Those familiar with the recent history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship know that Jon Jones doesn’t do short-notice fights.
At least he didn’t used to. A whole event was wiped from the record books because of that philosophy. However, Jones took a different approach when Daniel Cormier withdrew from the UFC 197 headliner a few weeks back. Fresh off more than a year-long hiatus that was a result of his transgressions outside the cage, “Bones” felt it was his duty to show up on Saturday night, regardless of the opponent.
Now, if his performance against Ovince St. Preux didn’t fit the usual Jones mold, it was because he was competing in uncharted territory. Jones had spent months focusing on Cormier, as opposed to just weeks studying OSP. That, not the layoff, was the reason for Jones more measured approach in the Octagon.
“If you’ve been following my career you know how big I am into studying,” Jones said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “Me and my team that’s what we do. It’s why I’m so confident going into my fights because I know what I’m getting into. Tonight, Ovince just threw a completely different thing that what I prepared for. I’m going to say it was more the opponent switch than ring rust.”
Still, Jones cruised past St. Preux, sweeping the scorecards for a unanimous decision triumph and setting up a future title unification showdown with Cormier. If the fans who watched weren’t satisfied, they were only echoing Jones’ own sentiments.
“I’m my own biggest critic. Out there I was seeing all types of openings and I just wasn’t pulling the trigger on a good 50, 60 percent of them,” he said. “I was just going for the easy ones. Boxing-wise I was going, ‘Don’t get caught with a big hand; just play it smart.’ I was way too hesitant in there. I’m grateful for a lot but I’m still disappointed. Just know there’s a higher level inside of me.”
UFC President Dana White felt that a tuneup fight did Jones some good.
“Jon Jones looked rusty tonight, and it was a really good thing for him that it was OSP tonight and not Cormier because he was able to get some rounds under his belt and feel himself out,” he said. “Now he knows what he’s got to do when he gets back in the gym. Because in your mind you’re the same guy and you feel like you’re gonna jump back in there and do the same thing. Jon Jones has been out. He went the five rounds. He was busy the five rounds. This was good for him.”
While Jones at times looked out of sorts against St. Preux, he disputes the popular notion that Cormier would have defeated him had they squared off on Saturday.
“I would’ve beat him up pretty good. I am tuned up to be fighting Daniel Cormier. All the techniques, the angles, the ideas, I’ve been working for Daniel Cormier for seven months. I’ve been training for one fighter,” he said. “They threw me this taller, power puncher, switching stances... It wasn’t what I was preparing for. I can beat Daniel Cormier and I’m hoping to prove that as soon as possible.”