After a summer of hype for the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather circus on August 26 in Las Vegas, the UFC 214 main event between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier provided a brief reprieve and a return to all of the things that make fighting great.
Daniel Cormier put up the performance of his life against his biggest rival, while Jon Jones asserted his return to the Octagon and the role of the greatest fighter on earth with a stunning third-round knockout via head kick.
All in all the UFC 214 main event delivered after a long build up due to Jon Jones’ USADA suspension, which provided the conclusion befitting MMA’s best rivalry of this decade. Jones proved that he is the best Light Heavyweight of all-time, and for a brief moment in the opening two rounds, Cormier proved that he is as close to Jones’ equal as anyone might ever be.
Save for a Cormier upset to push forth a trilogy, you couldn’t get a more perfect climax to a rivalry as last week’s fight at Anaheim’s Honda Center.
Unfortunately, the Jones-Cormier rivalry was barely over for a second before Dana White’s newest freak show started its build.
After graciously congratulating Cormier, Jones instantly opened up the speculation for a mega-fight against former UFC Heavyweight Champion and current WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) July 30, 2017
After Dana White spent the summer focused on the McGregor-Mayweather bout and the crossover appeal it brings, there is little surprise involved with the desire to place Jon Jones instantly into a similar situation.
With a move to Heavyweight to take on Lesnar, Jones will be moving out of the Light Heavyweight division down the road to take on a mostly retired Heavyweight who came back to UFC 200 only to earn a PED suspension after a convincing win over Mark Hunt.
Lesnar’s recent suspension and his relative lack of accomplishments in the sport since the turn of the decade makes this potential fight feel very similar to that of the Mayweather-McGregor matchup. While Lesnar does have MMA clout as a former Heavyweight champion unlike McGregor, it seems as if the UFC brass are planning to waste the best talent in the sport on a freak fight at a higher weight class against a 40-year-old who has little future in fighting beyond one off appearances.
The one saving grace the UFC has in considering this fight compared to Mayweather-McGregor is the fact that Brock Lesnar was once the UFC Heavyweight Champion and considered to be one of the more formidable names in the sport. Still, that was a considerable period of time ago. Moreover, in terms of skill, it is hard to put Lesnar on the same pedestal as Jones.
Brock Lesnar’s grappling ability is real — he was an NCAA champion wrestler at the University of Minnesota — and he proved it once more against Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in a master class of take-down control.
But at the same time, Daniel Cormier is a near equal to Lesnar in the wrestling department and a vastly superior striker who couldn’t overcome Jones in two fights.
To assume that Lesnar – an admittedly weak striker who splits his training focus between WWE appearances and his passion for hunting in rural Saskatchewan – will be able to hang in the Octagon with Jones takes a considerable amount of willing disbelief.
If Jones can exhibit the same takedown defense displayed throughout his career against Lesnar, this is a matchup that leaves little imagination. Jones will hurt Lesnar with his striking quickly and violently. There is little doubt of this and it is hard to envision an outcome where this won’t happen if Jones is faced with Brock Lesnar in the Octagon.
A slower fighter with a reach disadvantage will find it hard to touch Jones and once a striking distance is established, it will be game over.
If the UFC is serious about moving Jones into a blockbuster fight at Heavyweight – a move for legitimate reasons due to a Light Heavyweight division devoid of contenders and names – the fight to make would be a fight for the title with Stipe Miocic. Miocic desperately needs promotion to grow his star and would instantly get the rub from squaring up with Jones in a title fight.
In fact, Miocic would benefit the most from either a Lesnar return or a Jones move to Heavyweight. A likable champion from Cleveland, Miocic has big wins under his belt and is close to reaching household name status.
That push is achieved with a Miocic-Jones or Miocic-Lesnar title match and presents more long-term value for the UFC than chasing a one-time payout.
Instead, we are likely to be treated to Dana White’s best attempt at re-creating the buzz of Mayweather-McGregor in his own arena. A matchup between two of the last remaining superstars left in the UFC that will incorporate the promotional genius of Vince McMahon to finally give MMA a boxing-like PPV blockbuster at long last.
If that is what the UFC is going for – and they are – Jones-Lesnar is the perfect fight to finally give White what he wants. Long in the shadows of boxing in terms of blockbuster appeal, Brock Lesnar’s name recognition and WWE following mixed with Jones’ stature as arguably his sport’s greatest talent is a pairing for the ages.
Unfortunately – like the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle – just don’t expect this fight for the ages to deliver an even bout once the opening bell sounds in the fight game’s era of the blockbuster freak show.