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Jon Jones Doesn't Envy Lyoto Machida's Tough Task, and He's Not Alone

Jon Jones

TORONTO -- Jon Jones strolled into Wednesday's open workouts with the look of a man who knew he was walking into his own surprise birthday party. He smiled and bowed his head at all the attention, as if somehow shocked by how many people had filled the sturdy little bomb shelter of a gym, but he knew this was coming. He knew he'd be the main attraction, and he didn't mind one bit.

And why shouldn't it be this way? Just a few days away from his second light heavyweight title defense -- this time against Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 -- few are expecting anything other than another demonstration of Jones' physical and technical superiority.

"I think it's a rough fight for Machida, to be honest with you," said fellow UFC 140 main card fighter Frank Mir.

"Is [Machida] capable [of beating Jones]? Of course he's capable, 100 percent," said former Machida foe Tito Ortiz. "Will he do it? I don't think so. I think Jon Jones is on a roll. His confidence is through the roof. He feels untouchable."

Maybe that's because, at least thus far in his three-and-a-half-year stay in the UFC, Jones has been almost literally untouchable. Forget tested, Jones hasn't even been effectively pressured by any opponent yet. Not as an up-and-comer in this sport, and not as the UFC champion.

That helps to explain why Jones seems to be feeling so good this week. If the pressure of holding a UFC title has gotten to him in the least, you sure wouldn't know it. He laughed and joked with reporters on Wednesday, calmly swinging his long arms as he explained why he -- and probably a lot of other light heavyweights, if we're being honest -- wouldn't want to be Machida this week.

"That's a question I get a lot is, how crazy is it to prepare for Lyoto? But I truly think, how crazy is it to prepare for me?" said Jones. "I'm a big studier of myself, and I realize I do a lot of things people don't do -- flying knees, spinning attacks, and southpaw and just efficient orthodox -- I'm sure he's confused."

To Jones detractors, it might sound like arrogance. To Jones fans, hard-earned confidence. To anyone who's been paying attention lately, it probably just sounds like the truth, whether you like it or not.

For Machida, who will give up about three inches in height and a little over ten inches of reach, it's hard to see how he beats MMA's wunderkind. Maybe the old Machida, the one from "the Machida era," back when the combat sports world thought he was some kind of god of fancy footwork who couldn't be hit, let alone beaten. But now? Now he's a mere mortal. Now he's been knocked out by "Shogun" Rua and out-pointed (barely) by "Rampage" Jackson, both of whom Jones has stopped in the past year.

Don't think the champ hasn't made that connection, either.

"Everyone keeps asking me, how are you going to solve Lyoto Machida's puzzle?" he said. "But it's been solved already, you know what I mean? I have blueprints, and I really think I have more technique than he does, more skills, more tools."

Not that absolutely everyone is picking Jones, mind you. The other Brazilians on the main card -- the Nogueira brothers -- both said they liked Machida's chances. But then, what else are they going to say? Their endorsements are only one remove from Machida picking himself to win, such as when he was asked, via the softest of all softball questions, whether he thought Jones' reach or his own elusive movement would be the more important factor in Saturday's title fight. You can probably guess which side Machida came down on.

For Jones, these high expectations and assumptions of dominance come at a price. Machida merely needs to win; Jones needs to perform. He needs to put on a show that's better than the last, just to live up to the hype that is far beyond his control at this point. He's the light heavyweight who everyone else is looking at. He's the star who all the others snipe at from afar, and he knows it.

"I'm sure there are a lot of fighters who want to beat me, but they have to wait their turn," Jones said. "I don't really feel like there's a target, because the guy who's targeting me, I'm shooting right back at him. I don't look at it like me versus the division. It's just me versus one at a time, just like it is for everyone else, really."

And sure it is, at least once they finally get in the cage together. It's only everyone else where things are completely different.