Jon Jones has won his last 10 bouts, finishing eight of them. | Photo: Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/UFC/Getty
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has put on 34 individual fights so far in April, with 11 more coming at you on Saturday in Baltimore. The most important bout is the 45th and final match of the month. The UFC 172 main event is a title defense by one of the company’s best fighters in light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. The physical wounds from Jones’ last fight have all healed. The question remains: How will “Bones” rebound mentally after the toughest fight of his career? The UFC is more than happy to deliver the answer to your television set in radiating high-definition for a mere $54.99.
Path to Greatness: It seems safe to say the UFC’s light heavyweight belt remains wrapped around Jones’ waist thanks to one spinning back elbow in the fourth round of his last fight. Gustafsson seemed well on his way to dethroning “Bones” until that devastating strike halted his momentum. This was the first real stumbling block for Jones’ title reign. He had grown accustomed to easily dismantling his opposition, rarely losing rounds or failing to finish a foe. The road may only get tougher from here. That is a scary thought considering Jones already handled Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and others. A fresh crop of contenders are chomping at the bit for the 26-year-old. After Teixeira, Gustafsson expects a rematch, followed by a grudge match with Olympian Daniel Cormier, provided he can get past Dan Henderson at UFC 173. Jones’ resume is highlighted by wins over a who’s who of light heavyweight royalty, but his next three fights may represent the most difficult stretch of his career. If he is still champion after running that gauntlet, a serious Greatest of All-Time discussions need to happen.
Say What: Since Jones defeated Davis’ Alliance MMA teammate, Gustafsson, by the skin of his teeth at UFC 165, “Mr. Wonderful” has been uncharacteristically vocal. The verbal poking and prodding of the champion has proven to be one of the surprises of 2014 thus far. Davis said Jones would crumble like shortbread, criticized him for trying to match his way out of tough fights and questioned whether he will even show up in Baltimore. Everyone pray to the MMA gods that the Zuffa production staff puts Jones and Davis in the same warm-up area. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in there. “He may not fight at UFC 172. It’s not too late for him to back out of this one. It’s happened before. I’m just saying it might happen again,” Davis told MMAJunkie.com.
Awards Watch: We found Jim Miller’s ceiling against fighters like Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. The New Jersey native demolishes just about everyone else. Yancy Medeiros looks like he could fall into the “everyone else” category, especially on short notice. Miller should have his way with the Hawaiian and walk away with a $50,000 performance bonus ... Rockhold’s ceiling is another matter. Only a knockout loss to Belfort in Brazil has managed to slow the American Kickboxing Academy standout’s rise. Rockhold will make a big and violent statement against the rugged but not nearly as polished Boetsch ... You cannot help but be tempted to lean towards Joseph Benavidez and Tim Elliot for “Fight of the Night,” but the Team Alpha Male ace might finish the fight too early. Keep an eye on Max Holloway and Benavidez’s teammate, Andre Fili, in the main card’s opening bout. The two featherweights are resilient, exciting fighters. Expect 15 minutes of back-and-forth action.