Analyzing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Jon Jones

| January 14, 2021 12:34 pm PST
Strengths and Weaknesses of Jon Jones

From the day Jon Jones arrived in the UFC, it was clear to see that there something special about the kid.

These days, the hype is still with Jones. Especially when it comes to betting on Jon Jones fights in the UFC. That’s to be expected when a man like the Rochester, New York-native has never been officially beaten in a fight.

But Jones comes with a reputation for being a little… volatile. The youngest ever UFC champion has been compared to Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, in equal measure.

There are few fighters, or humans, for that matter, that can draw comparisons to men that are both culturally, and in a sporting sense, considered to be diametric opposites.

But that’s Jon Jones for you. I could sit here and compare him with Diego Maradona, Dennis Rodman, Bill Romanowski, or George Best, and still have fans agree with me.

To help you better understand both the angel and devil on the shoulder of the mercurial legend, I’ve put together this piece highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Jon Jones.

Strap up, cos this could get messy!

The Key Strengths of Jon Jones

Jon Jones is the most naturally gifted athlete in mixed martial arts history. Period.

So, rather than prefacing this section with stuff that you will more than likely have heard repeated ad nauseam, let’s just get to it.

Let’s start with his most obvious superpower.

A Ridiculous Reach

It’s no secret to anyone familiar with combat sports that a long reach is a blessing from the heavens.

In simple terms, a long reach allows a fighter to land shots while staying out of range. The longer your reach, the better chance you have of landing shots from a safe distance. Reach is so important in sports like MMA, boxing, and Muay Thai and is almost always inextricably linked to a fighter’s style.

The shorter your reach, the nearer you have to be in order to get to your opponent. If you have shorter arms, you’re going to need to be able to close the distance a lot faster and have the tools to be able to get inside the zone to deliver the goods.

When it comes to Jon Jones’ reach, it’s phenomenally long. I mean, freakishly long.

Here you have a guy that stands at 6’4″ but has an 84.5″ reach. For comparison, Stefan Struve stands at 7’0″ and has the same reach. Boxing’s heavyweight icon Tyson Fury is 6’9″ and has just one-half an inch more in reach at 75″.

One of the most crucial factors behind Jones’s success as a fighter is his reach. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re talking out of their…

Adaptability/Fight IQ

In terms of fight IQ, no fighter has consistently exhibited cage smarts to a higher level than Jones.

One of the core components of a great fighter is their ability to adapt. It’s rooted in evolution, right? We’re products of our environment. In the survival of the fittest, only the strongest survive.

Rather than Bones’ adaptability being exclusively biological, it’s best emphasized by his ability to adjust depending on the opponent he is facing. Here are a couple of examples.

  • If he is taking on a shorter, slower, stockier guy with knockout power and a mean single-leg takedown, he is going to use reach, lateral movement, and leg kicks to prevent him from finding range while slowing him down. 
  • If Jones is facing a long, speedy, and rangy fighter, he will look to close the distance, tie them up, and deprive them of these dangerous qualities.

A lot of the former UFC light heavyweight champion’s strategic mastery comes down to pre-fight planning. But what him truly exceptional is his ability to go through various stages of different plans — and pick out the best bit and pieces — in order to overcome his opponent.

It’s like accessing a database of information, just under the highest pressure and most dangerous level there is in sports.

Jon Jones UFC Stats
Takedown Average 1.85
Takedown Accuracy 44%
Takedown Defense 95%
Significant Strikes LPM 4.30
Striking Accuracy 57%
Significant Strikes APM 2.22
Striking Defense 64%
Submission Average 0.4
  • LPM = Landed Per Minute
  • APM = Absorbed Per Minute

Jones Has it All

While his range and his adaptability/fight IQ are super admirable, it doesn’t end there with Jones.

In his early days, the base of his style was Roman-Greco wrestling with unorthodox striking. We used to see Jones throw and drop opponents whenever he felt like it, using his lanky and rangy frame to outmuscle and bring hell to the very best of fighters in the division.

Jones outwrestled Daniel Cormier, who was an Olympic-freestyler with some of the best wrestling ever seen in the game. The former champ later spoke about how he “outgrinded” Cormier, beating him at his own game.

Sure, it’s been a while since Bones has shown us the best of his, but it’s surely still there.

As for striking, Jones’ rangy jab and kicks are often too much for anyone to handle. What’s more, even if his kicks are intercepted, not many fighters are going to fancy their chances of controlling him on the mat.

An extraordinarily cerebral striker, Jones uses a plethora of different strikes to completely disrupt the rhythm and intentions of his opponents. His trademark oblique kicks, Muay Thai roundhouses, and low kicks, as well as his teeps and push kicks, are all important to his inimitable style inside the cage.

For all of Jon Jones’ strengths, his ability to do it all makes him most dangerous.

Jon Jones Top 10 Wins
Opponent Method of Victory Date and Event
Alexander Gustafsson TKO UFC 232 – December 29, 2018
Daniel Cormier Decision UFC 182 – January 3, 2015
Alexander Gustafsson Decision UFC 165 – September 21, 2013
Chael Sonnen TKO UFC 159 – April 27, 2013
Vitor Belfort Submission UFC 152 – September 22, 2012
Rashad Evans Decision UFC 145 – April 21, 2012
Lyoto Machida Submission UFC 140 – December 10, 2011
Quinton Jackson Submission UFC 135 – September 24, 2011
Maurício Rua TKO UFC 128 – March 19, 2011
Brandon Vera TKO UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones – March 21, 2010

CLICK TO CLOSE

Jones’ Main Weaknesses

A mercurial figure, Jones is as equally synonymous with the word strength as he is with it’s opposite, weakness.

But in the examination of all of his pros and cons, you have to argue that the man is ridiculously talented inside the cage. So much so that his shortcomings are relegated to his psychological patterns outside of it.

However, a leak in a ceiling will eventually cause flooding in the lounge if not treated. In other words, Jones’s mental shortcomings will, one day, lead to disaster if not addressed.

But if there is something physical to put into the category of Jon Jones’ weaknesses, the best place to start is with his stopping power.

Lack of Stoppage Power

Jones, at least officially, has just three KO/TKO wins in ten years.

Not a great return. I mean, it’s not as bad as Michael Chiesa, but you would expect a light heavyweight in the G.O.A.T conversation to have a little more of a glamorous resume.

But it’s not as though Jones needs a lot of power. His style isn’t exactly based on dropping dudes for fun, and in some ways, it’s not really rocket science to see why he never became the type of pay-per-view superstar that he was tipped to be.

Jones is a devastating fighter in other ways. He doesn’t have great hands — in the sense that his ability to throw combinations or lethal single shots is hardly that impressive — but his game is built around deconstructing an opponent from range rather than headhunting for that big KO.

Complacency

Even from a distance, you can understand how an athlete like Jon Jones could become complacent.

The kid walked into the sport of MMA and took it by storm, becoming the youngest UFC champion of all time at 23 years old. He cleaned his division out, handing fighters their asses in gift-wrapped boxes, despite being years younger and with significantly less experience.

He demolished Daniel Cormier, the best opponent he ever had. He headlined pay-per-view after pay-per-view and was cited as the messiah of modern-day martial arts.

At some point, that’s going to inflate your head a little. Can you sit there and say, with absolute certainty, that you wouldn’t get a little complacent? I can’t. Seriously, I cannot say that I wouldn’t get complacent.

Win after win, beating some guys without even training properly for the fight, I would imagine that the will to be the best of all time wears off. You think, what’s the point? Especially when you can act out and get caught up in several controversies and basically walk back, like the prodigal son of the UFC, guaranteed that your greatness alone would get back in the door.

And we all know about Jones’ history…

Poor Discipline

Unless you’re an MMA newbie, I shouldn’t have to spell out why Jones’ discipline should be a cause for concern.

Jones has had more brushes with the law than I would like to recall.

But I’m not a qualified psychologist, so I’m not about to pretend that I can pinpoint what drives his behaviors. My purpose for bringing up his lack of discipline is to highlight one — but extremely crucial — weakness of a fighter that has very few.

Now, Jones’ activity outside of the cage has had an effect inside of it. Or, at the very least, has challenged his right to put himself up there with the greatest of all time.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Jones as a fighter, but how am I supposed to argue with anyone who suggests that the noticeable decline in his abilities coincided with the introduction of a more stringent testing program for athletes?

 I’m not saying that I believe he has intentionally cheated by using banned substances, but he has tested positive for metabolite steroids in the past.

The vast majority of the UFC’s roster would never have gotten away with the indiscipline Jones has found himself guilty of over the years.

As he gets older, hopefully, he gets wiser; at the very least, I can hope that his discipline improves. But if not, the combination of an aging fighter and poor discipline is only going to go in one direction.

Final Thoughts on Jones’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Naturally-gifted phenom, tragic genius, or perennial screwup, everyone has their opinions of Jon Jones.

I’d like to think that we will have more to say about the all-time great when the time comes for him to hang up his gloves. But sometimes, I don’t want to feel as though I’m jinxing things, so I’ll say nothing at all.

So, that’s the main strengths and key weaknesses of Jones. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you want to increase your chances of winning money betting on Jon Jones and more of the promotion’s greatest stars, you can learn more in our UFC fighters section.

I’ll leave you with a couple of icons to read about below!

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.

A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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