Maybe UFC should call their Versus fight cards “UFC Presents: Jon Jones and the UFC Players.” On consecutive occasions on the newest home of the top MMA promotion in the world, Jones has been dominant to say the least. In Sunday’s main event, Jones defeated Vladimir Matyushenko, a 13-year veteran of the sport, faster than anyone ever has.
Among the “players” supporting the dominant performance of Jones was almost equally dominant Takanori Gomi, who took the occasion of his fight against Tyson Griffin to prove that he is not washed up. Gomi became the first fighter to stop the near-contender and breathed life into his career, which many felt was no longer suited for the highest level of competition.
Who might Gomi fight to re-affirm his status near the top of the lightweight division? Who might Jones, who refused to call anyone out after his victory, next victimize? What about Yushin Okami and Jake Ellenberger, who each one their respective fights? They all have options, and this is their breakdown.
Option 1: Rich Franklin
After dispatching of Vladimir Matyushenko, Jones announced that he wanted to be the best in the world. He said that he wanted to fight the best in the world. UFC president Dana White said that Jones would fight a “top eight” light heavyweight. Jones’ head coach, Greg Jackson, was a little less bullish, expressing a reluctance to rush Jones into the proverbial fire atop the UFC’s light heavyweight division. A fight for Jones against former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin may be the best option for all concerned parties.
Franklin’s knockout of Chuck Liddell allowed him to enter the discussion as a contender at light heavyweight, but he is still on the fringe. His status in the UFC would give Jones the opportunity to gain additional notoriety, win or lose, and according to Heavy.com’s July MMA ranking, Franklin is ranked eighth, which would meet White’s requirement of giving Jones a top eight opponent while presumably satisfying Jackson’s desire not to rush Jones along too quickly. A win over Franklin would obviously be a huge deal for Jones’ yet young career, while a loss would be little more than a minor setback for the dominant 23-year-old.
Option 2: Forrest Griffin
If not Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin would probably be the next best choice to satisfy the desires of all concerned parties. On paper, the former UFC light heavyweight champion would be a tougher test than Franklin, but Griffin has certainly made it look easy to beat him against fighters such as Anderson Silva, Rashad Evans, and Keith Jardine, the latter two being teammates of Jones.
Jones’ reach advantage may be a nightmare for Griffin, but Jones has admitted that his weakness is his jiu-jitsu, which Griffin can exploit if given the chance to do so. Jones v. Griffin is the more intriguing style matchup given Griffin’s legitimate light heavyweight frame and more well rounded style as compared to Franklin. The fight has the added benefit of being an even higher profile contest than Jones v. Franklin, which should be appealing to all involved parties.