RIO DE JANEIRO - Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane will battle for the vacant UFC heavyweight championship now that Francis Ngannou has relinquished his title and parted ways with the promotion, and UFC middleweight titleholder Alex Pereira expects “Bones” to be successful in his quest for more gold.
Jones hasn’t entered the octagon since February 2020, defending his 205-pound throne for the final time in a close decision win over Dominick Reyes, and has teased a potential move to heavyweight ever since. Jones finally re-enters the cage against Gane in the main event of UFC 285 in Las Vegas on March 4.
“I think he’s really coming to dominate,” Alex Pereira said in an interview with MMA Fighting when asked for his thoughts on Jones going against heavier opponents. “It’s never easy, but I think this fight will be much harder than if he had fought Ngannou. Ngannou is stronger and would want to trade punches with Jon Jones, and Jon Jones is very experienced, has great defense, so I think Jon Jones would beat Ngannou [easier].
“This next fight [with Gane] is a bit harder for him, but I also think he wins. It’s a bit more difficult because [Gane] is smart, and a bit more scared in a good way, not to come trading with Jon Jones, which makes him a more difficult fight.”
Meanwhile, Ngannou is focused on securing a match with boxing champion Tyson Fury. Even though that could be a very profitable bout for the man that beat Gane, Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Curtis Blaydes in his final six octagon appearances, Pereira doesn’t expect Ngannou to be that successful in the squared circle.
“It depends if he’s fighting the elite,” Pereira said. “[Boxing against] Tyson is hard. It’s suicide. … There are other guys for him to start. [He can go] one step at a time. If he really wants to fight those guys, then he’s just thinking about the money. I don’t know if that’s the case. But to say ‘I’m going there because I want to become champion,’ that’s hard.”
Ngannou does have impressive knockout power, but Fury has shown great chin and heart throughout his impeccable 33-0-1 career in boxing.
“[Boxing] someone who can defend from his punches, [Ngannou] would get tired,” said Pereira, a former two-division kickboxing champion in GLORY who transitioned full-time to MMA and became UFC champion in one year.
“I”ll give you a dumb example: If you ask someone who’s never trained in in his life to go against someone experienced and tell him to hit as hard as he can to knock him out, he’ll gas out in three minutes, and then one weak punch will knock him out since he has no defense anymore and can barely stand still. To me, knowing how to defend yourself is the the most important thing.”