Greg Jackson admits that Jon Jones’ performance against Ovince St. Preux at UFC 197 left plenty of room for improvement.
That said, the respected trainer is still confident that the version of Jones who stepped into the Octagon last weekend would have found a way to defeat Daniel Cormier had their rematch taken place that night.
“Jon’s one of those guys that fights to the level of his competition,” Jackson said during an appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s ”The Neutral Corner” show with Yves Edwards. “When the going gets tough he gets going for sure. I’m very confident he would have won that night because he would step up to that level. He’s one of those guys if you push him really hard he will push back.
“For me, we’d done so much work for Daniel, I think he still would have won that night. If you push him hard, that almost wakes him up.”
Cormier, of course, had a much different opinion. The current light heavyweight champion served as a guest analyst for the UFC 197 headliner, and at its conclusion, he was left to wonder what might have been had he remained healthy throughout his fight camp.
“He got the job done. A lot of times most guys don’t have their best performance, they lose. They don’t get it done. That just shows how special Jon is,” Cormier said that night. “That being said, I’m very disappointed I didn’t get to compete tonight because I do believe if he showed up in the form he did tonight, if this is the new Jon Jones, there is no way he can beat me.”
Jones had approximately three weeks to prepare for St. Preux once Cormier withdrew from UFC 197 due to a leg injury suffered in training. While that might not seem like a big deal to an outsider, Jones is a big believer in preparation. It’s why he turned down what seemed like an easy win against Chael Sonnen at UFC 151: the lack of notice gave him little time to formulate a new game plan after he spent most of his camp studying Dan Henderson. Simply agreeing to face St. Preux under similar circumstances was a big step for the Jackson-Wink MMA standout.
“Every fighter is different and everybody’s mind is a little different. Jon needs preparation,” Jackson said. “I think Jon’s one of the best fighters of all time, there’s no doubt about that. But I think the way his mind works that’s why he likes to watch so much tape, he has to get prepared. Ring rust was very real for him because he’s a very process-oriented guy. And the short fight change is very real phenomenon. He needs to reprogram the computer and it doesn’t work as fast as I would like it to.”
That was reflected in his bout with St. Preux. While Jones swept the scorecards in the interim championship contest, he was almost tentative in his approach, especially in the early going. However, it had been some 15 months since his last Octagon appearance, a five-round verdict over Cormier at UFC 182.
“The first three rounds he was tense and he wasn’t letting go the way he should. I think that’s ring rust,” Jackson said. “There’s some structural stuff too. It’s been over a year since he’s been in there, and this was a guy who’s always stayed busy. In the fourth and fifth he opened up a little bit more. There’s little things that I want to tweak and little things I want to change, but overall I was pretty happy with the performance.”
Jones will get a chance to build upon that effort in the UFC 200 headliner, when he rematches Cormier in an attempt to regain the title he lost when he was suspended by the promotion last year. Not only does Jackson expect a better Jones come July 9, he also plans on taking the necessary steps as coach for his fighter to succeed. In that sense, Jones’ perceived struggles were not all his fault.
“The night of [UFC 197] I was a little, I wouldn’t say disappointed, but I think we should have opened up more,” Jackson said. “I’m very hard on myself because I feel it’s my responsibility to prepare the fighter the right way. Sometimes people might misinterpret what I feel on the fighter, but it’s actually on myself. I needed to be a little bit more creative on how I prepared him for that.
“Outside of those mistakes on my part, I was pretty happy with the performance overall. I think that said, he just loosened up and we’ll be really ready to go for DC once it’s time.”