Throughout Jon Jones’ young career as a fighter he’s faced some tough tests along the way.
He fought former “Ultimate Fighter” finalist Stephan Bonnar in only his second career fight with the UFC, dominating the bout. He then went on to bludgeon or submit every opponent he’s faced since that time, finishing everyone on the list, outside of a DQ loss to Matt Hamill in December of 2009.
Now he gets not only his biggest test facing UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, but he also faces the best striker he’s ever competed against.
Jones has fought some of the best grapplers in the UFC, but Rua brings a whole new toolbox into the Octagon with him. Known for deadly punches, knees, and kicks, the Brazilian champion will present a new problem for the prodigal UFC fighter to figure out.
Jones’ striking coach, Mike Winkeljohn, respects what Shogun brings to the table, but he’s also seen what his fighter is capable of. If all the pieces fall together at UFC 128, he could see Jones putting Shogun away on the feet.
“His length, his speed, he’s hurting people now in the gym with his stand-up, he’s not even having to wrestle. I think people are going to be real impressed. Honestly, I think he can beat Shogun standing up,” Winkeljohn told MMAWeekly Radio.
“Shogun’s incredible and dangerous and there’s a lot of things we’re going to have to worry about, but I think Jon could edge him if he wanted to. I’m not saying that’s our gameplan by any means.”
Jones comes from a wrestling background and his throws and ground control are his bread and butter, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Winkeljohn has been working with Jones ever since he became a full-time team member at Jackson/Winkeljohn in New Mexico. If the contest stays standing, his striking coach is confident in Jones’ abilty to end the fight there.
“I really would,” Winkeljohn answered when questioned if he believes Jones could defeat Shogun in a fight on the feet. “If Jon does the proper things and puts himself in the right place, at the right time, I would definitely be really happy with what he does.”
Winkeljohn not only has confidence in what Jones is doing now, but what he’s capable of doing in the future. At only 23 years of age, Jones is already becoming one of the sport’s most popular athletes. If he can become the UFC light heavyweight champion, the sky’s the limit.
His coach believes that when the book is closed on Jon Jones, he won’t be the Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan of MMA. He’ll be the Jon Jones that everyone else compares themselves to.
“I believe Jon Jones is going to be the legend,” Winkeljohn said. “It’s not going to be the Muhammad Ali of that division, he’s just going to be the Jon Jones of that division. Kids are going to want to be Jon Jones when they grow up.
“Jon and I, this is something we talk about constantly, ‘who do you want to be when you grow up?’ and I want those kids to say Jon Jones.”
Jones will close up camp this week before heading to New Jersey to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of UFC 128.