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Hot Tweets: Diving into the ongoing feud between Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya

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Jon Jones
Jon Jones cups his hand to his ear
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This week, the MMA world has been dominated by the ongoing beef between UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. At this point, the two are chirping at each other basically every day. So let’s talk about this quarrel and a smattering of other things.


Who is winning so far?

Might as well start here since these two aren’t actually set to fight so for now, the war of words is all we have.

At the most basic level, neither man is winning because no one ever wins internet fights. Both sides just end up looking childish, dumb, or both. The only way to ever “win” one of these is to ether your opponent with the first response and then leave it be. Week long Twitter back-and-forths just make it appear that you are both Big Mad about it. All that being said, insofar as there is a winner here, it’s Adesanya by a mile.

Why Jones would ever Twitter beef with someone is beyond me. There is more ammunition on Jones than any other MMA fighter in history and he’s not especially good at Twitter beefing anyway. Add in the fact that at the core of it, Jones has been aggressively pursuing a fight with a small middleweight while having a stigma of having fought A LOT of middleweights already is just atrocious optics. Remember that scene in The Social Network where Armie Hammer as one of the Winkelvoss Twins is talking about why they aren’t attacking Mark Zuckerberg and he says, “It’s going to look my brother and I are in skeleton costumes chasing the Karate Kid around the gym!” That’s what this is for Jon Jones.

The problem for Jones is that he’s not cool and he never has been. Jon Jones is athletic, and talented, and many things, but he’s never been cool because being cool requires a level of comfort in himself that Jones has never had. Think about Jon’s beef with Daniel Cormier. Prior to that, he had always tried to portray himself as the good guy but his vitriol for Cormier peeled back the veneer for all to see. Since then, Jones has fluctuated between those two aspects of his public persona, and a man at war with himself is going to be hard-pressed to win a game of The Dozens.

Conversely, even the most ardent Adesanya hater must admit that comfort with himself is not something Adesanya struggles with. The man very clearly does not care what anyone thinks of him and he is certainly not the one stirring things up every time he fights. Hell, this entire beef started because Jon Jones said one day he’d like to fight Adesanya, Adesanya said that sounded good to him, and then “Bones” got all up in his feelings about someone even suggesting they could beat him. Unless of course that person is a heavyweight or a guy who arguably did beat him already (*cough* Dominick Reyes *cough*). Then you don’t see Jon getting all extra about demanding a fight right now. Funny how that works . . .


Brass tacks: should the UFC book this fight?

Ordinarily, I’d say yes but there’s one small problem here: Jon Jones is no longer the UFC light heavyweight champion. If JBJ was still the champ, I’d say absolutely book this fight. Jones would have more than earned that leeway given his reign and Adesanya hasn’t quite cleaned out the division but following the win over Paulo Costa, he will now be a prohibitive favorite over anyone he fights moving forward, other than at 205. It would make all the sense in the world. Except it making it right now would feel just a little less spectacular without the light heavyweight belt on the line.

Look, I’m very much on the record as thinking that titles are largely useless but in this specific instance, not having one cheapens it. If Adesanya wins, then even though he’s the true best light heavyweight in the world, he doesn’t actually own the title. Is he going to go fight Jan then? How would that not be a huge letdown for fans? And if he wins, Jones/haters can and will say that Jones was less motivated since nothing was on the line. And if Jones wins, well, then he beat the middleweight champion in a non-title fight. Congratulations? I mean, honestly, this bout needs a belt on the line.

But even considering that, it still might be the right fight to make anyway. This is among the most exciting possible matchups the UFC can put together right now and it’s a legitimate bad-blood bout between two of the best fighters in the world. That’s like catnip for Dana White. And if we should know anything by now, it’s that waiting for superfights is a dangerous, dangerous game. This isn’t a Conor McGregor - Nate Diaz situation where the records won’t ultimately matter. If either man loses, this fight is probably no longer a big deal. The UFC should strike while the iron is hot.


But what about Jones-Ngannou

In a practical sense, Jones vs. Francis Ngannou isn’t happening anytime soon. Ngannou is going to fight Stipe Miocic sometime in the nearish future and, if he beats Miocic, then he may fight Jones. However, that’s some pretty big ifs, so I’ll take the bird in the hand instead of the two in the bush. But, if we’re only talking about which one of these fights I’d rather see, it’s Jones-Ngannou, hands down.

I actually think Adesanya has a fair chance at beating Jones if the two ever do fight because he’s a pretty rough style matchup for “Bones”. Jon is now almost exclusively a range kickboxer and in that area, Izzy would chew him up. Izzy is a faster, cleaner, and vastly more technical than Jon on the feet. Jon has never been a great takedown artist in space so he would need to force clinches and Adesanya’s footwork would make that hard for him. Not saying it can’t be done, but it would take a lot of work and he’d have to eat shots while doing it. The one saving grace for Jon is that if he can force clinches/get takedowns, he’s one of the most predatory top-position players in history and with his size advantage, may well just end Adesanya immediately once there.

My issue with that fight though is that it probably won’t be super fun. Jones has decent defense and an excellent chin so this fight could well turn into something akin to Adesanya-Yoel Romero, just with more oblique kicks. That’s not really what anyone wants to see again, is it?

On the other hand, Jones-Ngannou is certain to be awesome, for however long it lasts. Ngannou will do his Destroyer-of-Worlds things and if he succeeds, well, that’s always a good time. Conversely, Jones will try to not let Ngannou do his thing and if he succeeds, it will likely be by way of him scoring takedowns where, again, he’s one predatory motherf*cker. Either way, you’re talking about a violent ending with the entire preceding stretch filled with the palpable tension of maybe seeing Francis Ngannou bazooka someone’s head clean off their shoulders.

Plus, with Jones-Ngannou we don’t have to sit through months of sophomoric Twitter feuds. That should be reason enough.


Luke Rockhold

You know, perception is a hell of a thing, and when you put it like that, it certainly presents a more flattering picture of Rockhold. But ultimately, that picture is a fantasy. Luke Rockhold isn’t “washed” per se, but he does have a VERY exploitable weakness that everyone has now picked up on, making him doomed nonetheless.

Just look at his last three losses - they all came the same way. Hell, they look nearly identical in form and there’s a reason. Like Keith Jardine before him, Rockhold’s weakness is anyone capable of throwing a strong left hook. That’s a pretty glaring problem unless Rockhold is only going to fight Nick Newell from now on. I’m not willing to say Rockhold’s chin is “bad” but it’s certainly not something to write home about and the way he leaves his head way up in the air makes him especially vulnerable. I mean, Bisping couldn’t even KO Hendo when Dan was 107 years old, but he one-punches Rockhold? That’s bad.

(Sidebar: the most frustrating part about Rockhold is that he is the best top-position grappler in MMA. That’s not hyperbole, watch his fights. Every second he is on top of someone on the ground, it’s a slaughter. His top game is better than even Khabib and Jon Jones, he just rarely uses it because he’s a counter-grappler. The man really could’ve been an all-timer.)

As for facing Anderson, I mean, he probably can win that fight because Andy Silver is nearing 50 but, sadly, it’s by no means a certainty. Again, The Spider knows how to throw a left hook meaning he’s got a shot at beating Rockhold. That’s honestly a good fight for both guys though so I hope it happens next. You know, if the UFC continues to insist on not booking Anderson Silva vs. Robbie Lawler.


Yoel Romero

Yes. At 42 years old, Yoel Romero turned Israel Adesanya into a shitty point fighter. It’s legitimately the most impressive MMA performance of the year. Go look at Adesanya’s stats for all of his fights and compare them to his bout with Romero - they drop off a cliff. And that’s not because “Romero didn’t do anything so Izzy couldn’t fight”. Costa didn’t do anything and we saw how that worked out. Romero presented genuine threats that Adesanya didn’t want to open up against and so had to eke out a win in the worst possible fashion.

Also, Romero absolutely beat both Whittaker and Costa so he’s only a one-fight losing streak.


Dark horse fighters

Who is Santiago Ponzinibbio? That name sounds familiar but I can’t put my finger on it. Hmmmm. Oh, is that the dude who hasn’t fought in two years? Why are we talking about him? Are we also going to talk about T.J. Grant coming back to win the lightweight belt Seriously, if you don’t fight for two years, you don’t get to be considered a top guy. That’s a lifetime in this sport and the division could easily have passed him by, we just don’t know yet.

As for actual sleepers in divisions, there aren’t many that come to mind. Most of the “possible future champions” are either well-established upper echelon guys or young guys who are still a ways off. If I had to pick though, I’d probably go with Glover Teixeira. Now, I know Glover has been a top-flight 205er for years, but at his advanced age, it seems like everyone is counting him out. But with Jones now gone from the division, light heavyweight is wide open and Glover the kind of crafty veteran who could potentially sneak in a late-career title win, a la Michael Bisping or Miesha Tate.

Along those lines, I would also says Alistair Overeem. Perhaps it’s just the “one final run” branding he’s putting out there but Overeem is still a big name and isn’t far off from a title shot. Any title shot he got he would, of course, be a big underdog but at heavyweight, crazier things have happened and the man still has more skill and athleticism than most anyone in the division. Championships are built from talent and opportunity and Overeem has a more of those than most.


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.