Islam Makhachev was quick to declare himself the new No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport after beating Alexander Volkanovski in the UFC 284 main event.
But according to UFC fighter and analyst Anthony Smith, his place atop those rankings might already be at risk. That’s because former pound-for-pound king Jon Jones is finally slated to make his long-awaited return to action when he headlines UFC 285 against Ciryl Gane on March 3.
“I think Islam needs to hold on to that No. 1 pound-for-pound spot really tightly right now, because I think there’s going to be a lot of different conversations if Jon Jones comes back and is even a small portion of what he was when we last seen him,” Smith said during the UFC 284 post-fight show. “Jon Jones, this is his long anticipated move to heavyweight. He’s been talking about it forever.”
In an ideal world, Jones would fight Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title, but that can’t happen after “The Predator” opted to leave the UFC following the conclusion of his most recent contract. Instead, he’ll face off with Gane, whose only loss in his career came to Ngannou back in early 2022; Gane has since bounced back with a knockout win over Tai Tuivasa.
In many ways, Smith, who lost a decision to Jones at UFC 235, believes the ex-light heavyweight champ’s next booking might be the harder fight because of the matchup with Gane.
“I think he has his toughest test in the entire division,” Smith said. “I think Jon Jones is swinging for the fences right away. There’s a lot easier matchups in the heavyweight division for Jon Jones. There’s bigger names that are easier with bigger paychecks ,and I think he has his toughest fight on his hands right now.”
Jones has often been praised for having arguably one of the best fight IQs in all of combat sports. He methodically dismantles his opponents with a skill set that allows him to win in any position.
That said, Smith knows that Gane is very tricky on his feet, possessing true one-punch knockout power at heavyweight – he’s curious to see how Jones adapts. Then again, Smith knows from personal experience what it’s like to go with Jones for five rounds, and he’s learned not to doubt the fighter he considers the best to ever do it.
“I think that Ciryl Gane does a lot of the same things that Jon Jones does on the feet and to be very fair with you, I think Ciryl Gane does a lot of those things better than Jon Jones,” Smith said. “As far as his movement on his feet, his stance switches, I think that he’s probably more powerful. Technically, I think Ciryl Gane’s probably a better striker.
“But we all know how Jon Jones is. He’s the greatest of all time in my opinion. I can’t wait for this fight, it’s going to be incredible.”