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After Jon Jones’s latest narrow title win, it’s time to risk it all at heavyweight

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Dominick Reyes and Jon Jones
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jon Jones will tell you that he planned it all just as it happened—the meteoric rise, the indisputable coronation, the indestructible aura. It was a quick yet transcendent kind of dominance that was equal parts unambiguous yet baffling. No one had ever seen a fighter so truly mastermind such dangerous attacks that married unique physical advantages with competitive execution.

He was the UFC light heavyweight champion within three years of turning professional. Almost a decade later, there have been signs that his reign is near its end.

In 14 straight title matches—not counting the 2017 rematch no contest against Daniel Cormier—Jones has only rarely been challenged. In Saturday’s UFC 247 main event, Jones thinned out the challenger pool by one more, but only just barely.

The Houston judges scored it for Jones, but in the seconds before the decision was read, there was a feeling by many that in the same arena where Matt Serra stunned Georges St-Pierre, on the 30th anniversary weekend of the night James “Buster” Douglas waylaid Mike Tyson, Jones’s epic reign had reached its end. Ironically, it was a callback to his very last fight, which ended in another disputed decision that went his way.

Jones has now defeated the division’s Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 9. The UFC can continue to try to create potential matchups through its global assembly line, or finally give the fans and Jones the genuine risk worthy of his talent.

The No. 5-ranked Corey Anderson, who has won four straight fights within the division, may have the most meaningful claim to a meeting with Jones, but with all due respect to that strong streak, his claim to Jones does not supersede Jones’s claim to whatever he wants. Or to whatever the fight public wants.

And the fight public has waited long enough: bring us a matchup that will bring the best out of Jones. Bring us Jones vs. Stipe Miocic.

Jones has always done his sharpest work against his most dangerous foes, and his closest fights have come against those who he was supposed to blow out. Reyes is another example of that, hot on the heels of Thiago Santos.

Given this history, there is no reason to wait any longer. Jones has flirted with the idea of moving up to heavyweight for quite a while, but he’s always ultimately decided against it. One objection was the size of the men within the monster division. Another was his continued claim that his legacy will ultimately rest within his divisional dominance.

But after nine years at the top, hasn’t he done enough there? And hasn’t he risked the potential superfight with the heavyweight champion one time too many?

[Spoiler alert: yes and yes.]

Adding Anderson or Volkan Oezdemir or Jan Blachowicz to his résumé is a very different addition than Reyes, who had never lost prior to their fight while stopping nine of his 12 opponents. He may have lacked big-fight experience, but at least he brought with him palpable danger.

Miocic is the only fighter in the world that brings the same kind of risk for Jones, that will also excite him.

He has matched wrestling skills with some of the best in the world; he has fight-stopping power; and he has defended the heavyweight title more times than anyone. He is a historic heavyweight in the same way Jones is a historic light heavyweight. This is divisional GOATs doing battle. And most importantly, Miocic wants the fight!

Heading into UFC 247, it seemed the biggest impediment to the fight aside from Jones holding up his end of the deal, was the UFC executive team, which voiced a preference for Miocic to fight Cormier again rather than have Jones fight up.

That said, UFC President Dana White is no stranger to putting artificial barriers between a fight in order to gauge true fan interest, and then shift accordingly. If the fight world demands it, he will likely capitulate to the demand.

Miocic isn’t the only gem in play though. Israel Adesanya has vaulted himself into superstardom over the last year, capturing the UFC interim middleweight title and then unifying the belts after overwhelming Robert Whittaker.

Since then, Adesanya’s name has been floated. As a headline attraction, it makes sense. Adesanya’s profile continues to rise globally, and should he beat Yoel Romero next month, the pairing becomes one of the rare ones with the potential of transcending combat sports to the wider sports world.

That pairing certainly brings a shock of electricity with it, but Jones is so much bigger and stronger that there’s no valid reason for the UFC to give Adesanya this step rather than letting him attempt to solidify his reign.

Jones is established.

Miocic is established.

The fight would be thrilling.

At this rate, we have to ask ourselves, how much longer can Jones stay at the top? How much longer are these kinds of fights feasible for him? He is still chronologically young, but he has wear on the frame, and the gap between him and the rest of the field seems to be shrinking.

Last night, Jones had to fight through Reyes and through some karma. In the same arena where Serra wrote a shocker, and on the 30th anniversary weekend of the night of the greatest upset in combat sports history, Jones waded into danger and made it to the other side.

There may not be another chance to do this. Strike now and strike fast. It’s time for Jones vs. Miocic.