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Hot Tweets: Jon Jones’s strategy at UFC 239, shocking knockouts, and best fighter no one is talking about

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Jon Jones
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Lot’s of stuff happened since last we spoke. Jorge Masvidal broke a UFC record, Jon Jones lost a fight (but kept his belt), and Luke Rockhold’s career ended - basically. Let’s talk about all of it and more.


Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos

I’ve spent a lot of time since Saturday thinking about this one and I think there are a number of factors at play here, but I think the biggest are that Jones came in with a terrible game plan and Thiago Santos presented a more difficult stylistic matchup than anticipated.

The sneaky reality is that Jones has never been great at range kickboxing. He gets by because of his athleticism and his absurd physical advantages but he’s not really going to pick you apart on the outside with combinations. Jones is an interior fighter and he was mostly content to not get inside on Santos because he was afraid of the haymakers coming back at him. The being said, there’s not really a good excuse for why Jones did not look to force clinches or work takedowns, and it’s entirely inexcusable that he was fighting a one-legged man and refused to open up offensively.

Honestly, it looks to me like Jones has hit the Georges St-Pierre stage of his career. If he so chose, he could press the issue and murder everyone. But instead he’s overly cautious about putting himself in danger so he’s going to win some dull decisions unless someone really brings the fight to him, opening up big counters (a la Daniel Cormier). The irony of this play-it-safe style is that it is actually is far more dangerous because the longer you leave someone in the cage with you, the more chance they have to upset you. After all, Jones nearly lost his title last weekend. Hopefully all his post-fight talk of thinking he fought a good fight was just blowing smoke, because otherwise, he will end up losing it sooner rather than later.


Masvidal KO’ing Askren

It’s definitely not the most shocking finish ever, though it may be one of the coolest. You’re right, no one expected Masvidal to get a five-second flying knee KO—can you imagine the odds you could’ve gotten on that?!—but it’s completely possible to believe. You know what is impossible to believe? That Gabriel Gonzaga, a world class BJJ player, knocked out Mirko f*cking Cro Cop with a head kick. It’s been well over a decade and I still can’t believe that actually happened. If you weren’t an MMA fan for the Pride heyday, it may be tough to explain how insane that was but trust me, it was nuts. Sure, Cro Cop had looked less than impressive in his UFC debut but this was a dude who was a world beater. If Gonzaga was going to win it would be with ground work. Then, low and behold, “Napao” went kapow upside Cro Cop’s head. It would be like if Conor McGregor stood up and admitted that Khabib is a better fighter than him - it’s inconceivable.

After that, Matt Serra’s knockout of GSP is probably second in line, especially given the suspect way Serra got a title shot, by “beating” Chris Lytle on a season of TUF.

Then I gotta go with Weidman clocking Anderson and Jose Aldo getting got by Conor. That last one will be controversial given Conor’s status as a one-punch artist but in reality, he’s not actually a one-hitter quitter guy. I could have believed Conor would win, but not that he’d bolt the greatest fighter in MMA history in 13 seconds.


Speaking of Masvidal . . .

I don’t think overpower is exactly the right word, but yeah I think Usman probably wins. I’ve been a huge fan of Masvidal for ages but despite his recent run, the man still has limitations. I thought Askren would probably be able to take advantage of those limitations but instead, Jorge clacked him up in five seconds. If they fought that fight 100 times, I image Askren gets the win with his wrestling more often than not and similarly, I think Usman would grind Masvidal down over five rounds.

It’s an interesting thought. Masvidal has been one of the most underrated fighters for year but honestly, Usman is being underrated right now. I know it’s tough to underrate a current champion but seriously, Usman’s progression had been incredible. Just check out his FightMetric stats. In the last year and a half, Usman has turned a corner and he is just steamrolling people with aggression and pace. Masvidal is well-rounded enough and crafty enough to keep up for a bit, but eventually Usman will pull away under his avalanche of pressure.

Jorge 100 percent deserves the next shot though. Unless Colby Covington beats Robbie Lawler. Then who the hell knows?


Superfight

Easily the flyweight roster. This is like that hypothetical about how many 10-year-olds you could take down before their numbers overwhelmed you, only instead of 10-year-olds it’s world class fighters. Now granted, the UFC has cut so many flyweights it barely has a division anymore but 10+ dudes is still enough to get it done.

Have you ever tried to fight more than one person at a time? Well I have and to say it went poorly would be an understatement. That’s something the movies have given us a completely false idea about. Francis Ngannou could maybe take a life or two before the numbers overwhelmed him but the flyweights are for sure winning.


Under the radar

There are two ways to interpret this but I’m going to take it at face value and say the absolute best fighter who is completely absent the conversation right now: Ketlen Vieira. Vieira barnstormed the UFC bantamweight division, rising to the number two ranked contender in only 18 months. She’s 10-0 and should be the obvious next choice for Amanda Nunes to defend against - and though it’s hard to pick against Amanda at this point, Vieira is at least a worthy challenger. Instead, Vieira suffered a knee injury and has been completely off the radar since. Be honest, did you remember her at all until you just went to check out the rankings and saw that I was telling the truth? Exactly.


Aspen Ladd

ICYMI, Aspen Ladd looked like she was going to actually die on the scale yesterday.

I hate to break it to you, but even if someone dies, it’s not going to change weigh-ins. The only way to change what’s going on is a complete culture shift around the benefits of cutting weight, and that will never happen. At this point, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that cutting 10 pounds of weight is not a massive advantage and, in fact, carries with it numerous drawbacks. But people are still killing themselves on the scale because they think it’s the best decision. And honestly, I’m fine with it.

The UFC and the commissions should certainly spend more time presenting the disadvantages and dangers of weight cutting to fighters as a rule, but at the end of the day there are not many cost effective ways to keep it from happening. USADA’s massive privacy invasion is already bad enough without adding weight check-ins too and any kind of fight night weight limit just increases the probability of injury because fighters will just suck out to hit the limits. For me, I think the best solution is to have weigh-ins 48 hours before the event. It’s not going to substantively change how the fighters make weight and it gives them a realistic time period to rehydrate fully instead of going into a bout half-sunken-out before taking head trauma.

Look, I think aggressive weight cutting in MMA is incredibly, inconceivably dumb, but people have the right to be dumb and they are literally only hurting themselves. Will it be a tragedy when someone finally dies? Absolutely. But you can’t make the horse drink the water you’ve led it to.


Kyle Snyder

For those who don’t know, Kyle Snyder is among the greatest American wrestlers ever and one of the top pound-for-pound wrestlers in the world. He’s the reigning Olympic gold medalist at heavyweight. Oh, and he’s only 23 years old.

Considering how good a wrestler he is, how well his style would translate to MMA, and the horror show that is the UFC heavyweight division, I’d say even money Snyder could walk into the cage tomorrow and beat at least one ranked guy. Assuming he can take a punch at all, if you gave Snyder five years at a legit gym, that dude could easily win the title.

Here’s to hoping when his freestyle career is done he follows in Daniel Cormier’s footsteps.


Luke Rockhold

ICYMI, Luke Rockhold got got again and Dana thinks he should hang it up.

I seriously, seriously doubt it. First, we need to recognize what the Hall of Fame is and what it’s not. What it is is a company-determined honor. There isn’t some meritorious panel that decides who gets in or some arcane voting process - they just kinda make a decision and go with it. What it isn’t is a Hall of Champions.

Let’s be clear, there are at least four fighters currently enshrined in the Hall that should not be - not because they don’t deserve it but because others should have gotten in first. That number jumps to six if it’s truly a UFC Hall of Fame and not an MMA Hall of Fame, which it is because if it’s an MMA Hall of Fame, wow is it bad.

So given this, let’s look at Rockhold. He’s a one-time champion who has done next to nothing to elevate the sport. A sensational fighter, sure, but people aren’t following in Rockhold’s footsteps and he didn’t leave some kind of great records to chase after. In fact, given how his career has gone lately, the lasting image of Rockhold in the UFC fan’s mind will be of him getting clubbed by Michael Bisping. On top of that, Rockhold has been a notoriously difficult fighter to work with. This is actually a compliment. He knows his worth and always fought to get paid it by the UFC. But that kind of stuff does not engender good will with the organization. Frankly, I’m half-surprised Tito made it in the Hall.

Barring a late career surge, Rockhold’s Hall chances are slim to none. And I just can’t see it from him now. I thought the move up to 205 might reinvigorate his career but it turns out being unable to block a left hook is not a problem that gets fixed by not cutting weight. Who knew?


Thanks for reading this week and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.