heavyweight division is inevitable. But, for the man himself, he seems to still be comfortable at 205lbs and continuously seems to welcome all newcomers gamely.
Here we will take a closer look at three fighters, in no particular order, who are all more than deserving of the next title shot against MMA’s greatest athlete.
1. Jan Błachowicz
We’ll start with the freshest face there is when one talks about light heavyweight contenders – Poland’s power puncher, Jan Blachowicz.
After a four-fight winning streak from 2017 to 2018 that included wins over Jared Cannonier and Jimi Manuwa, Blachwowicz’s train was derailed with a loss to Thiago Santos. In the main event of their Fight Night card, Santos would ultimately TKO Blachowicz in the third round. That win for Santos would prove to be the last thing needed to secure a title shot against Jones, but we’ll talk about that a little later.
Following the loss to Santos, Blachowicz got back to work. At the time, several middleweight fighters were making moves up to the light heavyweight division. Blachowicz was charged as being the welcoming committee for not one, but two of them.
His next fight following Santos was to welcome the ever-cocky former middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, into the division.
The fight took place at UFC 239 and Blachowicz would knock out the former champion in the second round, earning him a performance of the night bonus.
He would then be faced off against former middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. In a less exciting performance, Blachowicz still came away as the victor, defeating Souza via split-decision in late 2019.
Sitting now as the sixth-ranked fighter in the UFC division, Blachowicz’s name was starting to be thrown into the Jon Jones conversation as much of the other top-five fighters had already suffered defeat at the hands of the champion. But another fighter was making waves as well: Corey Anderson.
Anderson had recently knocked out the rising star Johnny Walker and was becoming very vocal about wanting to fight Jones next.
Ultimately, the UFC set up what appeared to be a number-one contender fight between Blachowicz and Anderson. The two headlined their own Fight Night card on February 15 and the fight would not last long.
Blachowicz would knock out Anderson and needed just over three minutes to do so. Jones was in the audience and Blachowicz made it clear in his post-fight celebration that he wanted the next shot at the champion. Jones, in the crowd, looked excited.
Blachowicz is now ranked as the fourth-best light heavyweight in the UFC with the three fighters ranked ahead of him having already suffered defeat at the hands of Jon Jones. Blachowicz may not have the biggest, most exciting personality, but he does pose threats to Jones.
And with Jones being a game competitor, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him accept a fresh matchup before choosing to rematch with one of the following two men.
Blachowicz also came away from his fight with Anderson unscathed and is probably more healthy and ready to go than any other fighter we will discuss – including Jon Jones himself.
2. Dominick Reyes
Dominick Reyes was undefeated leading up to his first title shot against Jones earlier this year. The 12-0 prospect was climbing the rankings fast, having only two of his six fights before meeting Jones leaving the first round.
Reyes won his first UFC fight in 2017, knocking out Joachim Christensen in 29 seconds. He would win his next two fights in a row, both by first-round stoppage. His first decision win came in 2018 when he took on Ovince St. Preux.
Reyes was awarded the unanimous decision victory. His next fight would also go to a decision. Reyes fought a hard battle against former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. Reyes was ultimately awarded the split-decision from the judges in a razor-thin fight.
Following the Oezdemir fight, Reyes would join Blachowicz as a member of the light heavyweight division welcoming committee. Former middleweight champion Chris Weidman announced that he was going to move up in weight and immediately called for a top-five contender in the division. Reyes happily obliged him.
The two were paired up in October, headlining their UFC on ESPN card. It took only 1:43 into the first round for Reyes to knock out the former champ, win the “performance of the night” bonus, and stake his claim for Jon Jones and his title.
His fight against Jones wasn’t immediately set.
Reyes would continuously talk about Jones in the media, leading to the two of them sparking a bit of a rivalry via Twitter and other forms of social media.
When the fight was finally agreed to, things only got more heated, with press conferences and staredowns with one another drawing a lot of attention. To be fair, it was mostly Reyes stirring the pot, as he felt written off by fans and media before the fight had even taken place. He had something to prove. The fight then took place on February 8 at UFC 247 – and what a fight it was.
Within one round, Reyes had already earned the respect of the fans, the media, and the champion. Reyes maintained composure, battled through adversity, and lasted all five rounds against the best in the world.
However, in what will still be debated for months to come, Jones was awarded the unanimous decision victory.
Many, including Reyes himself, believe that he won the fight and, therefore, has the right to an immediate rematch with Jones as a majority of the fight statistics, including significant strikes landed, were in favor of the challenger.
UFC President Dana White says a rematch is very possible and even Jon Jones has gone on record to say that he was impressed with Reyes and believes he did enough in their fight to warrant a rematch.
But, this is the UFC, and things don’t always work in a linear fashion. However, if Reyes isn’t Jones’ next fight in the octagon, he’s likely to be his second. It is highly likely that these two will meet again before the end of 2020.
3. Thiago Santos
A lot has happened since Thiago Santos and Jone Jones did battle in the summer of 2019 and we wouldn’t be surprised if Santos has fallen off the radar for some people as he has been recovering from injuries ever since that night at UFC 239.
Santos was a former middleweight fighter who moved up to light heavyweight “before it was cool”.
In fact, he was headlining UFC 239 with Jones while Jan Blachowicz was knocking out Luke Rockhold on the undercard.
Joining the UFC ranks in 2013, Santos went 10-5 as a middleweight before moving up to 205-pounds in 2018. He made his light heavyweight debut against Eryk Anders and won the fight via TKO due to referee stoppage.
Later that year, in what would be a classic fight earning Santos a performance of the night bonus, Santos took on Jimi Manuwa in an absolute slugfest. Santos knocked out Manuwa 41 seconds into the second round of their fight at UFC 231 – a fight that this writer was lucky enough to witness live.
Santos’ showcase of knock out power wouldn’t stop there. He would take on the aforementioned Jan Blachowicz in the main event of their 2019 Fight Night in Prague. In a fight that would earn Santos another performance of the night bonus, Thiago TKO’d Blachowicz in 39 seconds into the third round. At a time when the light heavyweight division seemed to be lacking legitimate contenders, Santos had made his presence felt and would be named by the UFC as the next challenger for Jon Jones’ title.
Santos and Jones were pitted against one another in the main event of UFC 239. In an absolute barnburner of a bout, Santos and Jones would take it to each other, trading momentum back and forth.
Early on in the fight, however, it became rather evident that Santos had injured one, if not both, of his legs. Santos would persevere and fight on right to the final horn of the fifth round. Incredibly, even though injured, Santos became the first (and so far only) man to defeat Jon Jones on the scorecards, albeit according to just one judge. Jones won the fight by split-decision. It was a wakeup call to the division and Santos’ step into the spotlight.
It was announced after the fight that Santos injured both his knees, tearing his left LCL, PCL, MCL, and meniscus as well as cracked tibia and a torn ACL in his right knee. He has since undergone surgery and has been in rehabilitation ever since. Recently Santos has been hinting at a comeback, posting videos of him back in the gym and even throwing kicks.
Thiago Santos fought, and nearly beat, one of the greatest of all-time on one leg 😧
He suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus of his left knee in his fight with Jon Jones 😳
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 10, 2019
Jones has historically shown that he performs even better in his rematches with opponents and there is no doubt he would like to run this one back, putting to rest the controversy surrounding the split-decision. Again, for as well as Reyes performed against Jones, Santos, in the eyes of one judge, decisively beat the champion. That leaves many of us wondering what if?
What if his knees held up for the entire fight? If that were the case, you may not even be reading this article right now.
Jon Jones FAQ
What is Jon Jones’ height?
Jon Jones is 6 ft 3 in.
What is Jon Jones’ weight?
Jon Jones is 205 lbs.
What is Jon Jones’ weight class division?
Jon Jones is in the light heavyweight division.