Curtis Blaydes is always keeping a watchful eye on the heavyweight division even as he prepares for his own upcoming fights.
Needless to say, he was very interested to see how Jon Jones would do in his debut as he battled for the title against Ciryl Gane back at UFC 285. Truth be told, Blaydes didn’t learn all that much about Jones that he didn’t already know after the former light heavyweight king secured a single takedown and then tapped out Gane with a guillotine choke.
The entire fight lasted just over two minutes.
“It was such a fast fight, the only thing I wanted to know would [Jon Jones] be able to bounce the way he does for a round or two rounds,” Blaydes told MMA Fighting. “There wasn’t anything to really glean from that first exchange. It was just a straight left by Jon, Jones was able to get the back, take him down, hooks the back leg, he gets the mount, he gets the guillotine. Really the only thing we learned was Ciryl Gane, I don’t think he’s ever going to be a good grappler.
“I know some people want to think he’s a professional fighter, he’s going to learn it. There are guys that fight for 10 or 15 years and they don’t ever learn how to defend a guillotine or even an arm triangle. There are just some guys they don’t want to grapple. That’s what I learned from that. He’s not ever going to adapt when it comes to grappling. I didn’t expect him to outgrapple Jon Jones but at least put up a fight. He had no idea what to do.”
While Gane may have been lost on the ground, Blaydes knows he wouldn’t have nearly those same kinds of problems if he ever gets the chance to face Jones.
Blaydes has scored the most takedowns in UFC heavyweight history with 62 while also maintaining the most top control as well with an hour and six minutes spent mauling his opposition since first arriving in the organization.
Because his wrestling has been such a dominant weapon, Blaydes truly believes he would present problems for Jones that he just hasn’t faced before, especially at heavyweight.
“For all those reasons [I’m the toughest matchup]— I have the size, I have the wrestling, I have the athleticism, I have the speed, I have the agility,” Blaydes said. “I have all the things you need to match up with a talent like Jon Jones.
“I know he has the reach, his arms are longer than my reach. I would have to find a way to get in that zone type of range and I might have to use elbows, I might have to get in the clinch but I believe I could take him down. I believe once I take anyone down, the odds are in my favor.”
Jones has hinted that perhaps his time is running short and retirement may be looming in his near future but Blaydes really hopes he sticks around for a few more fights. Considering Jones would only have to defend the heavyweight title four times to break the UFC record, that might be incentive enough to stay a little longer.
More than anything, Blaydes would just love the chance to clash with someone like Jones, who many consider the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.
“I think that would be a fantastic matchup and I hope it happens,” Blaydes said. “I believe it in a lot more right now than I did a year and a half ago.
“He can hang out until 38 easily, maybe even push it to 39. He’s in that category of LeBron [James], Tom Brady, Rafael Nadal, the outliers. He can fight for as long as his mind is in it.”
Right now, Blaydes is focused on his own fight against Sergei Pavlovich at UFC Vegas 71 and all signs are pointing towards Jones taking on ex-champion Stipe Miocic in late 2023.
As it stands, Jones is heavily favored to beat Miocic, who hasn’t fought since March 2021 when he lost the heavyweight title to Francis Ngannou, but Blaydes cautions anyone who thinks the result in that fight is already set in stone.
“I think if Jon wins, I think it will be a hard fight,” Blaydes explained. “He’s not just going to take him down and hit him with a guillotine. Stipe’s a smart fighter. He knows how to blend the wrestling with the striking. I know Jon does that also. So he’s going to have to approach the fight with a different mindset.
“This last fight, [Jones] knew Ciryl Gane didn’t have any idea how to grapple. I always have that in the back of my head. It gives you a sense of confidence. Like if anything gets hard, I’ll just grapple. He’s not going to have that with Stipe. Yeah, [Jon] was still able to take down [Daniel Cormier] but this is heavyweight. I give Stipe a 50/50 chance of winning.”
Add to that, Blaydes is quick to point out that it only takes one shot to finish anybody at heavyweight — even Jon Jones — and that factor can’t be ignored.
Jones might seem invincible but he could have the perfect fight and still get caught with a glancing blow that ends his night and puts the title back around Miocic’s waist.
“That could happen to Jon,” Blaydes said. “It’s one punch. Other weight classes, I watch them all the time. They have multiple exchanges. Even with the heavy hitters in the division like [Justin] Gaethje. He may have two or three or four exchanges where if he were a heavyweight, somebody’s going to sleep in those exchanges.
“You’re not having four exchanges like that. It’s just the power is so much different at heavyweight.”