Jones’ longtime coach spoke to Submission Radio and broke down why he feels “Bones” has a good chance of defeating Ngannou, who won the UFC heavyweight championship this past Saturday at UFC 260 with a stunning knockout of Stipe Miocic.
“I expect Jon Jones to just take the plate and hit a home run,” Winkeljohn said. “There’s no doubt about it. You know what, it’s about Jon imposing his will and fighting where he wants. And where he doesn’t want to, he won’t be there in the fight. So, it’s all about Jon Jones’ mentality and how smart he is. He’s got the experience on Francis, there’s no doubt about that.
“And Jon’s a big guy now, people would be surprised. He’s been hammering the weights, lifting. His power doubles, he can launch people over his head like crazy. He’s just so strong everywhere. And he hasn’t lost any speed. I think people are gonna have a great new look at the better Jon Jones in the future.”
Jones has been sharing his progress as he moves up from the 205-pound division to the UFC’s heaviest weight class, providing updates on both his physical changes as well as how he’s moving as he packs on muscle.
Ideally, Winkeljohn would like to see Jones hovering around the 250-pound mark should the day come that he squares off with Ngannou. That would still be lighter than the heavyweight champion, who weighed in at 263 pounds (two pounds under the limit) for his rematch with Miocic. Even if Jones is closer to 240, Winkeljohn thinks Jones will be physically prepared for the challenge.
“He’s growing into his body, there’s no doubt about that,” Winkeljohn said of Jones, who turns 34 in July. “I mean, I honestly believe like Daniel Cormier, he was at 205, then he was at heavyweight. I think he was a better fighter at heavyweight than he was at 205. I think in many ways he was faster at heavyweight, because of the lack of weight cut, and because he carried the weight real well.
“Jon’s got a gigantic frame, and he is getting older, so he’s starting to carry that weight easier. And his cut was never hard at 205, but he is getting to be a bigger guy. So, slowly putting that muscle on and still working those speed drills, working those speed type of things, who knows, you might see a faster Jon Jones than ever before.”
Given Ngannou’s fearsome knockout power, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Winkeljohn was asked if Jones’ wrestling would be the key to defusing Ngannou. Though Jones’ recent outings have seen him favor the standup game more than the grappling game, he is still expected to have a wrestling advantage over Ngannou, even with Ngannou showing major improvements in that area.
“I think Jon’s got the advantage there,” Winkeljohn said. “Francis can explode out of anything, but it’s also the conditioning aspect. People don’t understand that Jon’s cardio has always been better than his opponents, and that’s what he brings to the table. And you can scramble so many times, and at that point in time, now your cardio starts taking over. And the strongest man in the world is very, very weak if they don’t have any cardio.”
Winkeljohn is so confident that Jones can force Ngannou to play his game that he believes Jones can wear Ngannou down and become the first fighter to finish “The Predator.”
“Oh gosh, Jon finishes him late in the fight,” Winkeljohn said when prompted for a prediction. “I think Jon, after some ground-and-pound, will have [Francis tapping] out late in the fight.”
Watch Winkeljohn’s interview with Submission Radio below: