The day many UFC fans have been waiting for may finally have a date. March 4, 2023, UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the return of Jon Jones. Although he is known for his accomplishments in the Light Heavyweight division, he is targeted to make his return against current Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. As a UFC fan, this potential matchup has me counting down the days until the Light Heavyweight GOAT makes his return.
The History of Jon Jones
Although Jon Jones may be one of the most talented Mixed Martial Artists that have ever stepped foot inside the octagon, he may also be one of the most troubled outside the action. Jones was one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history and holds a 26-1 record, with his only loss coming by disqualification due to illegal elbows. Other than that disqualification loss, he ran through the entire division with finishes over greats such as Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and other title defenses against many others. Through his fight with Daniel Cormier, Jones was the face of the UFC and an idol for all young UFC fans, including myself, but his career trajectory changed after his first run-in with the law. After his first bout with Cormier, Jones was scheduled for his next title defense to be against Anthony Johnson in May 2015, but after a hit-and-run incident involving a pregnant woman, Jones was stripped of his belt and suspended by the UFC. Jones returned in April 2016 with an interim title bout against Ovince Saint Preux, which he dominated. He was later stripped of his belt and suspended again after failing his drug test and was suspended for another year.
After returning from suspension in July 2017, he and Cormier went at it for a second time, where Jones came out the victor, but once again, Jones failed his drug test, causing a third suspension. After the third suspension, Jones defeated Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Smith, and narrowly defeated Thiago Santos in July 2019 before being charged with battery after an incident with a cocktail waitress later that month. Jones did fight once more after this, where he defeated Dominick Reyes in his last fight as the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. Unfortunately for Jones, although this was the last fight during his title reign, it would not be his last time coming face to face with the law. In March 2020, Jones faced a DWI charge, and in September 2021, Jones was charged with domestic battery after an incident with his fiancé before the charges were dropped in December of that year. Now, Jones can turn his career around with an opportunity to take home the Heavyweight crown.
Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou
After talk of this matchup has flown around since 2020, it may finally happen in early 2023 for the Heavyweight championship. As exciting as this potential matchup is, there are plenty of questions that come along with it. The obvious question is how Jon Jones will look after over three years of inactivity, and how he will hold in a new weight division. Jones was always a sizable Light Heavyweight standing at 6’4 and an incredible 84.5-inch reach, but now he may be taking on Francis Ngannou, who stands at 6’4, has an 83-inch reach, and fights at nearly 260 pounds. Ngannou is by far the biggest and strongest opponent Jones has ever faced, and Jones will be 35 years old at the time the bout takes place. The questions don’t end with Jones, though; Ngannou would also have been inactive for over a year and is coming off a significant knee injury. Will he be back to 100% and ready to go against someone as accomplished as Jones?
My early prediction is a third-round TKO in favor of Francis Ngannou. When pictures of Jones surfaced as he was training for a possible Heavyweight fight, Jones looked incredibly strong, but he didn’t look like a natural Heavyweight. When Ngannou walks in to weigh in at 260 pounds, he looks ripped, and you can’t imagine him fighting in a lower weight class. A lot like Jones at Light Heavyweight. When pictures of Jones surfaced at 255 pounds, a lot of the weight looked like added fat instead of muscle, which leads me to believe he will be slower at Heavyweight. If Jones wants to defeat Ngannou and claim a title in a second weight division, he will need to have the speed advantage, and it remains to be seen if he will have it at Heavyweight.
Jon Jones vs. Curtis Blaydes
Every time we hear about a potential return for Jon Jones, his status is questioned, but Ngannou is the more significant question mark for this upcoming fight. As a backup option, the UFC has named Curtis Blaydes as the replacement if Ngannou is not set to return to action. If I were Jones, I would be praying that Ngannou can’t return because this would be an excellent matchup for him. Although Blaydes is a formidable opponent, he doesn’t present the raw power and explosiveness that Ngannou does. Blaydes also isn’t the fastest in the division, so even at a heavier weight, Jones may still have the speed advantage and will have the technical striking advantage. Jones also has a great wrestling background to counter Blaydes’ biggest strength. Along with that, Jones also can submit his opponents, as shown with five submission wins in the UFC, and tends to submit some great wrestlers such as Ryan Bader and Quinton Jackson. Suppose Jones gets the opportunity to restart his UFC career against Blaydes. In that case, it will give him the confidence to get right back into the conversation for the Greatest Fighter of All Time. In his first fight in over three years, Jones will look impressive as ever with a win over a top contender in the Heavyweight division.