Saturday night in Toronto, Jon Jones gets back to doing what he does best.
The UFC light heavyweight champion has been the center of attention for most of the summer, engulfed in turmoil following a DUI arrest in May and the collapse of UFC 151 in late August. While those stories – and the never-ending debate about his attitude – continue to garner attention, the 25-year-old superstar can start moving beyond all those things when he returns to the Octagon tomorrow night to face Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 152.
It has been five months since Jones stepped into the cage. Last time out, “Bones” defended his belt for the third time, scoring a unanimous decision win over teammate-turned-nemesis Rashad Evans at UFC 145. Though it didn’t end as impressively as any of his 2011 victories, the one-sided drubbing Jones doled out to Evans was perhaps even more impressive, given that his former teammate was expected to be the toughest challenge of the current champion’s young career. From the outset it was apparent that Jones would be victorious; it was more a matter of how and when, not if.
UFC 152 Fight Card
- Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort
- Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson
- Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann
- Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett
- Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson
His bout with Belfort tomorrow night has a similar feel; the challenger entering as a severe underdog after answering the call to stand opposite the dominant champion when a handful of others passed at the opportunity. As much as this is a mismatch on paper – and will likely play out that way in the cage as well – this is also a chance to see greatness at work once again, and that’s an opportunity that cannot be missed.
For all the debate about his role in the cancellation of UFC 151 and the questions about his character, there is no room to argue against Jones being one of the very best in the sport today. The light heavyweight champion lands somewhere in the top three along with Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. The argument could be made that Jones is the best of the bunch, having risen to the top of the 205-pound ranks by completing the most impressive one-year run in MMA history, and continuing his dominance into 2012 with his systematic beating of Evans in April.
Jones’ tremendous talent and climb towards the pantheon of all-times greats has been overshadowed in recent months by activities and occurrences outside of the cage. It’s almost as if the last five months have been his off-season; a chance for fans and critics alike to focus on everything but the immense skills he brings to the table, and fixate on the hiccups and missteps the young champion has made in since defeating Evans. With the cancellation of UFC 151 adding another three weeks to the wait to see Jones return to action, it feels like an eternity since he last competed. Having seemingly faced off with another former champion every three months in 2011, the fact that “Bones” is just now getting set to enter the cage for the second time in 2012 feels foreign. Since he’s been away for so long, the memory of how and why he became the face of the organization and the star to build the sport around in the future has faded, but it will be refreshed on Saturday night.
Though Belfort still possesses devastating power that can change the direction of a fight instantly, the 35-year-old Brazilian will be at a great disadvantage when he steps into the cage against Jones at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. Jones is bigger, stronger, faster, and more creative, capable of attacking with power and precision while staying out of range for the inevitable return of fire. He is the complete package when it comes to mixed martial arts: a gifted athlete who studied diligently, trains hard, and brings creativity to the cage, giving fans at least one “Did you see that?” moment with every appearance.
While the outside of the cage news may have dominated the headlines for the last several months, it’s time for Jon Jones to remind everyone what he does best, and produce some new headlines that focused on his dominance in the cage once again.