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The Return of Jon Jones – The Fan Perspective

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Jon “Bones” Jones is the true definition of a polarizing figure. Fans of Jones describe him as the GOAT. The best to ever set foot in the cage. And his domination of the light heavyweight division backs up those claims.

On his rise to the top, Jones cleared out the division; Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson twice, and Daniel Cormier to name a few. Jones was easily the most dominant light heavyweight of his era. But with all the positives of his performances inside the ring, came all the controversies.

Multiple failed drug tests, one of those causing a victory over Cormier to be overturned, and several instances of him being on the wrong side of the law have cast shadows over his legacy. Jones has also been missing for the last three years, and a lot has changed in the world of mixed martial arts in that time. The fight game has evolved, and with that comes a new generation of fans, who perhaps aren’t fully aware of who Jon Jones is, and what to expect this coming Saturday evening at UFC 285. 

We asked long time MMA and Jon Jones fans, Matt (@ufc_page), Dean (@deanyboy69), JJ, and MMA Sucka’s very own Timothy Weaton (@timwheatonMMA) their thoughts, and if they believe Jon has what it takes to succeed in his return at Heavyweight.  

Why should we be excited to see the return of Jones?  

Matt – “We should be excited for the return of the GOAT because he’s the GOAT. Yes, he’s had his problems in the past, but he’s a fighter! And it’s difficult to name a fighter who has been at the top of the UFC, or any other MMA promotion, who doesn’t have skeletons in their closet”.  

Dean – “The anticipation of a legend returning to the sport, and a dominant one at that. The excitement of seeing if he can cope with the heavyweight division as easily as he coped with LHW.” 

JJ – “Regardless of what people may think of Jon as a person, he’s the greatest fighter the UFC has ever seen. He has all the top competitors’ bodies on his list. He beat Daniel Cormier multiple times, who is considered one of the best ever”. 

Tim – “He’s looked really bad in his last three fights, he’s going up a weight, and he’s been away for three years. Newer fans may be correct to be less than excited, it’s the hardcore fans who are looking forward to his return. In the early 2010s, he was grinding through the best era in the history of the LHW division, and he was cutting through them like a hot knife through butter.” 

What about his last three fights, unconvincing victories against Smith, Santos and Reyes? 

Matt – “The standard of competition in MMA has evolved massively since the days of Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson. The top 15 of the LHW division are all capable of putting a good run together, so it was no surprise Jon was being taken to decisions. But JJ pulled through, and this is why he is the GOAT” 

Dean – “Jon didn’t feel scared by Smith, Reyes or Santos, and knew he could win with minimal effort. It’s been shown in his rematches with both Gustafsson and DC, that when he needs to step up for worthy competition he does, and does so decisively.  

JJ – ‘I think throughout this era of Jon, he was battling his own personal demons, but still managed to pick up the win, which is what matters. Hopefully after three years away from the sport he has conquered this, and can show everyone why he is the GOAT” 

Tim – “Nobody thought that Smith, Reyes or Santos were ever going to beat JJ, they were just the top contenders in a very weak division. And they ended in quite embarrassing wins for JJ, leading a lot of people to question if he was still fit, and still motivated. It’s also difficult not to notice the difference in performance when he is, and isn’t getting popped by USADA” 

Why will Jones continue to dominate despite his long layoff, and can he handle the step up to Heavyweight?  

Matt – “I think Jones has the potential to still dominate, because he evolved as a fighter in the past, and I believe he can evolve again. His fight IQ is superior to any other heavyweight, and he can win the fight anywhere” 

Dean – “He openly admits his fear of fighting and uses this to inspire him to step up. His fight IQ is incredible, he has a granite chin, and manages distance impeccably. His successes were in his early twenties, so he is just hitting his physical prime.  

JJ – “You can’t compare JJ’s return to other fighters who have struggled after returning from long lay offs. He was completely dominant throughout his career. As a long time fan perhaps I’m biased, but he’s the GOAT, he can step up 

Tim – “It’s an insane thing to do to have three bad performances, take three years off the sport, then come back. He’s going up in weight and testing out a completely new build against a dangerous interim champion. This is not something that people are often able to do. It’s also worth noting that JJ has historically often had height and reach advantages over opponents he has had great success against, yet his last three opponents have been of a similar size, and he has looked flat. In simple terms if this is a BJJ or wrestling heavy fight, Jones wins. If it’s a stand up fight, it favours Gane.  

 

On paper, there is a lot stacked against Jones coming into this fight; his long layoff, questionable performances in his three fights prior, the difficulty that comes with both the change in his own body shape and extra weight, and the size of the competition in the heavyweight division. It’s going to be a tough road. But if any fighter can overcome this and succeed, it’s probably Jon Jones. One thing is for certain, the new generation of fans are yet to see the best of him, but fans that followed him during his destructive LHW championship run, aren’t doubting him for a second.  

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