This Saturday, the UFC light heavyweight division’s “next big thing,” Jon Jones, will once again be out to prove that the future of the 205 lb. division belongs in his hands.
Jonny “Bones” has cut a path through the light heavyweight division since making his UFC debut in 2008, defeating Andre Gusmao, Stephan Bonnar, Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko. The only blemish on his record is a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, which came after Jones brutalized “The Hammer” with illegal downward elbow strikes. This Saturday, the Greg Jackson camp product will face arguably his toughest test yet in up-and-coming wrestling powerhouse Ryan “Darth” Bader. Jones recently appeared on Pro MMA Radio (props to MMAMania.com for the transcription), where he discussed his expectations for that upcoming bout, the role his own wrestling will play on fight night and how training with current number one light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans has helped him prepare.
“I definitely think that my wrestling is very underrated,” Jones asserted. “I think people consider me as a Greco-Roman wrestler because maybe my frame or maybe it’s because I strike a lot and people think that I’ll be easy to take down. I have a lot of pride in my wrestling, it’s something that I’ve been doing since I was a 14 year-old boy and now I consider myself a 23-year-old man. I guess I’ll have to just keep working and keep proving people wrong. Eventually I think this whole hype train will go away. I’m not gonna say I’m a better wrestler than him, but when it comes to mixed martial arts, I’m a better mixed martial artist than him.”
Part of the stout crew at Greg Jackson’s New Mexico-based stable of fighters is “Suga” Rashad Evans, a former UFC light heavyweight champ and the next man slated to take on current divisional kingpin Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jones discussed the added advantage it give him to spar with one of the division’s top dogs on a regular basis.
“It’s been extremely valuable on so many different levels,” Jones said of training with Evans. “Not only is my confidence through the roof because I’m training with the second ranked light heavyweight in the world, but the technique of the fighting. Rashad Evans has a very fast double-leg dive. He has a lot more boxing combinations. He has probably the fastest overhand right in the sport, so my confidence is through the roof. My reaction time is at a really high level, so I’m being able to counter Rashad Evans’ punches.”
Jones and Bader square off this Saturday night on the main card of UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort, which will take place from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Don’t forget to check back at FightLine.com Saturday night for our live and ongoing coverage of the card.