Jon Jones has turned the MMA world upside down. | Photo: Sherdog.com
For his next title defense, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones could face the winner of the Jan. 28 matchup between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis. He could also face Dan Henderson, who’s coming off a win in November over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Jones’ trainer Mike Winkeljohn likes how the champion matches up against all three possibilities.
“They all present different challenges,” Winkeljohn told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.” “I’m not sure which one’s the biggest. Dan’s big right hand is always a big challenge. [He’s] somebody that could be able to close that gap and find a hole and try to get to Jon’s chin. That’s probably the dilemma with him, but he’s small. I don’t think he can outwrestle Jon. I think Jon beats him everywhere. I don’t think he can hit [Jones] with that right hand.”
While Henderson would bring a great deal of experience into a bout against Jones, Jones would actually be the veteran in a matchup against Davis. An NCAA champion wrestler at Penn State, Davis has picked up the MMA game quickly. Winkeljohn doesn’t think his striking is on Jones’ level, though.
“I think Jon kills Phil Davis with his standup,” Winkeljohn said. “I think Phil Davis is a tremendous wrestler and I’m sure his standup’s going to get better daily. We’ll see how much better it’s improved when he fights Rashad. That will tell me a lot about where he’s going with his training and what he’s doing.”
When discussing the possible opponents, Winkeljohn often mentioned their ability to close the distance on Jones. He cited Evans in particular as dangerous in that regard, but he doesn’t sound especially worried about him as a challenger either.
“I think Rashad Evans is probably capable of closing the gap, if he wants to, faster than anybody out there in trying to strike with Jon,” Winkeljohn said. “But I think [against] all of them, Jon’s got the ability to just pick them apart from long range like he has with all of his other fights and break them down and then finish the fight when it’s time.”
Of course Jones and Evans are former teammates. They’ve trained together and were friends, at least for a while, but now they’re more like enemies. Evans has expressed plenty of confidence in his ability to beat Jones, but Winkeljohn likes his fighter’s outlook on a potential encounter.
“I think he’s prepared to fight Rashad,” Winkeljohn said. “I think mentally, I don’t have a problem with where his head’s at with Rashad. He believes in his heart that he can beat Rashad. So no matter what Rashad says, it becomes posturing. … I think Jon sees that and I’m not worried about it.”
Listen to full interview (beginning at 1:28:48).