It is official, Jon Jones is returning to the UFC on March 4, 2023, against Ciryl Gane for the vacant world heavyweight championship. There was a lot of noise around Jones’ return to the UFC late last year, and most people suspected it would be against Francis Ngannou, but they were wrong. After a debate with Dana White over the money he would get paid for his future appearances in the Octagon, and neither side agreeing, Ngannou was cut from the UFC. In turn, the UFC heavyweight championship has been vacated, leaving it up to White and his matchmakers to come up with a fight for the vacant championship, and I believe they knocked it out of the park with this one. Consensus number one contender and former interim heavyweight champion, Ciryl Gane, is taking on the greatest light heavyweight of all time, Jon “Bones” Jones.
Ciryl Gane profile:
Since entering the UFC in the summer of 2019, Gane is 8-1 and has established himself as a top contender in the Heavyweight Division and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He started his UFC Career 7-0 with four wins by finish over opponents including former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and perennial heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis to win the interim heavyweight championship. His only loss came by a unanimous decision in January of last year to former heavyweight champion Ngannou. Still, he rebounded against the surging Tai Tuivasa and finished him in the third round. Now he has to take on arguably the biggest challenge of his career against the greatest light heavyweight of all time in his second opportunity at taking home heavyweight gold.
Jon Jones profile:
Despite his outside-the-octagon issues, Jon Jones’ talent could be considered unmatched. Jones is 20-1 in the UFC, and his only loss came by disqualification due to illegal elbows back in his fourth fight. During his 17-fight win streak, Jones defeated many of the greatest fighters to step foot into the Octagon. He had the most challenging strength of schedule in terms of opponent quality. The question with Jones is about something other than his previous talent, but whether his long layoff and weight change will cause a decline in the level of domination we saw from him before.
Both of these fighters are incredibly talented, and I can picture a world where either of them wins, but I am going to lead off by saying I think Jon Jones will be taking home the gold on March 4. Jones has accomplished and proved a lot more regarding past displays of greatness and his resume. Although Gane already has an accomplished career, it is tough to compete with Jones, who has defeated the likes of legends such as Quinton Jackson, Glover Teixeira, Daniel Cormier, and others. Jones has also proved he is dangerous wherever a fight takes place. Although Jones may not possess the one-punch knockout power that some other heavyweights have, he should be able to strike just as well as Gane technically. It has also been proven that Gane doesn’t have a granite chin, as he was almost knocked out cold by Tai Tuivasa in his last fight. If Jones can damage him throughout the fight, he could land a combination that sits him down, allowing him to finish the fight by knockout.
Jones has also proved he can compete on the ground with some of the best wrestlers. Jones was able to land three takedowns in his first fight with Daniel Cormier and successfully defend seven of Cormier’s attempts. In his fight against Ngannou, Gane was taken down later in the fight, so if Jones can wear down Gane in the earlier part of the fight, he could try to get the fight to the ground and look to use his punishing ground-and-pound to find a finish. Along with wrestling, Jones has also shown on multiple occasions that he has a dangerous submission arsenal on the ground and standing up. I could see Jones taking this fight to the mat and looking to get control of Gane’s back and trying to lock in a rear-naked choke.
Jones can control the fight in any position, allowing him to become the next heavyweight champion. The only way I could see Gane winning this fight is if Jones going up in weight slows him down tremendously and if his aging has taken a toll on his level of skill, but I don’t believe it will. Jones’ size and incredible length allow him to set up his takedowns with dangerous distance striking, but once he gets it down to the mat, Gane stands no chance. I think Jones will get this fight down to the ground in the second or third round, punish Gane with slicing elbows, and eventually find a submission.
Official Early Prediction: Jon Jones by third-round submission