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5 reasons why Jon Jones' quest to become a two-division champion in the UFC is destined for failure

Can Jon Jones succeed in the UFC
Can Jon Jones succeed in the UFC's heavyweight division?

With 2022 almost over, one thing that UFC fans are looking forward to in 2023 is the long-awaited return of Jon Jones, who is expected to make his heavyweight debut at some point in the year.

Can Jon Jones become just the eighth fighter to win UFC gold in two different weight classes, or will his attempt to become a double champion fail? Due to the unpredictability of the UFC, it’s hard to say, but right now, there are more reasons to think that ‘Bones’ will fail rather than succeed.

Here are five reasons why Jon Jones’ quest to become a two-division champion in the UFC is destined for failure.


#5. Jon Jones’ chin might not be able to withstand heavyweight power

Can Jon Jones' chin withstand a shot from one of the UFC's top heavyweights?
Can Jon Jones' chin withstand a shot from one of the UFC's top heavyweights?

While there were plenty of reasons why Jon Jones succeeded so hugely at 205lbs, one of his most underrated attributes was always his toughness.

Not only did Jones avoid being stopped by strikes during his initial 22-fight run with the UFC, but he also never suffered a true knockdown, either. In fact, it’s hard to recall him ever being hurt by strikes, even against heavy hitters like Daniel Cormier and Glover Teixeira.

However, every fighter’s chin deteriorates over time, and Jones did take plenty of shots in his bouts with the likes of Rashad Evans, Cormier and Lyoto Machida. And as every UFC fan knows, punching power at heavyweight is an entirely different proposition.

The likes of Francis Ngannou, Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa carry as much power as any fighter in UFC history, and can switch the lights off on an opponent with one single shot at any time.

FRANCIS NGANNOU REALLY KNOCKED OUT STIPE MIOCIC 🤯 #UFC260 @espnmma https://t.co/IXMTQBIIvu

Even heavyweights not renowned for their striking – the likes of Curtis Blaydes and Sergey Spivak – hit with hugely concussive force.

Could Jones’ chin withstand being hit with that kind of force? The truth is that we simply don’t know. Given the knockout power of someone like Ngannou, though, it’s likely that Jones just wouldn’t be able to risk taking even a glancing shot – something that wasn’t always a problem for him at 205lbs.

Essentially, with more than a decade of action under his belt, Jones’ chin may well find heavyweight punching power too much to take.


#4. Jon Jones was beginning to look past his prime in his most recent fights

Jon Jones didn't exactly look great in his 2019 win over Thiago Santos
Jon Jones didn't exactly look great in his 2019 win over Thiago Santos

Were Jon Jones looking to move up to heavyweight in his prime – after his first fight with Daniel Cormier in 2015, for instance – then it’d be hard to imagine him not finding at least some level of success.

Is ‘Bones’ still in his prime, though? It’s a very fair question to ask. Sure, at the age of 35, he can’t be considered an old man, even in the sport of MMA. At heavyweight, he could even be considered a young gun of sorts.

However, he has been around at the top for a long time now, having won the UFC light heavyweight title over a decade ago. At some point, all of those fights, as well as the lengthy training camps, begin to catch up with a fighter.

It’s arguable, in fact, that Jones was already beginning to look past his prime before his current self-imposed hiatus. His displays against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos were amongst the most underwhelming of his career, and many fans felt that he didn’t deserve the nod from the judges in his clash with Dominick Reyes.

#AndStill the undisputed UFC LHW champion of the world! #UFC239 @JonnyBones || B2YB Nemiroff https://t.co/8UWc70Iqse

In all three bouts, Jones just didn’t seem to be quite as capable of putting the same pressure on his opponents as he once did. He also seemed more vulnerable to being struck, too.

Given that three years are likely to have passed since his last bout by the time he returns, it’s definitely fair to question how much he’s got left in the tank. To be frank, ‘Bones’ may well be too long in the tooth for this move to heavyweight to work.


#3. The physical advantages that brought Jon Jones success at 205lbs might not translate to the heavyweight division

The physical advantages Jon Jones had at 205lbs might not be as big a factor at heavyweight
The physical advantages Jon Jones had at 205lbs might not be as big a factor at heavyweight

While Jon Jones undoubtedly found success in the UFC light heavyweight division thanks to his wrestling skills, his dangerous striking, his hard work and his toughness, there’s also no denying the impact that his physical gifts had, too.

Jones wasn’t always the tallest 205lber, standing at 6’4”, but his somewhat unusual body shape definitely gave him an advantage over most of his foes. His long, skinny legs allowed him to pack most of his strength into his upper body, and his insane 84.5” reach allowed him to attack almost all of his opponents from range with ease.

Will those physical gifts be as big of a deal at heavyweight, though? It’s highly debatable. Against Daniel Cormier, for instance, he enjoyed a 5” height advantage and an insane 10” reach advantage, and even Dominick Reyes, who was the same height as ‘Bones’, had a 7.5” reach disadvantage.

Jon Jones has a major reach advantage going into this weekend's fight against fellow American Dominick "The Devastator" Reyes.#UFC247 https://t.co/BnlsS8ZJcl

If Jones were to face Ciryl Gane, though, while he’d still have a slightly longer reach, at 2.5” it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. The same could be said for a fight with Curtis Blaydes, while other top heavyweights like Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov would actually have a height advantage over him.

When you bear in mind that the frames of those men would also be naturally bigger than Jones’, it’s definitely arguable that the physical gifts that helped him to succeed at 205lbs would be negated in the bigger weight class, making his dream of becoming a double champion less likely.


#2. Jon Jones doesn’t have enough punching power to succeed at heavyweight

UFC 214: Cormier vs Jones 2
UFC 214: Cormier vs Jones 2

While there’s no denying that Jon Jones is one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, with a ridiculous record of 22 wins and just one disqualification loss to his name in the octagon, it’s safe to say that he probably wouldn’t make a list of the promotion’s best knockout artists.

Sure, ‘Bones’ has five wins via strikes on his record in the UFC, but almost all of them came either from ground-and-pound from the top position, or from a flurry of shots on an already-worn down opponent. He’s never switched the lights off an opponent with one shot in his UFC career.

The step-in elbow that dropped Santos 💪 #UFC239 https://t.co/zDlpciWdZT

Essentially, Jones hits hard, but his punching power could probably be described as unremarkable when compared to many of his peers. While that wasn’t a problem for him at 205lbs, at heavyweight, it could prove to be a major issue.

While not all of the UFC’s big men hit as hard as Francis Ngannou or Derrick Lewis, it’s safe to say that the majority of the division’s top fighters all possess one-shot kill power and have the ability to turn a fight around with a single strike.

In the modern era of the UFC, in fact, it’s arguable that no fighter has really been able to succeed at heavyweight without that brutal knockout power. The only fighter that might come to mind in that sense would be former heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez. However, even he scored big standing knockouts over Travis Browne and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Jones could probably look to focus on winning his fights via submission or ground-and-pound, but without the ultimate equaliser in his punching power, it’s hard to imagine him being quite as effective at heavyweight as he was at 205lbs.


#1. Jon Jones has sat out for too long to come back and succeed

Jon Jones hasn't fought since his February 2020 bout with Dominick Reyes
Jon Jones hasn't fought since his February 2020 bout with Dominick Reyes

Perhaps the biggest thing standing against Jon Jones’ hopes of success at heavyweight and his overall hopes of becoming the UFC’s next two-division champion is the fact that he’s been out of action for so long now.

Jones hasn’t fought since his February 2020 victory over Dominick Reyes. By the time his return comes around, especially if it takes place at UFC 285 in March 2023, as is the current rumour, his self-imposed hiatus will have lasted over three years.

⏰ WE GO THE FULL 25 MINUTES. WHAT. A. FIGHT.Has Reyes done enough to dethrone Jones? Sound off! ⬇️ #UFC247 https://t.co/iO9kiCHaai

That’s a crazy amount of time to be out of action for. While ‘Bones’ has not had to rehabilitate a serious injury like some other fighters who were sidelined for a long time, it’s also hard to remember any fighter returning from such a long layoff to find success.

Some fans might name Dominick Cruz as an example, but ‘The Dominator’ actually only missed 16 months of action before defeating T.J. Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight title in January 2016, a period nowhere near as long as Jones’ hiatus.

Sure, ‘Bones’ has still been training while he’s been away, but with much of his focus going on adding mass to his frame by lifting weights, quite how rusty he’ll look upon his return against a live opponent is anyone’s guess.

Therefore, it’s simply hard to imagine him returning and looking at his best right away – making his chances of becoming a double champion slim indeed.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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