A lot of great things happened on Saturday during the UFC’s fourth live broadcast on Fox.
The show was outstanding, the fights action-packed, and aside from the possible ratings black hole of going head-to-head with the summer Olympics, the fight company pulled off far-and-away its best offering yet for its new network broadcasting partner. For better and worse, all four 205-pound principals played their parts to a T and even though the title picture in that weight class still has more plot holes than “Prometheus,” the UFC’s bizarre four-way sweepstakes to determine a No. 1 contender has at least allegedly shown the way forward.
So, not to be a total downer, but I have to ask: If this weekend's light heavyweight bouts were so amazing, why did they only seem to underscore how badly Jon Jones has outgrown his own division?
Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua both came away from this event with fairly impressive victories, but from the start both had been handed an impossible task. If the point here was to convince us that a future rematch with Jones would go more favorably for either man, then Machida’s kryptonite counter of Ryan Bader’s ill-fated superman punch and Rua’s hard fought fourth-round stoppage over Brandon Vera each fell well short of the mark.
Machida, we’re told, will now face the winner of the champion’s UFC 151 title defense against Dan Henderson and nearly a month before that fight can even become official it’s being met with collective indifference from fans.
Likely because he still has the small matter of the Henderson bout to take care of first, Jones hasn’t had much to say on the topic, either. A week ago he responded to initial reports that the winner of Rua-Vera would receive a title shot by telling his nearly half-million Twitter followers he was “scratching his head” over it. Really, what else can he say until after Sept. 1?
I mean, I know what I’d say if I were him, his coaches or managers. I’d say no.
Assuming the enormous 25-year-old light heavyweight defeats the 41-year-old natural middleweight at UFC 151, Jones will have absolutely nothing to gain by fighting Machida again. The two just fought less than a year ago and despite what the prefight hype will try to convince us of during the next 4-5 months, it wasn’t close, nor was it Jones’ most difficult title defense to date. That honor, hollow as it is, has to go to Rashad Evans.
If a bit more than 16 months into his championship reign Jones has so thoroughly cleaned out the weight class that matchmaker have no choice but to begin recycling guys he’s already beaten so convincingly, then the message is clear: His work here is (almost) done.
Short of waiting around for Alexander Gustafsson to be deemed worthy -- or, maybe more appropriately, for the UFC to secure a stadium in Sweden big enough to host that fight -- Jones has nothing left to accomplish at 205 pounds.
Provided he beats Hendo next month, there may be but two attractive options for Jones: Either he consents to a superfight with Anderson Silva or he moves up to heavyweight. For some reason, neither he nor the middleweight champion appears particularly interested in signing on for the biggest fight in MMA history, so the latter may well be the only option.
Moving up to 265 pounds is something Jones has talked about being in his future, but the way he’s torn through the top competition at light heavyweight, I don’t see any reason to wait.
For Jones, the future is now.
OK, maybe not now, exactly. Maybe the future’s still not for a few weeks, but if things play out according to chalk against Henderson, it’s obvious Jones will just be spinning his wheels the longer he stays at light heavyweight.