Jonathan Snowden over at Bloody Elbow penned another somewhat controversial piece last night in regards to rising superstar Jonny "Bones" Jones. After utterly destroying Vladimir Matyushenko in the main event at UFC on Versus 2, talk immediately turned to who Jones next opponent would be. The winner of the Rogerio Nogueira-Ryan Bader fights name was floated out there. Thiago Silva, Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin were a few more names dropped. Dana White commented on The Daily Line that his next opponent will undoubtedly be "a top 8 guy." The guy Snowden thinks should be next in line? The Iceman Chuck Liddell.
His reasoning is that the UFC should use the same tactics Boxing has employed in the past:
It's a matchup that would be obvious in boxing. We've seen it time and again, often with the biggest names in the entire sport. Oscar De La Hoya became one of the most polarizing fighters in history by whipping the aging legend Julio Cesar Chavez. Mike Tyson won over critics and solidified his status by beating back Larry Holmes, who was dragged kicking and screaming out of a lounge chair in Easton, Pennsylvania to fight the young star. Holmes wanted no part of Tyson. Don King and a bag of cash changed his mind.
While that analogy works well, I believe it works just as well if not better when applied to professional wrestling. In fact, it's standard operating procedure; wrestling 101. It's not just expected of you, it's a necessity. When a guy has given his all to the business and he is on his way out, he takes all the credibility he's built throughout his career and passes it on to someone else. Usually a young up and comer who's paid his dues and put in his time and it's determined will be the next big guy to get over. The WWE is in a situation such as this right now. The Undertaker will be retiring soon and many questions surround who the guy will be that gets the rub. In the case of the UFC, their aging legend, Chuck Liddell, is at the end of his time. He's got maybe one more fight left in him. So has Jon Jones put in the work and paid his dues to go over a big star like Chuck?
Let's examine after the jump.
He's been steadily climbing the ladder since his debut back at UFC 87. He showed plenty of ambition by taking his first UFC fight against Andre Gusmao on just three weeks notice. He would defeat Gusmao by unanimous decision and dazzle many in the process with his unorthodox striking. His potential was obvious enough that he was bumped up to the main card in his following fight to take on company darling Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94. During the fight, Jones again displayed a wide array of strikes and even executed a belly to back suplex. Again he would win by unanimous decision.
His third fight came on the biggest UFC show of all time at UFC 100. His opponent, Jake O'Brien, a strong wrestler thrown in to see how Jones would do against a solid grappler, was hopelessly overmatched. Bones put him to sleep in the second round with a guillotine choke. He was coming along wonderfully, his progression happening at a blistering pace. It was determined that not only was he ready for a step up in competition but that he was also ready for a main event. Not of a numbered PPV card but of a free show on Spike, the Finale of season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. With viewership undoubtedly being bolstered by the presence on the card of Kimbo Slice, Jones would have a big audience and a game opponent in Matt Hamill. The fight received a good deal of hype but ended in anti-climatic fashion. After executing a trip takedown that broke Hamill's shoulder and gaining full mount, Jones rained down elbows. Unfortunately they were 12 to 6 elbows which are illegal in MMA. He was disqualified and officially suffered the first loss of his professional career.
This ended up working out beautifully in many ways. It allowed the UFC and the fans to see how well Jones would respond to his first loss as a fighter. And, of course, no one actually viewed the loss as being legitimate anyway so the hype train just kept on rolling. The UFC booked him in an even bigger fight against Brandon Vera in the UFC's debut on the Versus channel. They loaded the card with good matchups to increase viewership and again drew a respectable audience. Once again Jones performed even better than advertised, taking Vera down and breaking his face with a monster elbow in the first round.
It was thought at this point that Jones was ready to jump to the pay-per-views in possibly a co-main event slot. Instead the UFC decided to book him in the main event yet again in the UFC's second show on Versus against veteran fighter Vladimir Matyushenko. This decision was disputed by a great deal of fans as a step back in competition for him and perhaps that is so. Even Jones admitted to being slightly disappointed with the decision. Even so, he easily disposed of The Janitor within the first 2 minutes of the fight and there is no longer any doubt that he is ready for the big time. He's there. But is he really there?
A win over any of the 5 guys Jones has beaten is not enough, in and of itself, to really get him over. That was him putting in his time and establishing his name. Now he needs that extra push. That one big win in a main event in a pay-per-view fight against an established star that so many pay to see. Chuck Liddell can provide that push. The last contribution as a fighter that The Iceman can make is to establish the next big superstar in MMA: Jonny "Bones" Jones.