An Editorial by Peter Parsons
With the recent announcement of the interim heavyweight title fight between Derrick Lewis and Cyril Gane, fans cannot help but to wonder if the UFC will make the Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou superfight happen. It appears that the winner of Cyril Gane and Derrick Lewis will fight Francis Ngannou for the undisputed heavyweight title. Could it be possible that the UFC will still go ahead and book Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou? We can only hope as this would be one of the biggest superfights in UFC history. If not, it could be another UFC superfight that should have happened but did not happen.
Let us look back at previous superfights in the UFC that did not happen.
Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre
Anderson Silva defeated Rich Franklin at UFC 64 in October of 2006 to win the UFC middleweight title. A month later at UFC 65, Georges St. Pierre defeated Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight title. This was the beginning of two dominant UFC champions, just one weight class apart.
For St. Pierre, his championship reign got off to a devastating start, losing his first title defense in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April of 2007. St. Pierre won the interim welterweight title in a trilogy fight against Matt Hughes at UFC 79 in December of 2007. The Canadian then regained the undisputed welterweight title against Matt Serra at UFC 83 in April of 2008 in front of his hometown fans in Montreal.
St. Pierre went on to defend his title nine times between 2008 and 2013. His last title defense came at UFC 167 in November of 2013 against Johnny Hendricks. St. Pierre vacated the title after the Hendricks fight to step away from the sport.
Anderson Silva defended his middleweight title 10 times. This was a record for the most UFC title defenses at the time and has since only been surpassed by Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones, both with 11 title defenses. In what was supposed to be Silva’s first title defense at UFC 67 in February of 2007, his opponent Travis Lutter missed weight. Silva defeated Lutter, but it did not count as a title defense as Lutter was not eligible to win the title due to the weight miss.
During his reign between 2007 and 2012, Silva moved up to light heavyweight on three occasions, defeating James Irvin, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, all by first round knockout. Silva’s title reign and his record 16 fight winning streak in the UFC, came to an end at UFC 162 in July of 2013 when he lost by second round knockout to Chris Weidman. There went the superfight with GSP.
At the time, there was a lot of talk of the potential superfight, but it was just a matter of time before one of these great champions lost as they continued to defend their titles against the top contenders in their respective weight divisions. An ideal time to have made this superfight would have been after GSP’s win over Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in November of 2012. Silva was coming off his win over Bonnar the month prior and was in attendance in Montreal. The Brazilian was shown on camera clapping for St. Pierre who put on a fight of the night in his victory over Condit in front of a raucous hometown crowd in Montreal. It likely would have took extra money to make this fight happen, however, this fight would have been the biggest fight in UFC history at the time.
Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones
Another superfight that had potential during Silva’s run was a superfight against light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. As previously mentioned, Silva was no stranger to moving up to light heavyweight where he was successful three times during his middleweight title reign, including against former 205-pound champ Forrest Griffin.
Jon Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history when he defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 in March of 2011. At the time of Silva’s Weidman fight, Jones had already defended his light heavyweight title five times. Silva vs. Jones would have also made for one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
Jones has still not lost a title fight. His biggest battle has been against himself, having had well documented issues outside the Octagon. In his last fight, he defeated Dominck Reyes at UFC 247 in February of 2020. Not long after the Reyes fight, Jones stated that he plans to move up to heavyweight, a move that many fans have been anticipating for years.
Israel Adesanya vs. Jon Jones
Adesanya vs. Jones is the most recent superfight that could have happened in the UFC. I am not saying that it should have happened like the previous two listed fights, but it very well could have happened.
After defeating Paulo Costa last September, Adesanya did not have any fresh contenders at middleweight, evidenced by the fact that his last title defense was a rematch against Marvin Vettori and his next title defense will be a rematch against Robert Whittaker.
Adesanya moved up to fight Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title at UFC 259 in March. Blachowicz was fresh off winning the vacant UFC light heavyweight title that Jones vacated. The Polish fighter defeated Jones’ last opponent Dominick Reyes in the co-main event on the Adesanya vs. Costa UFC 253 card last September. Adesanya lost a unanimous decision to Blachowicz. There went his undefeated record and the Jones fight that he wanted.
Adesanya and Jones had many wars of words through social media. There was certainly no love lost between the two UFC superstars. Imagine the magnitude of an Israel Adesanya vs. Jon Jones fight compared to Adesanya vs. Blachowicz. Adesanya lost his undefeated record anyway, he might as well have lost it to the pound for pound king. The undefeated middleweight champ vs. the pound for pound king, with legit bad blood between them, would have made for one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou
Unlike the Jones vs. Adesanya hypothetical fight, Jones vs Ngannou should be a reality. The good news is that it still can be. It is right there for the taking.
It appears that the UFC made the Derrick Lewis vs. Cyril Gane interim title fight in August to fill a main event spot for UFC 265. If the winner of this fight were to fight Francis Ngannou for the undisputed title, we would be looking at late 2021 or early 2022 for this to happen.
The above scenario would leave Jones on the sidelines likely until mid 2022. Unless the former light heavyweight champ fought another top heavyweight like a Stipe Miocic or Curtis Blaydes, which would be a risk for a Jones vs. heavyweight champ superfight. I do not think Jones should fight anyone but the champ in his heavyweight debut. He is the greatest light heavyweight of all time and is on the shortlist in the MMA GOAT conversation.
I feel like the time is now to make Jones vs. Ngannou happen. Ngannou has a lot of momentum behind him and has looked unstoppable as of late. Fans want to see the greatest light heavyweight of all time in Jones challenge the baddest man on the planet in Ngannou. If the UFC made Ngannou vs. Jones in the fall, the winner could fight the winner of Gane vs. Lewis for the undisputed title in the first quarter of 2022.
Of course, the UFC will need to pay Jones and Ngannou. I believe it would be well worth it as the fight would be the next biggest selling fight to a Conor McGregor title fight. It would also elevate the winner to the biggest name in the sport next to McGregor.
As we know from the past, if you do not sign these superfights while you can, they have a way of disappearing. No one wants to see Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones added to the list of UFC superfights that should have happened.