Jon Jones remains a champion. At UFC 182 he bested a game Daniel Cormier, but not in the manner most expected.
With a foot reach advantage, Jones’ game plan was simple: stay at range and pepper the shorter, stockier challenger with strikes. Throughout the fight, Jones’ coach Greg Jackson repeated the game plan: dance and hit this guy, dance and hit this guy. But either Jones did not want to listen to, or could not follow through with, the plan. Cormier consistently found a way inside the champion’s striking range and into the clinch. In the end, it didn’t matter.
Closing the distance proved inconsequential because Cormier’s gas tank was too shallow to take advantage of the position. With the exception of the second round, when Cormier closed the gap and landed hard uppercuts and hard right hands coming in and going out, the Olympic wrestler never seemed to mount a sustained attack. He stalked Jones and pressured him with his body movements, but he seldom paired that aggression with active hands. Cormier was so exhausted by the fourth round that he gave up three take downs against the wall—a blow to his ego that likely hurt more than anything else during or after the fight.
Jones’ victory, like his appearance at the weigh-in a day earlier, was met with resounding boos from the crowd. Of that general sentiment, respected MMA analyst Josh Gross wrote:
— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) January 4, 2015
Understanding the animosity toward Jones isn’t rocket science. Fight fans, more than other sports fans appreciate and reward honesty. Fans don’t hate or jeer Jones because he’s crass or over indulges in celebrating his victories. It’s not his cockiness or pompous grins either. If that were the case, fans wouldn’t be so passionate about Nick Diaz’s return. You can be crash, cocky, and self-indulgent in the fight game and still be considered the People’s Champion. What you can’t be is duplicitous.
After all, fighting is the purest form of competition. It is the ultimate truth. There are no goal lines to cross or yardage to accumulate. All other sports are metaphors for what fighting actually is. Other sports hide their truth behind helmets and leather covered balls. Fight fans watch MMA to get to the heat of competition. As such, they praise fighters who can do the same. There’s room for the quiet alongside the loud and the humble alongside the cocky in the hearts of fight fans. However, in a sport about truth fans do not abide by double-speak.
For years now various fighters have hinted at Jones’ lack of sincerity. Cormier continued the trend but it was Jones who revealed his true colors when he thought the cameras weren’t rolling. Viewer discretion, is advised.
When you pretend to be one thing but act totally different, fight fans boo your name—simple as that.
Next up for Jones is the winner of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs Alexander Gustafsson. Either man poses serious threats to Jones’ title, but you can bet that Jones is rooting for Johnson. Jones wants nothing to do with Gustafsson, who in the eyes of many beat Jones at UFC 165, me included, and who possess nearly the same height and reach as Jones. Whether it’s Johnson or Gustafsson who steps in the cage against Jones, you can bet that there will be plenty of fans once again donning t-shirts with the motto “Break Bones,” hoping that this challenger will prove the t-shirt true.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.