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Is Rashad Evans or Dan Henderson The One to Beat Jon Jones?

UFC 140Jon JonesMMA

history.

UFCMMA

's most competitive division.

Rashad EvansPhil DavisDan HendersonMauricio "Shogun" Rua

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After fighting four times in 2011, Jones has a well-deserved vacation coming to him. In the post-fight press conference, he said he would like to take 4-5 months off. But when he comes back, he'll likely have one of those two lined up to face him.



UFC

requested it. Since then, there's been plenty of trash talk between them, and as Jones' star grows, the possibility of a serious grudge match could sell big. After all, Evans rivalry with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson did over 1 million pay-per-view buys, so why not one with Jones?

Lyoto Machida

matchup puzzle is mostly based on timing, feints and distance, Evans is a legitimate threat with power striking, takedowns and work against the cage, offering a triple threat to contemplate.

But some of the same old, same old would apply. Namely, Evans would be at a massive disadvantage in reach and height, giving up 9.5 inches in the former and 5 inches in the latter, so his challenge like many would be to find a way to get into striking range without taking damage on the way in. That might be a bit tricky for Evans, who often likes to sit back and let his opponent come to him. That particular approach is never going to be the best one against Jones, who is long enough to hit you as you're simply trying to gauge distance.

Machida, for instance, had his best moments when he was aggressive and flurried while coming forward. When he sat back and countered, Jones fired off kicks to keep him on the defensive. The fight-ending sequence in fact began when Machida patiently waited with his back near the fence, waiting for Jones to fire. When he did, Machida's counter left hand was quite literally beaten to the punch by Jones' own left by virtue of his reach. The strike dropped Machida and led to the fight-ending guillotine choke.

Because Evans and Jones trained together for a time, they each have an insight into the other. But I would argue that it benefits Jones. Let's face it, Evans was much further along in his career at the time and a more fully formed fighter, while Jones was still in the neophyte stages of the game. Which one do you think is more different now? If your answer is Jones, Evans' memories from their time together are mostly useless.

The interesting thing about Evans is that he doesn't do any one thing exceptionally. He's very good at several things, and melds them all together well in a way that makes him hard to prepare for, and harder to beat. That's what he'd bring to the table against Jones.



The other option is Henderson, the 41-year-old Californian who some consider the greatest American mixed martial artist in history. A winner of seven of his last eight fights, Henderson has smashed his way through other studs in the past, and his massive right hand can end anyone's night. Because of that, he might pose the biggest one-punch knockout threat of anyone Jones has ever.

While Jones' chin was once thought to be a question mark, after having gone through Rua, Machida and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, it's safe to assume it's just fine.

Like Evans, Henderson would have to navigate some serious distance to land his punches, as his 74-inch reach puts him at a full 10.5 inches less than Jones.

Stylistically though, a Henderson fight for Jones would be quite similar to his recent fight over Jackson. Henderson certainly has a much more decorated wrestling pedigree than Jackson, but in terms of functional MMA, Jackson is better statistically. According to FightMetric, Henderson successfully defends 58 percent of takedowns against him while Jackson defends 80 percent.

Striking-wise, both Henderson and Jackson are both reliant on their boxing first and foremost, trusting their hands to power them to victory. Obviously, most of the time it works out fine for them. Just because Jackson lost to Jones doesn't mean Henderson will, but the style and approach would not seem unfamiliar to him, and that's an edge in his favor.

Both men have legitimate routes to victory. Evans would need to keep Jones off-balance by changing his attacks minute by minute. Jones showed in the Machida fight that he can adjust if you continue the same attack, so variability is a key. And Henderson offers a pure power threat that is probably unmatched right now at 205.

When you look objectively though, Jones' overall package will continue to make him a favorite to win going forward. He has length and uses it smartly. He is generous with his kicks, keeping his opponent at bay. He switches stances. He throws unorthodox strikes. He is insanely strong in the clinch and has powered every one of his opponents down from the position. He is murder on the ground, particularly with his elbows. He is analytical, processing information and adjusting on the fly. And finally, he has a killer instinct that can not be taught.

Whether it's Evans or Henderson next -- or even Davis, who could crash the party by upsetting Evans -- Jones' next challenger will have his work cut out for him. And if the champion wins and defends the belt again, he will continue what is probably the best start to an MMA career we've ever seen.