clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anthony Smith talks biggest threats to Jon Jones at heavyweight, never believed it was ‘predictable’ Francis Ngannou

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

UFC 247: Jones v Reyes Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

All eyes will be on Jon Jones at UFC 285 as arguably the greatest MMA fighter in history makes his long-awaited return as a heavyweight after three years away.

Expectations are high as Jones, 35, seeks a second division title in a fight with Ciryl Gane. Anthony Smith, who in 2019 faced Jones, knows the former 205-pound king made numerous requests for the Ngannou fight prior to “The Predator” exiting the UFC. But in his opinion, Jones may have ended up with a tougher fight in Gane.

“I thought Jon Jones would 50-45 Francis without a mark on him,” Smith said on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I’ve been wrong before, but I think Francis is one of the easier matchups for Jon. He’s going to be slower than Jon. He’s really predictable. Very, very predictable. You know exactly what you’re going to get when you run into Francis Ngannou.

“He’s not out here shooting double-legs, he’s not going to fight you in the clinch and start hitting you with Muay Thai elbows and knees. He’s throwing absolute bombs. Jon is long enough, he manages range well enough, and I think he’s faster and smarter and his skill set is rounder. He can get in, get out, he can pick at Francis from the outside, frustrate him, get him to open up with those wild bombs, clinch him, take him down, push him up against the fence. I think Jon gets in and out of a Francis Ngannou fight fairly simply.”

According to Smith, the same can’t be said about Gane. The Frenchman’s speed, power and the variety of strikes he throws on the feet will just give Jones more to think about.

While Smith still ultimately favors Jones to win the fight and become UFC heavyweight champion, he knows Gane can potentially present issues that Ngannou can’t.

“I think Ciryl Gane gives him more problems,” Smith said. “I’m going to pick Jon Jones in the Ciryl Gane fight because he just has more ways to win, and he just has more skills. But if this is just a kickboxing fight, Jon Jones is going to have his hands full.

“You start mixing in the rest of the game, the clinch fighting, pushing him up against the fence and threaten with wrestling — just the threat of Jon’s wrestling is enough to give Ciryl Gane some problems. I think at points this is a tougher fight for Jon, because Ciryl is very mobile. I think he moves very well for his size, but he moves similar to the way that Jon moves. They actually have a similar striking game to be honest with you.”

Jones’ biggest weapon against Gane — and many other heavyweights — will be his wrestling, which was the same skill that plagued so many of the best fighters at 205 pounds.

“When you have the wrestling ability and the ground control ability and the takedown ability of Jon Jones, you’re not going to hang out with those problems for very long,” Smith said. “We’re going up against the cage, we’re going to play against the cage, I’m banging you up with some elbows, and you’re getting taken down.”

As far as other potential heavyweight matchups for Jones, Smith believes there are still some really intriguing fights now that the virtually undefeated fighter is back and testing himself in a bigger division.

Jones has already expressed interest in a future fight against Stipe Miocic, who holds the record for most title defenses in UFC heavyweight history. Smith expects at least one other notable heavyweight to give Jones some headaches.

“There’s a couple of really interesting fights,” Smith teased. “The Ciryl Gane fight is really, really interesting. The Stipe fight, very, very interesting. To be honest with you, Curtis Blaydes — very, very interesting. Another high-level, super-explosive, dangerous striker against a guy who isn’t known as a knockout guy.

“That’s Curtis Blaydes’ problem, that’s always been his problem. He has everything right, but he’s just had a run of bad luck of getting caught by really powerful guys. Will Jon Jones’ power be much heavier at heavyweight? For sure. He’s just carrying more, that’s how it is, but he’s not known as a power guy.

“I think a fight with Curtis Blaydes is very interesting to me. Just seeing Jon against not only a super high-level wrestler, but a very, very aggressive, power, heavy, heavy big god**** guy. Like, Curtis Blaydes is huge. He’s huge, he’s athletic, he’s got the cardio to go five [rounds], and he’s super explosive. That’s interesting to me. We can go down to Tom Aspinall, that’s really interesting to me. There’s a handful of guys like that.”

Just based on his own experiences, Smith fully expects Jones to adapt to his new home. An argument could be made that Jones always been built for this division — he just happened to be fighting at 205 pounds for most of his career.

“Even when I fought him at 205, he is a massive, massive man,” Smith said. “He looked like he doubled in size from weigh-in day to the next day, and his size gave me lots of problems. I don’t think he’s going to have any problems at heavyweight.

“Is he going to slow down a little bit? Yeah, probably. He’s not going to be quite as fast, his pace isn’t going to be quite as high. There’s going to be some changes there. There’s going to be some ring rust to knock off. But in terms of just pure excitement from the outside looking in, I haven’t been this excited for a fight in a long time.”

Check out new episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer with Matt Brown and Damon Martin every Tuesday with audio-only version of the podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting