- Jon Jones looks to make his 10th career defense of the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of the UFC 239
- Does Thiago Santos have the power to hand Jones his first true loss in the Octagon?
- Will Jones attempt to beat Santos at his own game?
The UFC returns to its home base of Las Vegas for this year’s “International Fight Week.” The anchor event of the festivities is Saturday’s UFC 239 fight card. In the headlining bout of the pay-per-view event, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who is considered one of the best mixed martial artists in the history of the sport, puts his title on the line against the hard-hitting Thiago Santos.
UFC 239 takes place at T-Mobile Arena at 10:00 PM ET.
Odds taken 07/02/2019
Jones and Santos Recent Fights
Jones began his second stint as UFC light-heavyweight kingpin with a win over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232. He used a tactical approach in that matchup. Jones remained calm, never put himself in dangerous positions and, when the time came to ramp up the aggression, he did, earning a finish in the third round. Yes, Jones still used his patented oblique kicks and elbows, but he was a less risky fighter than he was during his first title run.
In his next fight, Jones defeated Anthony Smith by unanimous decision. In that fight, Jones used his full arsenal of striking skills, including his clinch fighting, to cruise to the win.
Santos has developed into one of the most exciting strikers in the UFC. In his three light heavyweight fights, Santos has been aggressive and unafraid to take risks in his striking game, employing eye-opening spinning techniques. Power is the name of the game for Santos, as his three knockout wins at 205 pounds and the huge hammer tattoo on his chest indicate.
Risk vs Reward
As mentioned above, the champion has been much more tactical in his last two fights. However, he has said that he feels almost “too comfortable” entering this contest. That leads me to believe we could see a bit of the old Jon Jones creep into this contest. The old Jones tended to fight to the strengths of his opponent. It seemed Jones had something to prove in those fights. It made for some fun outings and it also established Jones as one of the most dangerous competitors in the UFC.
If Jones wants to put himself in dangerous spots against Santos, he’ll fight in close and negate his reach advantage, which is substantial, and allow Santos to do his best to try and use his power to bring the fight to an abrupt end. That would be a dangerous proposition, but if Jones does fight in close and feels the risk escalating, he can move in tight and use wrist control to handle Santos in the clinch.
As the odds indicate, this fight is Jones’ to lose. How that plays out might come down to how he decides to approach this matchup.
Jones vs Santos Tale of the Tape
|Jon Jones||Category||Thiago Santos|
|205 pounds||Weight||205 pounds|
|4.48||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||5.01|
|2.05||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.16|
|2.07||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.00|
|0.5||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.1|
He Is the GOAT
Jones has six wins over fighters who held or would go on to hold the UFC light heavyweight title. His resume right now is good enough to crown him the best fighter in MMA. The only thing to detract from that claims is how often he gets himself in trouble outside the cage. But that’s not something to consider when discussing this fight. If it weren’t for a 2009 loss due to disqualification for illegal strikes, Jones would be unbeaten in 11 years of MMA battles.
Does Santos have a chance to get the upset here? Sure he does, but that requires Jones to put himself in a position to be caught by one of Santos’ thunderous strikes. Even when Jones fought to the strengths of his opponents, he was acutely aware of range and motion. Barring a surprising knockout win, Jones’ overall skills, which are the best in the game, will carry this contest. Jones might lose a title fight one day, but it won’t happen at UFC 239.
Pick: Jon Jones (-600)