Jon “Bones” Jones (11-1) has been bestowed with the mantle of “The Next Big Thing” on the strength of his creative and devastating performances in the UFC.
“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. Tonight, the Greg Jackson camp product will face arguably his toughest test yet in up-and-coming wrestling powerhouse Ryan “Darth” Bader. Jones appeared on ESPN’s MMA Live and talked about how this training camp has been his best yet.
“I feel as if I’ve matured a lot, with my career and with my training camp,” said Jones. “I’m eating healthier, going to bed earlier and training with the right people… I just feel completely ready.”
While on paper Jones has the advantage over Bader in most departments, Bader seemingly has an advantage with his wrestling. Bader has won two state wrestling championships and was ranked as high as 4th in the country for wrestling during that time.
Jones is a decorated wrestler as well, being a 2005 state wrestling champion during his senior year at Union-Endicott High School and a national Junior College Champion (JUCO) at Iowa Central Community College.
“I think my wrestling is majorly underrated,” Jones explained. “That’s something that I’m going to have to keep proving to people, that I was a college wrestler with big dreams in wrestling. I’ve been in this situation before, Jake O’Brien was supposed to be the wrestler who was going to out-wrestle me, Matt Hamill was supposed to be the wrestler who was going to out-wrestle me, Brandon Vera was supposed to be a better Greco-Roman wrestler than me so I guess I’ll just have to keep proving to myself and to the UFC that I’m a strong wrestler and I think we’ll see that.”
While “Bones” is known to not stay bound to a game-plan, he noted that he is well prepared for Bader tonight.
“When I begin my training camps, instead of working on things that I’m already strong at, I work on the only ways that I can lose this fight,” he said. “Bader’s number one weapon, in my opinion, is his overhand right, [with] his left hook being his second best and his double-leg dive being a pretty big threat as well. So I started off my training camp working on my counters, different slips, different blocks to the overhand right. Then we worked defense for the left and my takedown defense, I feel, is stronger than ever.”
As for what’s next for Jones if he’s victorious tonight, he gave a glimpse of his future.
“I think Dana White and a lot of the fans are starting to see that I can be a very serious contender. Depending on my performance tonight, it could catapult me to number one contendership, or maybe I’ll have one more opponent before being the number one contender.
“I’m getting close to my dreams and I’m definitely not going to slow down now.”
Jones and Bader square off tonight 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 here this evening for our live and ongoing coverage of the card.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.