|Jon Jones' greatest weakness has been exposed. His fight promotion. (USAT)|
Sports coverage always does seem to amaze me. In a realm where there are more and more avenues for message boards, talking heads, and articles to be written to see many people that cover the UFC simply write-off Saturday night's Jon Jones v. Chael P. Sonnen fight as an afterthought is lazy and not a service to people that read their content. After all, sports in general, and especially combat sports, are built around the humongous upset. The fact that at anytime on any field, in any arena something crazy could happen. That may not mean enough to you to plop down $54.99 for a pay-per-view, but tossing $10 to the door man to have the fight on while you enjoy a microbrew at your local bar sounds fine and dandy to me.
Sure, this fight was put together from the ashes of UFC 151, and while a more credible challenger like Dan Henderson was left to marinate a little - only to lose to Lyoto Machida - leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouth, it's easy to forget that we've been down this road before. When Sonnen took on Anderson Silva there were just as many doubters about the validity of that fight as this one. Well, Chael P. Sonnen put on an Oregon style butt whooping on Silva, until the Spider was able to wrap his legs around Sonnen and tap him out with seconds left. This was easily the best fight of 2010.
There are other factors that make the Jones' match-up different and probably a higher mountain top to ascend, but if anyone is capable of doing it and at the very least give Jones the toughest fight of his career, it's Sonnen.
The media coverage has fueled the blase fan reaction to this card. While normally the UFC can put Silva, Jones, Georges St-Pierre, or Cain Velasquez to headline a card and fill it with average fights - this time, with a fight that truly is being treated like a foregone conclusion, the card needed to be stronger. It isn't.
Where we are left is for Jones and Sonnen to hype the fight themselves. Oh, that's right, they had 15 hours of TV time on FX to do that during The Ultimate Fighter. What came from that was Jones being Jones and Chael being a great coach and mentor. However, and ironically for the betterment of the show than faking some hostilities, Jones and Sonnen seemed to get along. Jones respected Sonnen's doggedness and personality and jokes (!!); while Sonnen clearly has a lot of respect for Jones. There isn't the hostility and trash talking he's exhibited in the Silva bouts, and with Jones finally laying off the perfect guy act - is just being his normal, confident, fun loving self. This isn't to say both fighters won't put on their mean hats Saturday night, but their promotion of the fight wasn't exactly Nick Diaz-esque (again, that's probably for the betterment of everyone).
So with the trash talking/promoter belt being strapped around Diaz's waist, the UFC and the two fighters had to do something. There were rhymes by Sonnen alluding to Jones' DWI conviction. Jones saying Sonnen is a roider and not a true fighter. None of it resonated. It's clear that in all the press leading up to the fight, these two had their minds in other places.
Jones wants to win a couple more 205 title defenses to beat Tito Ortiz's record, then move on to a super fight and/or bump up to the heavyweight division (which is only logical as by the time he has his two more defenses he would have cleaned out the division and be about a year older, which will allow him to put on more weight). Sonnen isn't a legit threat to Bones, rather just another victim.
For Sonnen - he's reaping the rewards of being a self-made man. Kevin Iole mentions in his article today how Sonnen created this personality to drive his career. It's sure worked. Now moving up to 205 and taking on one of the best fighters on the planet, everything seems lined up for move to greener pastures. Should (notice I said should) Sonnen lose, then his shtick would have certainly worn thing ... still entertaining, but thin. He has a fantastic broadcast career in front of him with the UFC for sure, and UFC President Dana White hinted within the FOX family as well. Sonnen isn't a threat to Bones, rather just one more big pay day.
While writers covering the fight could probably outline 75% of their day after articles today if they wanted, there is still the pesky matter of the fight. I'm of the persuasion where if one of the best fighters on the planet is fighting, I'm watching. I said this when Anderson Silva fought Stephan Bonnar and I say that today. I mean how much fun was that Anderson fight? Did he make it worth your money? Were you not entertained?
Sonnen is certainly more of a threat than Bonnar was to Silva, but shouldn't you expect Jones to put on a show? To leave people saying, wow this guy is talented? A couple elbows to the chiseled chin of Chael won't do that. Jones is coming, and Jones is bringing some Nike swag with him.
The most disappointing outcome of this fight would be for Jones to wrestle and hold Sonnen down. The size disadvantage is too great to have this be an exciting or interesting strategy (see, I got your back, GSP). We need some flying kicks and knees. We need something to put on that Nike commercial.
Bones has never been reckless in any fight, but he hasn't been conservative either. Sonnen won't stop moving forward, and he'll create an interesting canvas for Jones to work with.
Overall, I do think Chael will aim to impress, but without the full use of his elite wrestling it'll be tough. I just think Chael's determination will give Jones a bit more trouble than we are all expecting. However, I'm not here to act like a genius. To predict Sonnen wins so I can say I told you so. It'll be a Jones win, but I'll be tuning in to see how he does it. That ... will be exciting.
Jones 3rd Rd Submission.