A super fight between Anderson Silva (file photo) and Jon Jones would do big business for the UFC.
I have seen the future and it is this: Anderson Silva against Jon Jones in the most significant super fight of 2012, or at least by mid-2013, assuming the end of Mayan calendar is merely that. Given their mutual trajectories, the bout will soon make sense on every level.
In February -- after Jones summarily thrashed Ryan Bader and learned moments later he would receive a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua -- I opined that Jones-Silva could be the can’t-miss fight of 2012. Some called it a bold pick, considering Jones had not even fought Rua yet, but after “Bones” beat the Brazilian in three at UFC 128, I have become convinced that nobody in the light heavyweight division beats the champion in the near future, outside of a Matt Serra Momentâ„¢.
Predicting fights is an often-murky business, and projecting mega-matches that will happen on the assumption that two men will plow through multiple mutual opponents to get there is akin to guessing the status of the Dow Jones a year from now. However, given that Silva and Jones are the most physically dominating performers in the game, they seem like two trains headed for one another. Here is why it is more likely to happen than you think, and why it all makes sense for both men.
At 36, Silva has virtually cleaned out the middleweight division. Outside of a megabucks rematch with Chael Sonnen, there is a paltry list of challengers that even the most optimistic UFC acolytes would barely want to see. And after Silva’s destruction of Yushin Okami at UFC 134 on Saturday, I am firmly of the belief that Silva’s rib injury affected him in the Sonnen bout a year ago. Moving gracefully and picking spots at will to strike, he reminded us of how dazzling he can be when he decides to implement his will and handle the business at hand with extreme prejudice.
You are not supposed to drop people with jabs, but Silva did so against Okami. It is not considered wise to lower your hands and stare at a world-class opponent, daring him to uncork something while standing brazenly in striking range, but when Silva did it, it had all the suspense of a schoolyard bully knowing his victim was too cowed to fight back.
This is what translates into Performance Theater for Silva, and, when followed with a red meat-style knockout, it goes down as yet another chapter in the book of an artist so far above his contemporaries and further exhibits why -- at least at middleweight, where his matches seem entirely devoid of suspense -- they are beneath his station.
Silva has made wholesale domination the de facto expectation for his bouts, as he has gone 14-0 in the UFC and shattered all existing UFC standards for consecutive wins (14), title defenses (nine) and highlight-reel moments few, if any, could hope to imitate. If he beats Sonnen in a rematch resembling the domination he showed at UFC 134, a move to 205 pounds makes even more sense, especially at his age and considering his need for viable challenges.
Silva will also be at a point where, personally and professionally, it may be worth the risk to take on a monster like Jones, whose star will have risen considerably with a series of impressive defenses. If Jones is not the boss at 205 pounds by then, whoever has unseated him will, by default, be considered a bad-assed light heavyweight. Plug in “The Spider” against that guy. For now, we have to assume it will be Jones, unless someone jacks his swagger.
Jones is not anywhere close to Silva from a credentials standpoint, but, at 24, he is in a position of enviable upside -- a sitting champion who is plausibly three to four years from his absolute physical prime. The light heavyweight champion has steamrolled his way to the title in a mere eight UFC bouts, displaying a shocking command of every phase of the game, except for the bottom position on the ground, if only because no one has come remotely close to sticking and keeping him there.
Jones does a lot of things in a lot of ways nobody has really had to deal with simultaneously, and, with each outing, he keeps demonstrating new riffs that only he seems to hear, consistently nailing them and adding them to the pantheon of the possible. Whether it is a devastating spinning back elbow from the clinch or inventive strikes on the ground that exact maximum damage with minimum warning, Jones is a daunting prospect for any aspirant to the 205-pound throne. His decimation of Rua was so clinical and calm that he carried himself like the champion dusting off an overmatched challenger.
His first defense is slated for next month against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the UFC 135 headliner, and I believe that “Rampage” has probably the best shot of any existing light heavyweights to best Jones. That is a misleading statement, however, because Jackson is a longshot at best. He has heavy hands but has largely abandoned his wrestling since migrating to the UFC, and his trouble with leg kicks represents a huge red flag and figures to be a tactic Jones is sure to exploit.
Rashad Evans is talented but too small; Lyoto Machida will never get past Jones’ range and reach given the trouble Jackson gave him essentially throwing hands and nothing else; Phil Davis may have the grappling chops but is still relatively green in the standup. Mentally, it is hard to see Rua being any more competitive in a rematch when he was destroyed by Jones. That bout would essentially resemble Georges St. Pierre-Matt Hughes 3, where the outcome became clear about a minute into it.
Essentially, by the middle of next year, Silva and Jones will each have probably mowed down a couple challengers in impressive fashion. One can only hope Silva’s fussy streak does not mar another performance, especially against a hapless opponent he could otherwise finish. Silva and Jones pose terrifically difficult problems for foes and seem wired to have the tools to beat one another.
Silva’s style also translates well to 205, given that, unlike Georges St. Pierre, it is not predicated on overpowering people but rather accuracy and timing on the feet. He has already vetted at light heavyweight, and a showdown with Jones would probably project to an insanely lucrative pay-per-view buy rate. The highlight reel promo alone would be enough to induce a blind man to make the purchase.
Yes, there is one last mountain to climb for Silva: Jones and the 205-pound division. It would be a fitting end to a career that has only fallen short of expectations, at times, precisely because of his ability to set them so high.
Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or twitter.com/jasonprobst.