It’s the rivalry in MMA right now and it’s between two fighters who aren’t even in the same weight class.
The consensus greatest of all time in Jon Jones is undefeated in the UFC barring a silly disqualification in a fight he dominated way back in 2009, with the only other blemish on his record being a KO win over Daniel Cormier being overturned to a no contest following a failed drugs test.
Israel Adesanya is a striking master with a 20-0 record in mixed martial arts following a highly successful career in boxing and kickboxing prior to that. ‘The Last Stylebender’ entered the UFC just two years ago and has already amassed a reputation as one of the best to ever do it, with wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero and most recently Paulo Costa on his record.
The two despise each other and are constantly going back and forth with insults on social media, with Jones not taking kindly to Adesanya’s highly personal insults including his problems with the law and drugs.
Both men have spoken at length about a potential fight taking place, with both acknowledging it would happen at 205lbs – Jon Jones’ division. So who would win if this fight happened?
It’s not a shock to anyone, but Israel Adesanya would 100% have the striking advantage in this fight. His kickboxing skills and ability to manage distance would see him able to pick Jones apart from range much like he did with Paulo Costa in the first round of their fight. The issue he’d have here though, is he would have a reach disadvantage. Jones has an 84 inch reach and a 45 inch leg reach, while Adesanya compares with an 80 inch reach and 44 inch leg reach. Therefore his greatest strength is arguably taken away from him.
Jones has a wrestling advantage and a pure physicality advantage. His best work comes in the clinch and if he can tie Adesanya up he will control the fight. He’s also a naturally bigger man. Jones is supposed to be on the move up to heavyweight but is reportedly willing to forego that for now to make this happen, although Adesanya wants him to wait. While Jones has shown a considerable deterioration in his physical attributes in the last few years, he’s still considerably bigger than Adesanya and with Izzy carrying extra weight into the fight it’s unlikely that he will be as explosive as usual. It’s important to note that Adesanya is a natural middleweight, he weighed in for his title fight with Costa at 184lbs and has even weighed in fully clothed, eating doughnuts during his King of the Ring days.
While analysing Jon Jones most recent performances, there are glaring holes in his game that have been exposed that hadn’t been seen previously. Thiago Santos chewed up his legs in their bout and was given the decision by one judge in their fight, before Dominick Reyes landed more strikes than anyone else ever has and many believe he should’ve won their bout in February. But one thing being overlooked is Jones’ motivation for those fights.
He was already talking up a potential move to heavyweight and was the heavy favourite pre-fight both times out. Much like he was against Ovince Saint-Preux and Alexander Gustafsson once upon a time, he just didn’t care enough. We have seen though when Jones is fully motivated and even angry how he performs.
He dominated Daniel Cormier in both of their fights, even securing a knockout over Cormier (before it was overturned) and in the rematch against Gustafsson it was one of the more one-sided title fights in recent memory as he took him down and flattened him with ground and pound. A highly motivated Jon Jones, to me, is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
With that said, Israel Adesanya isn’t just any fighter. He is a world class striker with incredible precision in his strikes and knockout power. He has kicks in his arsenal too and his footwork and speed is something that Jones hasn’t had to contend with in the past. He also has a wave of momentum and no expectation behind him, with many believing that Jones is supposed to win.
A clash between these two bitter rivals with a personal twist would arguably be the biggest fight the UFC can make right now. Ultimately though, I don’t think we would see a shock. Jones is too well rounded, too skilled, too big and ultimately would be too motivated. I think he eats some shots but eventually puts Adesanya down using his wrestling and beats him with elbows before sinking in a submission for the win.