If there’s a Jon Jones connoisseur out there -- somebody who can assess the champion’s performance against Glover Teixeira with a critical eye for detail -- it’s Dan Henderson. Henderson was slated to meet Jones in a title fight at UFC 151 before a knee injury not only scrapped him from the card, but ended up scrapping the card altogether.
Though Henderson had trained for Jones’ length (and his full array of striking) for six weeks in 2012, in 2014 he’s still trying to make his way into the cage with the 26-year-old champion. If Henderson is able to defeat Daniel Cormier at UFC 173 on Memorial Day weekend, he may get his chance.
But for now, Henderson is left to continue studying Jones, who defeated Teixeira via unanimous decision this past Saturday in Baltimore at UFC 172. What did Hendo think of the champ’s performance?
"I think he obviously finished strong, but I don’t think he came out the first round like the normal Jon Jones," Henderson said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I didn’t think he was fighting very smart in the first round, or the first half of the first round. He was just sitting there kind of fighting Glover’s fight and standing there banging with him.
"You know, I thought that was the only way Glover could win is to make Jones stand and bang with him. Jones was doing that a little too much, and then I think he kind of got back to his game plan a little bit getting in tight at the end, and Glover just didn’t look like he had very good of a clinch at all."
Asked whether he thought Jones was a "changed fighter" after having the toughest challenge of his career against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, Henderson said it’s possible, because there was a lack of discipline early.
"I don’t know, maybe [Jones] just felt that his chin got tested against Gustafsson and then he didn’t feel like a big deal to go in there and slug with somebody who could hit hard, instead of being on the outside using his length, making Glover come at him and then take him down," Henderson told Ariel Helwani. "You know, he obviously won the fight, he won every round, but I just thought that normally he comes in with a good game plan and sticks to it, and I don’t think he was doing his game plan at all that first round."
The 43-year-old Henderson scored a remarkable come-from-behind victory over Mauricio Rua in Brazil in March to end a three-fight skid. His fast turnaround fight with Cormier on May 24 has a potential dangling carrot of a title shot, if he’s able to win. With Gustafsson and Jones tentatively slated to meet in the fall -- a rematch Henderson says he favors Jones in -- it’s possible that he and Jones could finally come together at some point in the not so distant future.
So, what would Henderson do if he finally gets that shot with Jones? How does he beat him?
"I think just getting in there, getting in tight with him and you know -- my clinch game is different than anyone else’s, and I wouldn’t get beat up like [Teixeira did] in tight," he said. "And obviously if you stand on the outside I’d have to deal with getting in closer, and outwrestle him, outpunch him, get in tight and close that distance faster. There’s a lot of things I’d have to change against someone like Jones, because he is so long."