In what can certainly be considered the most exciting news in MMA in recent times, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones has stated that he will be relinquishing his LHW belt and moving up to Heavyweight for a potential super fight with the reigning HW Champion Stipe Miocic.
While Uncle Dana still insists that Miocic will have to face Ngannou first, Jones vs. Miocic is too big of a fight to be ignored by Dana for too long. MMA pundits and fans unanimously agree that the fight needs to happen as quickly as possible since Miocic and Jones are in their prime right now.
So, how would a fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic go? Let us take a look!
Jon Jones – Strengths
The biggest strength of Jon Jones is something he didn’t build or develop in a gym – his reach. His 84½ inch reach (the longest reach in the UFC) allows him to stay safely away from the punching and kicking range of his opponents and still land his punches whenever he wants to.
The fight against Rashad Evans showed just how ridiculous Jones’ reach advantage is. Staying out of Evans’ punching range, Jones was able to rush in and throw devastating elbows at will and punish Evans badly.
This is also the reason why none of his opponents so far (with the exception of Alexander Gustafsson) were able to hurt Jones with their punches or elbows because they simply cannot get close to him without eating a punch or elbow in return.
Nobody in the UFC utilizes the oblique kick like Jones does. In every fight, he throws oblique kicks to his opponent’s knee (just above the kneecap) while staying out of their kicking range so that they cannot throw a kick in return.
The oblique kick is a controversial move, as it has the potential to cause an ACL or an MCL tear, which can put a fighter on the shelf for months. While submissions moves like the kneebar can also cause similar injuries, the fighter at least has the chance to tap out if they think they cannot get out of the submission move. With the oblique kick, the fighter simply does not have the chance to defend themselves, which makes it one of the most dangerous moves in MMA.
Jones is not a strong puncher, but he manages to compensate his weak punches with brutal elbows. He masterfully uses his opponents’ forward pressure to set up his counter elbows, which are devastating to say the least. From Bonnar to Evans, Teixeira, and Gustafsson, almost every single one of his opponents has been at the receiving end of a nasty elbow.
Jones trains at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy, which is considered one of the very best MMA training academies in the country today. They are known to develop game plans and fighting strategies based on the weaknesses of the fighters who face Jones. Jones, to his credit, follows the game plan to the T and gets excellent results – fight after fight.
Jon Jones – Weaknesses
Weak Boxing Defense
Jones is not a particularly good offensive boxer. And his defensive game is even worse. He never had to worry about his defensive strategies as he usually managed to stay out the punching range of his opponents. It all changed when he met Gustafsson – whose frame and reach are similar to his own – in the octagon.
Gustafsson used his long limbs to land jabs, hooks, straight rights, and kicks at regular intervals and managed to keep Jones on the back foot for a significant portion of the fight. Even Cormier, who is much shorter than Jones, managed to tag Jones a couple of times when they were in the clinch.
Not Used to Heavyweight Power
Getting tagged by a light heavyweight is one thing. Getting tagged by a bona fide heavyweight, on the other hand, is a whole another thing. Jones, despite his lengthy career, has never faced a hard-hitting fighter with genuine one punch knockout power. It is one of the reasons why fans were so excited to watch Jones take on Rumble Johnson, who has legit KO power in both hands. Unfortunately, the fight didn’t happen, thanks to Jones’ shenanigans outside the octagon. So, we have no idea if Jones has the chin to absorb the bombs thrown by someone like Miocic or Ngannou.
Stipe Miocic – Strengths
Stipe is hands down the best offensive boxer in the Heavyweight division. Unlike Nelson, Lewis, or Ngannou, he doesn’t rely on a single punch to score a KO over his opponents. Instead, he throws combinations, which is a rarity in HW.
Frame and Reach
Miocic is 6’4” and has an 80” reach. He has the size and reach required to keep his opponents on the back foot and dictate where the fight takes place – something he often does.
While Miocic is not a fearsome KO artist like Ngannou, he has his share of KO and TKO victories in his resume. Remember the right hook that flattened Werdum? Or the series of rights that destroyed what was left of Overeem’s chin?
Cardio and Agility
Miocic is not a lumbering heavyweight like Hunt, Nelson, or Lewis. He is agile and moves like a light heavyweight. He also has an excellent gas tank and easily can go a five-rounder.
Stipe Miocic – Weaknesses
The tendency to Keep His Guard Down
While Miocic is a very good boxer, he has a tendency to keep his guard down while chasing his opponents and while in the clinch. It is exactly the weakness that Cormier exploited to win the first fight in their trilogy.
Lack of Submission Skills
Heavyweights are generally not known for their submission skills and Miocic is not an exception as well. So far in his career, he has not shown any glimpse of his submission skills. So, we have no idea what kind of guard he has or whether he can slip out of a submission move in case he gets caught in one.
Jones vs. Miocic – How Would the Fight Go?
In Miocic, Jones – for the very first time in his career – will be facing someone who is similar to him in terms of height and reach, but much more powerful. Remember how many times Gustafsson managed to tag Jones during the first three rounds of their first fight? Unless Jones manages to improve his defensive boxing skills drastically, it will be a short night’s work for Miocic.
On the other hand, Miocic has not faced someone like Jones, who can throw a wide range of kicks and elbows from unexpected angles. He is used to fighting heavyweights who move and fight in a predictable manner. If he is not careful, he might find himself at the receiving end of a spinning back elbow, like many of Jones’ opponents have.
In terms of cardio, Jones and Miocic are similar to each other, as they both have great gas tanks. Neither of them has the need to take a round off in a five-rounder.
In terms of toughness, they are similar to each other as well. Nothing fazes Jones when he fights – whether it is Belfort’s armbar, Gustafsson’s punches, or Cormier’s wrestling. He overcomes everything his opponents throw at him and manages to win every time.
Similarly, Miocic has shown that he can eat rights and lefts for breakfast and still fight unfazed. Remember the left by Overeem that floored him? Or the bombs that Ngannou threw in the first round of their fight? Or the overhand rights that Cormier threw with alarming regularity in the second and third fights of their trilogy? He still managed to win all those fights in spectacular fashion.
So, what should be Jones’ strategy against Miocic? In my opinion, here’s what he should do.
- Stay out of Miocic’s punching range
- Rush into land punches as and when he can
- Throw leg kicks, oblique kicks, sidekicks, and head kicks regularly
- Duck down when Miocic throws the overhand right and tries to land a spinning back elbow
- Take Miocic down and punish him with ground and pound
And here’s what Miocic should do.
- Cut off the octagon and force Jones to fight on the back foot
- Press forward, stay in the pocket, and try to throw combinations
- Throw leg kicks at the start of each round to deter Jones from throwing the oblique kick
- Outmuscle Jones in the clinch and tire him out by throwing short-range punches and elbows to the head and the body
What is the likely outcome of the fight? In my opinion, Miocic has the edge, due to his size, strength, and punching power. He is used to getting hit by big, powerful heavyweights. So, he is unlikely to be deterred by Jones’ punches and kicks, which means he can afford to stay in the pocket, take some punishment if needed, and try to knock out Jones.
So, what’s my prediction? I’m going to go out on a limb and say Miocic by TKO or UD. Let’s hope the fight happens soon!